Ask any of his teammates about him and one of the first things you'll hear when Drew Lock's name is mentioned is that he's got 'swag'. It's another way of saying that Lock has swagger, confidence, maybe even cockiness at times.
After all, he is a quarterback.
A quarterback has to find a way to hold onto that confidence, even in the face of struggles and criticism. It's a huge part of being an NFL-caliber starter and it's something the Denver Broncos' young signal-caller is absolutely holding onto.
Lock was inoculated against criticism a long time ago. He started in the uber-competitive SEC for four years at Missouri. What he might not be quite as used to is criticism from his own fans.
Broncos Country made it plain coming out of Week 7's 43-16 loss to Kansas City that Lock's two-turnover performance was unacceptable. A large swath of the fanbase, on social media and local airwaves, have given up on Lock already, some of whom are even calling for the Broncos to give the starting job to his backup Brett Rypien.
As fans and media alike bail off the Lock train in droves, the second-year QB had a message for his critics on Wednesday.
“When you play quarterback, you are going to get criticized regardless," Lock said. "I’ve been criticized plenty of times at the University of Missouri. It just is what it is. It’s what we signed up to do, but this is also what we love to do."
Absorbing outside criticism and soaring above the fray is part of what any professional athlete is paid to do. It's doubly true for quarterbacks.
Just like a QB has to have a short memory after throwing an interception, he also can't let one bad game, and the subsequent criticism, get to him. When that happens, on bad game gets strung into two, or three, or... you get the gist.
While Lock acknowledged that he has to temper his aggressive mindset and be more inclined to take what the defense gives the Broncos, he also made it clear on Wednesday that the "explosive mentality" is here to stay.
"Second off, our offense—we’re going to keep this explosive mentality," Lock said. "Attack downfield, mix in the run game, be great on both sides—run and pass— and just try to be as balanced as we can but with a real attacking mindset for sure."
Lock now faces the task of having to walk that line of being smart with the ball and taking what the defense gives while always having an eye on pushing the envelope looking for the big play. The best QBs in the league are able to walk that line but young players, like Lock, often find it difficult to discern exactly where that razor's edge lies.
Whatever happens in the coming weeks, Lock will need the direction and tutelage of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and QBs coach Mike Shula if he's going to strike the right balance and bounce back. On Sunday, with the Chiefs loss still fresh, Lock resolved to fans that it wasn't the end of the world and that he will bounce back and improve.
Maybe Lock's confidence is of the 'fake it 'til you make it' variety. Such is the philosophy all young quarterbacks have to embrace until they can generate consistent results in the NFL. Sooner or later, though, those results have to come.
It's good to see that Lock still has some fire in his belly but it's got to translate to the field with some results sooner than later or else the wave of criticism that he's felt in the last few days could swell into a full-on tsunami. The young QB is sticking to his guns, while acknowledging that he has to be better than he was vs. Kansas City.
It's important for fans to keep in mind that Lock is only entering his 10th NFL start this week, which helps explain, in part, why his coaches and teammates remain adamant in their faith that he's the guy who can turn it around. The Broncos, in the ensuing days coming out of Week 7, have closed ranks around Lock, maintaining their collective trust and belief in the young signal-caller.
With Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers coming to town this week, once again, Lock faces an AFC West litmus test.
Lock's first win as a pro came vs. the Chargers in Week 13 of last season, led then by Philip Rivers under center. This time, it's Herbert, a rookie in whom many in Broncos Country can't help but indulge in a little QB envy.
"They’re a really talented team," Lock said of the Chargers. "They’re going to fly around and we have to be careful with the ball. Turnovers are a key point for us this week and we’ll do our best to limit those.”