It seems like everyone has an opinion on which quarterback the Denver Broncos should roll with in 2021. Some will argue that sticking with the incumbent starter Drew Lock for his third year will lead to development and success.
Others feel that Denver desperately needs a severe upgrade at QB via free agency or the NFL draft. Then there’s the rest of the world, who is eagerly wondering whether the Houston Texans are bluffing by taking the position that the disgruntled Deshaun Watson is not (and will not be) available for trade.
Even some current Broncos players like safety Kareem Jackson and wideout Jerry Jeudy have publicly campaigned for Denver to acquire Watson. Fans and players advocating for new GM George Paton to land the 25-year-old three-time Pro Bowler recognize the immediate improvement the QB would provide the team.
The former first-rounder from Clemson has already proven to be an elite NFL QB as he’s played in 54 career games compiling 14,539 yards passing, with 104 touchdowns and 36 interceptions in addition to 1,677 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground.
The Broncos have long endured a countless QB carousel since recently elected Hall-of-Famer QB Peyton Manning retired following Super Bowl 50. Even before Manning, Broncos Country has been forced to accept the enormous pill that’s tough to swallow; Denver hasn’t drafted and developed a franchise QB.
Aside from John Elway and Manning, neither of whom were drafted by the Broncos, only a small handful of quarterbacks have led the team to the postseason, let alone on championship runs. Before Manning, there was Tim Tebow's wild 2011 postseason run, which was preceded by Jake Plummer's three-straight trips (2003-05). Gus Frerotte got there in 2000 with a lot of help from Brian Griese, and before that, it was all Elway and three runs by Craig Morton.
Naturally, a Colorado native would understand the pains that the Broncos and fanbase have endured. On Monday, soon-to-be restricted free-agent running back Phillip Lindsay made a guest appearance on 104.3 The FAN’s Nick and Cecil where he nuked offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur from orbit over his usage last season and revealed his perspective on the rumors about the Broncos being linked to Watson.
“It’s above our pay-grade,” Lindsay told hosts Nick Ferguson and Cecil Lammey. “At the end of the day, you can only do what you can do. You know, that’s a big hype thing and the fact is it can bring a lot of commotion in the locker room and bring a lot of things to where people conflict sides and make another person feel not welcome. It’s one of those hard subjects where it’s not up to you. So, there’s no reason to even think about it because you’re not the one that has to go in there and make the offers for the man to come here.”
Lindsay’s remarks certainly make sense and bring to the light the human elements of frustration that often times get lost in the unforgiving business of the NFL. In fact, it was only a year ago that the Broncos shockingly inked ex-Charger Melvin Gordon to a two-year contract worth $16 million with $13.5 million guaranteed.
The addition of Gordon came after then-GM Elway publicly announced that the team would review a contract extension for the league's first-ever running back to go undrafted and notch back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Those contract talks ultimately never happened.
Despite earning Pro Bowl honors as a rookie, Lindsay was asked if he feels recognized as a quality back in the NFL.
“What do you have to do to become a quality running back in this league nowadays?” Lindsay asked Ferguson and Lammey. “For me, I feel like my stats speak for themselves. Other than this year, which I like to call the ‘Pandemic Year’, so many people were hurt, and so many running backs got hurt. It was one of those years that we didn’t think we were going to have. But for the other two years, I’ve shown that I’m probably one of the best out there to do it as well. For me it’s just about being put in the right situation and being utilized the right way at the right time just like other backs have been utilized at the right times, that’s what it comes down to.”
Clearly, Lindsay was frustrated over his lack of utilization and opportunities in Denver last season. In one offseason he went from being the starting running back who’s never fumbled the football (still to this day) to an afterthought in Shurmur’s offense. Shurmur’s offense that featured the ’Minneapolis Miracle’ with the Vikings in 2017 was ranked in the middle of the league and on average, the coach's unit has ranked between 20th-25th best in the NFL over the years, suggesting a lack of innovation.
Nonetheless, Lindsay is tasked with staying healthy, improving his game, and training his body for the 2021 season.
“This year I’m going to take a little bit different of an approach,” Lindsay told The FAN when asked about his offseason preparation. “Last year I was in battle mode, so everything caught me off guard. With my teammate Melvin [Gordon] coming in and everything, it was just one of those things where you’re caught off guard and you’re in battle mode now. You can burn yourself out like that. You feel like you’ve got to prove 24/7 instead of just playing your game and instead of just being who you are. Everybody blows it up to be something bigger than what it is."
Lindsay plans on attacking his fourth NFL season, wherever that might take place, while balancing his approach more proficiently.
"At the end of the day you can overdo a lot of things and sometimes you can’t do too much," Lindsay told The FAN. "Sometimes you’ve got to go in there when it’s time to play and play. But when it’s time to rest, enjoy your family and enjoy your kids if you have them or your wife if you have one and just relax. I think I’m going to have more of a calmer approach this next season, wherever it’s at.”
If Lindsay is feeling underappreciated and unwanted in Denver, how would Lock, the penciled-in starting for now, feel amidst trade rumors? It’s not a secret that Lock’s regression in 2020 has directly led to the Broncos' current QB hunt.
Lock's name was previously linked in trade conversations with both the Lions and the Texans. After the Lions ultimately dealt QB Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams, there was no putting the toothpaste back in the tube.
In other words, the Broncos showed that they are trying to move away from Lock in an attempt to upgrade the position. Last week, Lock got some much-needed support from left guard Dalton Risner’s comments in addition to Manning publicly declaring, “I’m pulling for Drew.”
Lindsay explained the significance of internal bonds within the locker room and showed some indirect support of his teammate Lock.
“But you do have to understand the people that are here, you’ve got to have ready and the people that are here you’ve got to have a great bond with,” Lindsay told Ferguson and Lammey. “You don’t want to sit here and step on people's toes because of some rumors. People want stuff so bad, and granted you should want it, but some things you’ve just got to relax and let some things take place. Let it comes when it comes and if it doesn’t you just adapt, adjust and win football games because that’s what it’s about."
Lindsay's final word on the subject was one of pumping the brakes on all the QB offseason speculation.
"I think that people jump the gun too much not knowing anybody’s situation. Fans like the excitement and like the drama," Lindsay told Nick and Cecil. "March will come when it comes and that’s when we’ll see everything coming out for everybody.”