Apart from the 2020 season when Drew Lock was seemingly handed the keys to the starting job, the Denver Broncos have made a losing habit of producing quarterback competitions post-Super Bowl 50. From Mark Sanchez vs, Trevor Siemian to Siemian vs. Paxton Lynch and everyone in between, Denver has endured a franchise quarterback drought since Peyton Manning hung up his cleats in 2016.
On Tuesday, former Broncos QB Jake Plummer attended Day 15 of training camp and joined 104.3 The FAN’s Nick and Cecil to react to Tuesday’s practice.
“I saw a lot of dropped balls, inaccurate balls, and walking around,” Plummer said. “It looked like they were tired.”
Just last week, the Broncos traveled to Minnesota where they held joint practices before playing their first preseason game against the Vikings on Saturday. However, the team returned to Denver and held a brief walk-through practice on Monday, suggesting the team would be somewhat rested.
Quick to pump the brakes on a panic, Plummer expressed optimism for Denver's season.
“It’s practice. You’ve got to remember it’s easy to get up for a preseason game," Plummer told hosts Cecil Lammey and Nick Ferguson.
Like Drew Lock, the former signal-caller nicknamed ‘Jake The Snake’ was drafted in the second round of the 1997 draft by the Arizona Cardinals. After spending six seasons in the desert, Plummer was recruited by then-head coach Mike Shanahan to join the Broncos in 2003 and replaced Brian Griese.
Plummer went on to play four years in Denver and played in 59 games throwing for 11,631 yards and 71 touchdowns. He also rushed for 670 yards and seven scores averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
Plummer's gunslinging QB ultimately led the Broncos to a 40-18 record as the starting QB and orchestrated three postseason runs including a trip to the AFC Championship in 2005, which Denver hosted but was upset by the upstart Pittsburgh Steelers. Before Manning arrived in Denver, Plummer held the franchise’s best win percentage (.722) over a four-year time span. Needless to say, Plummer knows what it takes to win football games and lead a team.
Instead of seeing competitive QB play similar to the Vikings game, Tuesday’s practice revealed a disaster for Lock and a bad performance from Teddy Bridgewater. Not only that, but I noted at least seven total drops from the receiving corps including tight ends. There were also times where receivers flat out quit on their routes making the low energy contagious in practice.
“I didn’t catch anybody getting after anybody,” Plummer told Ferguson and Lammey. “At some point, the leaders have to step up. That’s got to come from the top down. If you’re walking from drill to drill you’ve got to be punished.”
Although Plummer's words might sting, the truth often does. For the duration of camp, I’ve repeatedly mentioned in print and on-air that there’s been a desperate lack of energy and urgency.
From false starts to offsides and every mental error in between, this team does not police or monitor each other. Gone are the days of Emmanuel Sanders challenging Courtland Sutton or Noah Fant openly. Fans no longer see Manning giving teammates verbal tongue lashings for recurring mental mistakes. I get it, Pro Football Hall of Famers are their own breed, but even Kyle Orton would dog cuss guys for repeatedly screwing up.
The play from Lock and Bridgewater was so poor, neither QB completed 50 percent of their attempted passes. Overthrown balls, throwaways, and tuck-and-runs made for an abysmal morning for fans sitting on the hill in the 90-degree heat.
“I know if I would’ve went 30 to 40 percent in 7-on-7, Rod Smith would’ve said something to me about it,” Plummer declared.
Someone needed to say something and perhaps that someone was offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur on Tuesday. After a poor performance, the veteran play-caller pulled Lock from 7-on-7 and inserted Bridgewater. Raw frustration and anger were clearly being expressed from coach to quarterback, making the public scolding the story of the day. Lock eventually returned to finish the day, but it felt as if the wind was already long gone from his sails.
Head coach Vic Fangio needs to name the starting quarterback. Perhaps he’ll do it after the Seattle Seahawks game this weekend. Then again, he’s also teased the notion of naming the starter during the Week 1 regular season matchup against the New York Giants.
Neither QB seems to have an edge, let alone momentum, throughout any stretch of camp. I can’t seem to find what Fangio is looking for because we know who both these QBs are.
Lock is a QB with a strong arm that plays best when he’s on the move and improvising. Bridgewater has an average arm, sees the entire field, and is quickly able to distribute the football and play complementary football. This QB competition is only furthering what has become a haunted position swirling around annual controversy and frustration.
Hardly a stranger to QB controversy himself, Plummer endured a gut-wrenching public benching from Shanahan in favor of rookie Jay Cutler in 2006. Plummer led the Broncos to a 7-4 record when the switch was made and the team ultimately fell to 9-7 without reaching the playoffs, despite Plummer having Denver leading the AFC West when he was benched.
After the organizational commitment to Cutler, Plummer was ultimately traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a conditional draft pick before he retired after playing a decade in the NFL.
Plummer ultimately issued words of caution for the Broncos on Wednesday following the unacceptable Day 15 of camp.
“It’s always a work in progress," Plummer told The FAN. "But you can’t have two bad practices in a row.”
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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