It’s time for the Denver Broncos to shut the doors and change the Locks. Because the Drew Lock experiment is over.
One of the toughest decisions for a team to make is knowing when it is time to move on from a young quarterback. What flaws in the quarterback’s game can be improved and can be chalked up to a lack of experience, and what flaws in the quarterback’s game are fatal and will likely never be fixed? Knowing when to officially throw in the towel can be tough, because once that towel is thrown, it is a changing of the guard. Give up on a quarterback too early, and you risk putting yourself in a situation like the Falcons with Brett Favre. For a bunch of different reasons, including Favre’s 0-for-4 performance as a rookie, the Falcons traded him to the Green Bay Packers after just one season; the rest is history. Keep a quarterback too long, and you miss out on other quarterbacks in the draft. There are countless examples of teams that passed up on franchise quarterbacks simply because they gave their questionable quarterback one more year.
The decision is tough after one year whether to give up on a highly drafted quarterback, although as shown by the Carolina Panthers giving up on second round pick Jimmy Clausen after the 2010 season and the Arizona Cardinals giving up on first round pick Josh Rosen after the 2018 season, it has been done. After two years, though, the decision becomes slightly easier to make, since there is a larger sample size to work with. After two years, there are two simple reasons to determine whether or not a team should give up on their quarterback. Is he good, or did he show significant improvement from the first year to the second year?
If the quarterback fits into the first category, then obviously, he is the guy. There’s no need to draft a new quarterback if the quarterback on the roster is good. The Cardinals are not moving on from Kyler Murray after this season, the Ravens did not move on from Lamar Jackson after last season… this is all very obvious.
But what if the quarterback isn’t necessarily good? As long as the quarterback is showing improvement, then to give up on him after two years might be a bit harsh. Josh Allen is a fantastic example of this. As a rookie in 2018, he struggled; he completed a league-worst 52.8 percent of his passes, and threw more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (10). In 2019, Allen still was not a good quarterback, but the improvement was there. His completion percentage jumped to 58.8 percent, he doubled his touchdowns (20), and cut down on the interceptions, throwing just nine over the 16-game season. And, not only did his passer rating jump from 67.9 to 85.3, but he made it to the postseason. Allen was still not a top-half quarterback last season, nor was he good (although there were flashes, such as his great game on Thanksgiving against the Dallas Cowboys), but he showed significant improvement. Obviously, that decision has worked wonders for the Bills, as in year three, he has arguably played like a top five quarterback.
The whole point of this is that if, after two years, your highly drafted quarterback is not good or is not showing improvement, and might even be regressing, then it is time to pull the trigger and move on. And Drew Lock fits into neither of those categories.
Drew Lock is not good. In fact, there is a legitimate argument to be made that he might be the worst starting quarterback in football. Lock has completed 55 percent of his passes, which is the worst completion percentage amongst all qualified quarterbacks in football by a comfortable margin. He has thrown 10 interceptions through seven starts, and has thrown an interception on 4.2 percent of his passes; only Kirk Cousins has a worse interception percentage. Lock is averaging 6.3 yards per pass attempt, which ranks 30th in the league. He has thrown a touchdown on just 2.9 percent of his passes, which ranks 29th in the league. Lock is averaging just under 214 yards per game, which ranks 26th in the NFL. And, Lock possesses a passer rating of 66.5, which ranks 32nd in the NFL. For some perspective on how bad that is, only three other qualified quarterbacks have a passer rating below 80. Dwayne Haskins, who Washington has all but given up on already, has a significantly higher passer rating than Lock has.
It’s clear that Lock is not good, and it’s not for a lack of weapons. The Broncos, on paper, have a pretty talented supporting cast. While Courtland Sutton is out for the season with a torn ACL, they still have guys like first round pick Jerry Jeudy, who has been as good as advertised, second round pick KJ Hamler, arguable top-five tight end in the league Noah Fant, and a solid cast of running backs including Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, and Melvin Gordon. This is not a situation like the one facing the Jets right now where there is absolutely no talent to work with (although the Jets should and absolutely will move on from Sam Darnold after the season); Lock has been given help. He’s not doing anything with it.
And it’d be one thing if Lock was showing significant improvement. However, he’s regressing. He threw more interceptions last Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders than he did all of last season. His pocket presence is poor. There were some throws where nobody knew where Lock was even going, as there was no receiver anywhere nearby. He has missed guys. He has two starts this season where he had a passer rating that was worse than if he did nothing but spike the ball into the ground on every single play. Outside of his performance against the Chargers, he has yet to play a good game all season.
Remove the second-round pick label. If Lock was a veteran or an undrafted free agent, this would not even be a discussion about whether or not he’s the guy for the 2021 season. It’s been a revolving door at quarterback for the Broncos ever since Peyton Manning retired, and that door is going to keep revolving. Because it’s time for the Broncos to change their locks. Drew Lock is not the guy.