A picture speaks a thousand words - how the Broncos QB journey has led them to this moment... and you may ask yourself, “How did we [I] get here?”
Sometimes when words fail to sway someone in a discussion, pictures succeed. NFL Nextgen stats has heat maps for QB play going back to 2016. This will be graphical review of the Denver Broncos wandering in the quarterback desert over the past five seasons. Some QBs who did not throw enough passes to qualify have been left off. This will focus on the QB or QBs who threw the most passes for the Broncos unless the other QB is still relevant to the 2021 Broncos.
While I don’t know have far above or below average a passer rating has to be to get green or red, green is good, yellow is average, red is bad.
While Trevor Siemian looked good initially, his limitations were quickly realized and exploited by opposing defensive coordinators. Sport Information Solutions (SIS) shows that Siemian was actually a decent QB in 2016. He regressed from there.
From a passer rating perspective he had a worse passer rating in 10 of the 12 field sections year over year. SIS shows that he really fell off the cliff in 2017 and was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league. I am purposefully leaving off Brock Osweiler’s heat map from 2017. Trust me, it was pretty ugly.
So the Broncos went and signed Case Keenum who was fresh off his career year in Minnesota leading them to the NFC championship game. In 2017, Keenum was absolute money on intermediate throws while he was terri-bad on throws deep on the left.
Keenum was unable to replicate his 2017 success and while he was the best starting QB that the Broncos have had since winning the Super Bowl, he was only average in 2018 relative to the his peers.
Keenum went from six green and one red zone in 2017 to three green and six red zones in 2018. This meant that John Elway was back to looking for a starting QB in the 2018 offseason.
The Broncos traded for “average Joe” Flacco and then drafted Drew Lock in the second round. Flacco played tentative and, to my eyes, disinterested football while in Denver.
Two green zones and four red zones landed Flacco on the bench (injured) and Drew Lock got his first five game stint as the starting QB. Oddly enough, SIS says that 2019 was Flacco’s best season as starter during their timeframe (2015-2020).
In 2019 Lock had five green zones and four red zones. That looked very promising for a rookie playing on a team that had nothing to lose (the Broncos were out of playoff contention). The promise never turned into reality.
In 2020 Lock played worse than he did in 2019.
He went from five green zones to one and while failing to improve upon his four red zones. Additionally his red zone on short middle throws really limited what the offense was able to do when he played in 2020.
Lock was given a “pass” by some for his lack of year over year improvement. There was a whole bucket of excuses offered up for his play, most of which we have heard so many times at this point we could probably recite them in our sleep.
Lock’s play in the two preseason games was not enough to win the job. This led to Teddy Bridgewater, who played extremely well in both preseason games (and in camp), winning the starting QB job. If you want to see how Bridgewater’s 2020 compares to Lock’s it’s in my tweet below.
This article will not solve this debate, in fact, it will probably only enflame it, but maybe an understanding of how we got here will help those who don’t know how to feel about the Bronco QB situation as we rush towards the start of the 2021 regular season.