Drew Lock is going to get another season to prove he's the future at quarterback for the Broncos, it seems.
There are a few good reasons for Lock's additional audition year: His team's new general manager hasn't seen him do it live, yet.
"I haven't seen Drew live on the field. I've just seen the tape," Broncos GM George Paton said Thursday, via team transcript. "There is so much that goes into that when evaluating a quarterback. I like to see them live. You'd like to see them in critical situations. You like to see the accuracy. How is he with his teammates? What is the leadership like?
"Again, I can't give you three things. There is so much involved in evaluating quarterbacks. I look forward to evaluating Drew further and in person. He does have all of the traits you look for in a quarterback."
Three things was a reference to Paton potentially seeking three traits, qualities or abilities that might convince him he's Denver's guy, and Paton wants that on-field look before deciding whether he has "it" or not. That's fair, of course, but let's not confuse this with a lack of effort. Paton said he's reviewed plenty of Lock's tape already.
"I did a deep drive on Drew. Like I said in my [introductory] press conference, [he's] very talented," Paton said. "He was inconsistent at times and has a lot to work on, but I've spoken with Drew. I see him every day. He's here early and he's working. He really wants to be great. We're always going to try and bring in competition to every position, the quarterback as well. I like the trek that Drew is on."
The trek has been a bumpy one, no doubt, with 2020 fraught with injuries that limited Lock to 13 games and sapped him of a realistic ability to build momentum. He also lost his top receiver at the start of the season, further complicating matters.
Lock has been putting in the work since Denver's disappointing campaign ended, according to his coach, Vic Fangio, who held a firm belief we haven't seen the best of Lock.
"I'm confident that Drew's going to continue to improve," Fangio said. "Drew has had a great offseason up to this point. There's not a lot you can do, but he's working hard on his own and coming over here and getting workouts. I know he's doing a lot at home by himself and watching video by himself. He's got a good setup over there. He's doing anything and everything he can to improve, even in February and now in March. I feel like he'll continue to improve."
We've run Lock's statistical performance by you, the reader, already, but to refresh your memory, two key numerical takeaways that don't prompt a ton of excitement are his touchdown-to-interception ratio (16-15) and passer rating (75.4). Instead of seeing Lock take a step forward in his second season and first full campaign as the starter, he drifted backward.
That means the Broncos are keeping an eye on the market, while also giving Lock the runway to attempt to take off before his flight is canceled. Denver isn't quite there with him, yet, but 2021 will be a year in which he must prove to Broncos brass that there's a legitimate reason to keep him around.
"We're always looking to bring in players at all positions that can raise the level of competition, and the quarterback is no different in that regard," Fangio said. "Until we get -- or until Drew proves to be the next great quarterback like the ones that the Denver franchise has been used to in years past or the ones certain teams around the league have, you guys know where they are and are used to, we're going to always try and bring in competition. But I have confidence that Drew can continue to improve."
Leashes on quarterbacks are shorter than ever, but it's not time for Lock to get the hook. We'll check back late in 2021 to see if that's changed -- for better or worse.