The Drew Lock criticism conundrum and why holding players accountable is a good thing

Drew Lock early 2020. Credit: Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Sports.
Drew Lock early 2020. Credit: Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Sports.

Love him or leave Broncos Country!

Sound familiar?

It’s a phrase some use about the United States, and it’s the same sentiment being shared by Broncos fans and their quarterback.

If you’re critical of a player, you’re a hater! You’re a “casual.” You’re not a real Broncos fan.

With no player is that more true than with Drew.

Over the last two years, fans have become further entrenched in their side. Either you believe Drew Lock is the savior of the Broncos, or you’re fairly certain he’s not “the guy.”

Sound familiar?

About 10 years ago the “Mile High Messiah,” Tim Tebow, was revered in Denver. Casual, Christian fans embraced him because he knelt in the end zone to pray to god after scoring touchdowns. (Ironic a white QB was celebrated for kneeling but black players have since been admonished for kneeling to protest racism.)

The difference between Tebow and Lock’s playing abilities are many.

Tebow was the best quarterback at the college level hands-down during his career at Florida. He won two National Championships in college and a Heisman Trophy.

And when he got his shot with the Broncos, he was a winner, even though objective football fans saw he was god-awful at throwing the ball. His mechanics were terrible. He regularly turned his back to the line of scrimmage when rushed, forcing himself to run with the ball. His accuracy was laughably bad.

Lock is also rough around the edges, sure, but nowhere near as rough as Tebow was. Lock’s been inconsistent and inaccurate, but there have been flashes of brilliance which have sparked hope in the Drew die-hards.

Simply, Lock could one day, be a legitimate NFL QB. Tebow was just a side show, a gimmick, a joke.

But, where the two players are again similar is this: No player has been as divisive in Denver as Lock since Timmy Tebow.

The thing is, we don’t live in a black and white world, even if most football analysis boils down to, “He sucks,” or “He’s awesome” and left at that. We should, instead, have more nuance when discussing important topics. Like, of course, the Denver Broncos quarterback.

So, let’s try to be a little more nuanced about Lock’s performance to this point in his career. Let’s try to be objective instead of seeing him through those orange-colored glasses.

In 2020, Lock was the least-accurate quarterback in the NFL (57.3 percent) and his 19 turnovers were the most by a QB. That’s not hating, those are the facts, Jack.

Lock processes the defense a little slowly, and regularly decides late in the down to force a football into a covered receiver. It’s a mistake which can be corrected over time, as can his accuracy issues.

But, what does he do well?

Lock’s mobile, which is key in today’s game, and he’s got a big arm. In Carolina, Lock looked like the second coming — of John Elway — as he lit up the Panthers in a dazzling display. Likewise, he sliced and diced the Houston Texans in 2019, with a 136.0 rating in that game and a career-high 149.5 in the win over the Panthers in 2020.

Against Carolina, Lock was magical. He threw off his back foot to a wide open Jerry Jeudy down the sideline. He dropped back and uncorked a perfect pass to K.J. Hamler for one touchdown over the cornerback and before the safety could react. Then, late in the game with Denver needing to score, Lock dropped back and found Hamler again, this time down the seam, for a 49-yard touchdown.

In that game, Lock took what the defense gave him and didn’t force anything. He played in control, composed, smart football and led Denver to the victory. That’s the Drew Lock the Broncos need to see on a weekly basis, not just once or twice a year.

And while he threw four touchdowns against Carolina, he also threw four interceptions in a game last year in a loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Even the biggest Drew Lock fans can agree he’s been too inconsistent to be “the guy.” The quarterback of the future for Denver can’t be a turnover liability, and when the game is on the line, he has to keep his cool and find a way to deliver accurate passes.

Look, loving Lock isn’t bad necessarily, as long as you can also say, “Damn, that was an awful interception, Drew.”

For example, Justin Simmons is without a doubt the new cornerstone of Denver’s defense. He’s an amazing ball-hawk safety, with a high football IQ, and a great leader in the locker room and the community, too. He’s basically everything anyone could want out of a football player.

But, even Simmons can be critiqued. In the season finale, he missed multiple arm tackles as the Raiders came back to win. That’s not hating on Simmons, it’s just the objective truth. And, as good as Simmons already is, both he and head coach Vic Fangio said Simmons still has room to grow.

If new defensive leader Simmons can take the pressure, so can Lock.

Or, as they say, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

At the end of the day, being critical of a player or a team isn’t “hating,” it’s actually a good thing. Fans only want the best out of their favorite players and team, right? Winning playoff games and Super Bowls isn’t going to come by making excuses, and a player isn’t going to reach his potential by making excuses, either.