Drew Lock hasn't been listening to the incessant quarterback rumors. The Denver Broncos' third-year quarterback has kept his head down since the 2021 offseason began with a single-minded focus to improve his play with one goal in mind: resurrect the Mile High City.
The 2020 year (and football season) was a rough one and Lock himself was among those NFL players arguably hit hardest by the collateral football consequences of the pandemic. But instead of fading into the background, dejected after the Broncos finished 5-11, Lock doubled down and reached out to "a lot of people" to help craft an offseason plan that would get him to where he needs to be as an incumbent QB entering Year 3.
We know Peyton Manning has been among the group of mentors Lock reached out to for help. As the Broncos kicked off Phase III and OTAs began in earnest, Lock opened up on a variety of issues from the outside noise, rumors, and criticism to the arrival of Teddy Bridgewater to what motivated him to dig deeper than he ever has as a QB in the search for improvement and excellence.
Lock has realized that such dedication and drive is simply the price of admission to being an NFL starting quarterback.
"I think it is. I really think it is," Lock said on Monday. "And after doing it, there's zero doubt in my mind that I would like to do this for the rest of my life. And that's a lot of the reason why I went into this. I want this team to be really good. I want myself to be really good. But really, I wanted nothing to be able to look back on and regret. I was going to give everything I had this offseason. The offseason before, but especially this one. To be able to come in and help this team get to the playoffs, help this city come back. It was a rough year last year with COVID and no one being at games—and just a lot of stuff got thrown our way. I took all that from last year, put it into this one offseason plan to be able to get a little fire behind this city and this team and get this team back to where it needs to be."
Along the way, Lock has received votes of confidence from one teammate after another in the public domain, which the QB appreciates greatly. His dad, Andy Lock, has kept on top of those optimistic remarks of Broncos' players and kept his son in the know when a Courtland Sutton, or anyone else, has gone to bat for him in the press so Drew can reach out to that teammate.
Despite the monumental wall of criticism a vocal minority of Broncos fans (and most in media) have been hurling Lock's way on social media, the young signal-caller wants nothing more than to bring some juice and excitement back to Denver. The only way to get there is to lead the Broncos back to the team's long-held winning ways.
That meant Lock being the best possible version of himself and working to iron out the kinks of his game and excise the warts. So, what exactly did the QB do differently? How did he attack the 2021 offseason?
First thing's first, he shut off social media. His friends, family, and teammates helped to insulate him from the cultural phenomenon Mile High Huddle coined as 'Lock Derangement Syndrome.' From there, he sought out his mentors and coaches, putting a plan in place to bridge the gap from being that toolsy but still very raw QB that has flashed an enormous ceiling to being the guy that can realize that potential on gamedays.
"There were a lot of people that came into this. Maybe one day I'll write a book about it but as of right now, just know that there were a lot of things that went into this," Lock said. "A lot of people helped me that I'll be forever grateful to. Early mornings—making sure that you get into the habit of waking up at the same time, starting my day at the same time. Just working a routine. Early film before Zoom meetings. Zoom meetings, come in to lift [weights]. Working in the afternoon, coming home, taking a script, taking plays I didn't like from last year, dropping them in the basement, coming out, throwing with the guys in the afternoon, coming back, finishing more film. And just groundhog day over and over again. There was a lot of work that went into it. There was a lot."
"Dropping them" in the basement means that Lock identified his plays from last year that he didn't like — whether due to a footwork issue, a read issue, etc — and then took the film down to the basement of his home where he'd put them up on the big screen with his laptop open and literally rep out the drop-backs from under center.
A similar approach worked miracles for Lock's blind-side protector Garett Bolles last year. After incurring the wrath and criticism of Broncos Country, Bolles did the same thing, only he enlisted the help of his wife to work with him in the family's kitchen to hone his kick-slide and other technical refinements.
"If there's anyone who knows what he's going through, it's me," Bolles said Monday of Lock. "I know what it's like when people hate you."
Part of the Broncos' motivation for adding Bridgewater to the equation was to push Lock, and engender a sense of competitive anxiety. Call it Bill Parcells-esque football psychology.
Iron sharpens iron. Competition brings out the best in people. On one hand, Lock's mindset hasn't changed in how he approaches his job but on the other, he's already acknowledging that Bridgewater's presence could have the type of galvanizing effect to help push him through a ceiling of sorts and perhaps break through to another stratosphere that may have eluded him in the absence of the competition.
"Your mindset doesn't change at all. You come in, you're going to compete, you're going to do everything you can to be the best quarterback for this team," Lock said. "And that's the mindset that I have right now. It's going to be fun. I'm excited to be able to go out there and have this competition and push myself to a whole different level that I might not have gotten to without this."
Lock just barely got a chance to meet Bridgewater on Monday and so far, the two have hit it off. Both players said complimentary things about each other on Monday.
Lock's ace in the hole might just be that special attention the NFL's only five-time MVP paid to him this offseason. Having Manning in his corner to actually break down film and tweak little technical aspects of playing the position could pay enormous dividends for Lock and the Broncos — both in the short- and long-term.
"As far as working with Peyton, I think him being able to give me his time was worth a lot to my game," Lock said. "It was worth more than I think I'll ever realize. I'm forever grateful for him being able to do that for me and taking the time out of his day to be able to do that. Making subtle things where like—you just like having more eyes on film, on technique, and hearing it from the guy that did it the best for a really, really long time was nice. To be able to have in my corner and be able to work with."
Monday marked Day 1 in the Lock vs. Teddy QB battle that will command the headlines around the Broncos for the foreseeable future. Head coach Vic Fangio said that it might not be until the preseason games where one QB might palpably separate from the other in the competition.
However it shakes out, one thing is strikingly clear. Lock is as prepared as he'll ever be to attack the opportunity GM George Paton and the Broncos are giving him to prove the starting job belongs to him. It's do-or-die time for the young QB and if he truly aspires to be a starter in this league for the rest of his professional career, it's carpe diem.
Seize the day.
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