In case you missed it, Drew Lock did not have a great 2020 campaign as the Denver Broncos starting quarterback. Maybe you weren't aware because you took a walkabout or maybe vacationed in Timbuktu.
Lock started 13 games for the Broncos last season and while the feedback he's received from his Year 2 body of work has been almost uniformly poor, his actual performance was anything but. He did show an alarming rate of regression from Weeks 6-10, especially as it related to his fundamentals and footwork, and he threw way too many interceptions.
But he also had some clear, definitive moments of triumph. Alas, Broncos fans are tired of losing and they're impatient for results — not now, but, like, yesterday.
Even though Lock didn't have anything to do with Denver's post-Super Bowl 50 depredations from 2016-19, he's getting painted with the same brush from many fans who are simply sick and tired of all the losing and it's extended to both the local and national media.
The latest indignity comes in the form of NFL.com's amalgamated 'QB Index', wherein four writers ranked the 59 signal-callers who started a game in 2020. Lock checked in at No. 33.
Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 33 | Blair: 33 | Filice: 32 | Parr: 34
2020 stats: 13 games | 57.3 pct | 2,933 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 16 pass TD | 15 INT | 160 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 3 fumbles lost
Blair: It's not exactly curtains yet for Lock, who still could have a shot to grow into a decent player, whether in Denver or, down the road, elsewhere. But it's also hard to imagine the Broncos can't find someone capable of bringing a higher floor and ceiling to the position in 2021.
After missing a month of real time with an injury to his throwing shoulder, Lock returned to the lineup in Week 6 to hand the Patriots a loss, becoming the youngest quarterback ever to win at Foxborough.
In Week 8, he overcame a 21-point second-half deficit to defeat Justin Herbert and the L.A. Chargers. Week 11's victory over the Miami Dolphins was impressive, especially considering how well that opponent had been playing.
From that game on, Lock played well. But he doesn't get any credit for it — due largely to the Broncos' 5-11 finish. Fans want to throw out his Week 14 performance in Carolina where he tossed four touchdowns without any interceptions, leading the Broncos to a massive East Coast road win.
Lock's improved play down the stretch did not correspond directly to wins in the standings. Why? Because by that point in the season, the Broncos were the veritable walking wounded. The damage had been done.
All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't forestall Vic Fangio from finishing below .500 yet again because the injury bug had decimated the Broncos. Fangio put in yeoman's work to patch together the secondary, especially at cornerback, but it was too little, too late. Opposing QBs feasted on the Broncos.
Meanwhile, despite Lock's play improving, he couldn't stop Buffalo from dropping a 48-burger on the Broncos in Week 15, nor the Raiders from scoring 32 in the season finale. He did get close in Week 17, falling just short in a 31-32 loss to Las Vegas.
None of this absolves Lock of his erratic decision-making at times, or his lack of technical discipline. But while many fans and media are quick to point out those same defects, and harp on them endlessly, they fail to acknowledge the unique outliers that affected those two specific areas of Lock's game.
No OTAs and no preseason in a year in which Lock was being asked to learn a new system and work with two new coaches in OC Pat Shurmur and QBs Coach Mike Shula — you don't think that might put a knot in the tail of a young signal-caller trying to fine-tune his technique and get better at reading NFL defenses?
Then Lock suffered that injury to his right shoulder in Week 2 and lost his No. 1 target in Courtland Sutton later that game — for the season. The mountain of mitigating factors that influenced Lock's less-than-stellar sophomore season is apparent and there for all to see.
Some people don't want to see it, though. Those folks, bless 'em, want results now. And the prevailing thought among that ilk is that the Broncos swung and missed on Lock but if the team goes back to the well and drafts a QB in the first round, or relinquishes the first- and second-round picks of the next three drafts to land Deshaun Watson, everything will be better.
Maybe. Probably not.
Tom Blair writes that finding an immediate QB upgrade to provide a higher floor than what Lock can offer in Year 3 isn't "hard to imagine." Maybe it isn't hard to imagine. I don't know about you, but I have a very colorful imagination and can picture all kinds of stuff. Making it a reality? Not so easy.
The only QB the Broncos could have a viable shot at landing in 2021 who could conceivably offer a day-one upgrade over Lock is Watson. But it would come at a grievous cost.
No one else actually available to the Broncos represents such a no-brainer upgrade. If all that matters is raising the floor, then sure. Go sign Andy Dalton. But Dalton butted up against his ceiling a long, long time ago, whereas Lock has only scratched the surface of what he could be capable of with the right combination of time on task and coaching.
The Broncos' ship has set sail and they're past the point of no return on this voyage. They've gone this far with Lock and turning back now isn't an option, and casting anchor would not get them to their preferred destination.
Denver has walked the QB desert with Lock. This team has put in the investment of time, coaching, draft picks, money — and suffered through the peaks and valleys of Lock's second-year development. To turn away from that now and cut bait, just when the Broncos stand on the brink of finally reaping the rewards, would be folly, especially with the kid poised to benefit from having the same OC and playbook in back-to-back years for the first time since his sophomore/junior seasons at Mizzou (he set the SEC touchdown record in Year 2 of that season-over-season coaching continuity).
Statistically, Lock was a bottom-5 QB last year. There's no getting around that.
But in this humble writer's opinion, that's not the sum of where he stands among his NFL QB peers. Ranking Lock behind the likes of Cam Newton, Mitchell Trubisky, Teddy Bridgewater, Tua Tagovailoa, Taysom Hill, Andy Dalton, Daniel Jones, and Jalen Hurts (for crying out loud) is laughable.
Just remember, he who laughs last, laughs best. Time will tell if Lock gets the final guffaw. All I can tell you is, he needs — nay, deserves — one more year.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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