The last time Denver drafted a quarterback, they tried this same approach. Everyone knew Paxton Lynch needed time and seasoning before he even had a chance to be a competent starter, as he was as raw as they come out of the draft.
However, the issue then was Denver was fresh out of Plan As at quarterback and were starting a seventh-round pick, Trevor Siemian, in the meantime. We all know that the pick of Paxton Lynch didn’t pan out, but Denver’s plan to sit Paxton Lynch and have him learn and develop didn’t work out either.
When asked about it in hindsight last year, Elway admitted that they would have handled things differently with Lynch if they could do it over.
“That was a miss,” Elway said. “There was a miss there and I think without making excuses there was some circumstances that happened where when you have a young quarterback – you’ve got to be in the same system. You’ve got to be able to have him develop within a system. I’m not sure we were fair to Paxton. He was in three systems in three years.
That’s likely why after Denver let their third offensive coordinator in three years go at the end of the season, Elway’s goal for this offseason wasn’t necessarily to dive straight into finding a quarterback just yet, but first developing an environment where a quarterback can thrive.
That’s one reason Rich Scangarello is here - with a very clear vision for the offense and what it needs to be. Once that is established, Scangarello has talked about flexibility within that and adapting what you’re doing to fit your players, but you have to first establish what you’re doing.
Elway reiterated this philosophy a few days ago leading up to the draft at his pre-draft news conference:
“As I’ve said so many times, obviously the quarterback is very important and the skills of the quarterback are very important, but also what you put around the quarterback and the system that the quarterback’s going to be in is very, very important too. I think it’s all of those factors.
You don’t just draft a quarterback and stick him in with what you’re doing. You’ve got to figure out what’s the best fit for you and what you’re going to do on offense. I think for us, what we’re working for and what I’d like to do is see us have some consistency offensively in what we’re doing. We’ve had three different coordinators the last three years, so we’re working together to get consistency there. That’s why that part is more important than the guy you’re sticking into it.”
All of this is laying the groundwork so that when you do bring a quarterback you think can be “the guy,” he has a system and structure around him that enables him to be successful.
We saw this with #1 overall pick Jared Goff. Many wanted to write him off as a bust under Jeff Fisher and whatever they were doing on offense, but bring in an offensive coach who has a plan and a scheme that helps your young quarterback, and you have one of the top offenses in the NFL.
Or take the example of our friends in Kansas City. Andy Reid had an offensive system in place, a veteran quarterback who knew how to run it, and talented skill position players that operated well within it. All that being already established allowed them to be patient with their draft pick, Patrick Mahomes, and we have painfully seen how that has turned out.
So what does all this have to do with Drew Lock?
I would argue this has more to do with Elway and his continual learning and evolving his philosophy on the quarterback position.
This is about ensuring that this time is different than the last time Denver drafted a quarterback, and Elway is taking very clear steps to make sure it is different.
The first steps were set in motion this offseason when Elway brought in an offensive coordinator with experience in a proven offensive system, and then by locking in a veteran quarterback who could manage it.
The next step is establishing from Day 1 that Lock is not here to compete for a starting role. In his comments after the second day of the draft wrapped up, Elway repeatedly said his goal for Lock is to come in and learn - both from Joe Flacco and coach Scangarello.
“Very bright kid,” Elway said about Lock. “We’re excited to have him because he does a nice job. He wants to be good. He is a competitor. The great thing too is that he knows the situation here and that is that Joe is the starter and he’s got a great opportunity to sit behind him and watch the guy and learn and get better.”
“I think the bottom line is he’s coming to compete as a backup. Joe’s the starter. When we look at, it we’re hoping Drew is the future, But Joe is the starter, is going to be the starter and he’s going to battle. We tend to look at it as the Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers type situation [with the Packers]. He’s going to have time to sit and watch Joe and take his time and learn and continue to get better. We feel we’re in a good situation there. Plus, we had guys compete for backup positions and he’ll be thrown in that bunch.”
This is a wise approach for not only where Denver is at right now, but specifically for a guy like Drew Lock, who, while talented, is extremely raw and needs time and work before attempting to become an NFL starter.
This is the consensus from every analyst and evaluator that has watched Lock play. Many are split on what his true ceiling could be, but no one disagrees that he, out of perhaps all the other prospects, needs time and development.
Those same things were said about Paxton Lynch as well, yet circumstances had him attempting to compete for a starting role in an offense he hadn’t learned, and learning a brand new one next year.
I’m not here to make excuses for Lynch, or say that he could have become something more than what he is currently. I’m merely pointing out that in hindsight and a perfect world, Denver’s approach may have looked more like what it is attempting today.
Putting this out there now for those who will skewer Elway for this pick in 2 years if he fails. Denver picking Drew Lock at #42 puts absolutely zero pressure on him or the org for immediate results. If he pans out, great! If not, you move on and didn't lose much at all.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) April 27, 2019
Slowly bringing along a second-round pick, while an established veteran is the clear starter, is an environment much more conducive to learning, than expecting a top-10 pick who isn’t near being ready to beat out a 10+ year NFL quarterback.
“I’m hoping that it allows us to let him grow. The expectation is not as high as it would be with a top-10 pick. That’s what he needs. He’s going to need that time and the patience and continue to work with it. He’s going to be able to watch Joe and how Joe works, and Joe has done it at a very high level for a very long time. He’s got a great guy to follow, watch, learn and see how it’s done.”
In addition to watching Flacco and learning from him, Elway specifically mentioned Lock getting to work with Scangarello on the points of his game that need the most refinement.
“Drew obviously has a lot of talent, he’s got a lot of arm talent, but he’s got to work on a lot of different things too. I think when you look at what he did in college offensively, he’s in the spread offense and wasn’t under the center very often. With what we’re going to do offensively, he’s going to have a lot of work to do.
I think technique is always a big thing. We talk about accuracy and accuracy a lot of times comes down to technique and throwing on rhythm. We believe he has a ton of talent, but we also believe he has a lot left to work on. It’s nice to be able to have a coach that’s worked with a stable of abilities that he does have. I think [Broncos Offensive Coordinator] Rich [Scangarello] and everybody is excited to work with him.”
All of these comments by Elway send a very clear message not only to Lock, but also to the team, and to the fans. Lock may very well be the future, or at least that’s the hope, but he has plenty to work on before that day comes.
Listening to Drew Lock talk about how he'll handle coming in as a backup sitting behind Joe Flacco to possible franchise QB, plus how his backup at Missouri became his teacher and best friend makes me think he was the perfect pick for the #Broncos.— Doctor of Words (and tights and positive thinking) (@docllv) April 27, 2019
Until then, the Broncos will continue with the plan they established before Lock was a Bronco, one that now includes Noah Fant, Dalton Risner, and a host of other young players from last year learning a new offense along with their quarterback Joe Flacco.
Let’s remember this the first time Flacco struggles, and a twinge inside of us wants to call for Drew Lock to take his place.
I can’t tell you for sure if this plan will work or not. But I can tell you that I feel more confident in both Denver’s approach to and longterm outlook on the quarterback position than I have in a long time.
How do you like this approach...a second time?
This poll is closed
Love it - "It’s the right move, Elway1"
Hate it - "It’s going to end up another QB controversy"
I’ll wait and see if it works out - but I like the plan