Phillip Lindsay's unlikely journey from local collegiate star to undrafted free agent to Pro Bowler seemed as if it was just getting started before 2020 arrived.
Now, he's out of town, moving from his longtime home of the Denver area to Houston for an opportunity with the Texans. It brought an end to a storybook tale that saw Lindsay rush for 2,048 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two professional seasons before Denver brought in Melvin Gordon, whose arrival cut Lindsay's carries in half and rendered him expendable. Now that it's in his rearview, Lindsay said he's glad it happened, but he hopes a former teammate plays well enough to avoid the same fate.
That former teammate, quarterback Drew Lock, enters a pivotal third season that could be his last if he doesn't play well enough to meet the Broncos' expectations. The clock is as short as ever on unproven quarterbacks, and Lock is entering the fourth quarter, something Lindsay now knows about all too well.
"Drew holds his own future," Lindsay said during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, via 9News' Mike Klis. "Things have been set in place for him to be successful. He has to take advantage of it. ... He needs to continue to develop, that's on him. He's in a battle between him and him. Nobody else."
Those are strong words from a player who shared a huddle with Lock for the better part of the last two seasons, and it places the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of Lock, not those around him. Lock hasn't had the best supporting cast, but the Broncos haven't been, say, the same as the group that has taken the field with Sam Darnold in New York.
With Denver gearing up for a better showing in 2021, the Broncos' fate now rests in the hands of Lock, who controls his own destiny in Denver.
"They're going to have a fantastic defense. [Head coach Vic] Fangio does a fantastic job with that. But for Drew, it's 'What did I not do last year that I need to do this year that's going to put me on another level?' He has the capability of doing that.
"He's hungry. He's hearing all this backlash and all this stuff. But for Drew it's not about what everybody else says, it's between him and him. If he can look in the mirror and find himself, he's going to have a great career going forward."
Lindsay clearly believes in his former quarterback, but recognizes Lock needs to take ownership of his outcome. After Lock was inserted late in the 2019 season and showed some promise, injuries to key teammates and his own ailments undercut his 2020 season, leading to a drop in passer rating (from 89.7 for 75.4) and a 4-9 record as a starter. With the aforementioned clock ticking faster than ever, there's little time left for excuses, and Lindsay seems to think it will ultimately come down to what kind of effort Lock puts into his own development.
There's no more hand holding or training wheels in Denver. This is the NFL, after all, a lesson Lindsay learned rather quickly in the last few months. Recent production matters most, save for the exclusive few who have done enough to be allowed to battle through a rough stretch.
Lock can't afford such a stretch in 2021, especially with a new general manager, George Paton, now making the personnel decisions. Lindsay will watch from afar, waiting for the solution to the question everyone is asking -- and only Lock can answer.