Kevin Hogan seems like a nice enough guy. His teammates appear to like him. He’s agreeable with the media. And every interaction between him and the fans has been cordial.
But the longer Broncos training camp goes on, it becomes more and more apparent that Hogan isn’t the right guy to be Denver’s No. 2 quarterback this season. With every rep the third-year quarterback out of Stanford takes, the mystery as to why he’s listed right behind Joe Flacco on the depth chart deepens.
That’s not to say Hogan can’t play; he’s actually a decent quarterback. But there doesn’t seem to be a defined role, at least one that makes sense, for him on this year’s roster.
Flacco is going to be the day one starter, that much is clear. For the first time since 2015, the Broncos aren’t using training camp to determine who will lead them into the season. Nor should they, as going with a veteran QB with a Super Bowl MVP on his résumé is clearly the right decision.
And so long as Denver is in contention for a playoff spot, and Flacco is healthy, he should remain the starter throughout the season. Barring some sort of unexpected drop off in the quarterback’s play, that’s the game plan.
When and if the 2019 campaign goes off the rails, then the Broncos should look toward the future. If they’re scuffling along at 3-6, turn the page during the bye week and use the remaining seven games of the season to get a jumpstart on 2020. If Flacco suffers a season-ending injury, the same theory should apply; start thinking about tomorrow and beyond.
In either of those scenarios, that would mean Drew Lock would become the new starter. The rookie out of Missouri is clearly penciled in as the quarterback of the future, so getting him valuable playing time during an otherwise-lost season would be the prudent thing to do. The Broncos traded up in the second round for a reason; they clearly see Lock as a long-term solution.
There is, however, a situation in which Flacco couldn’t play, but Denver might not want to turn the reins over to a first-year quarterback. If the Broncos are in contention, but a relatively minor injury is going to force them to make a change behind center for a couple of weeks, going with a stopgap guy would make a lot of sense; plugging in a veteran who can man the ship for a short period of time, preventing a promising season from spiraling out of control, would be the right call.
This is exactly what happened to the Broncos in 1998. That year, John Elway missed four games during Denver’s run to a second-consecutive championship. Rather than turn the team over to rookie Brian Griese during those contests, Denver instead had Bubby Brister as the No. 2 quarterback on the roster. And it paid dividends, as the long-time veteran was able to come in, run the show and keep the storybook season plugging along.
With all due respect to Hogan, he’s not that guy. At that point in his career, Brister was 36 years old and entering his 12th season in the NFL; he had played for three other franchises, won a lot of games and even seen action in the postseason. So he was the perfect candidate to step in for a future Hall of Fame quarterback on an interim basis and keep things afloat.
If this year’s Broncos were sitting at 7-2, but Flacco was going to be out for two to three weeks, having someone like Brister at the ready would be ideal. In that situation, it would be completely logical to have someone between the present and the future on the depth chart.
But Hogan doesn’t fit that description. He is 27, hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2017, has thrown a grand total of 101 passes during his career and has one start to his name, a 33-17 loss at Houston almost two years ago. In other words, he’s essentially as green and unproven as Lock.
And based on what’s transpired during the first seven days of training camp, Lock would have just as good of a chance of winning a game or two for the Broncos this season as Hogan. In fact, the rookie’s ability to make plays off schedule with his feet and big arm probably give him a leg up in that regard.
So why on earth is Hogan the Broncos second-string quarterback? Why is he taking valuable reps away from the future of the franchise?
There are three QB roles in Denver this season – the starter, the veteran stopgap and the rookie. Hogan doesn’t fit into any of those categories.
That being the case, the Broncos are simply burning time. With every practice that goes by, they’ve wasted another opportunity to develop Lock a little more, pushing those necessary reps down the line.
If John Elway and Company think they need an experienced quarterback behind Flacco just in case the season needs to be saved, that’s a defendable position. But if that’s the case, they need to go out and sign that type of player (see Josh McCown, etc.). Otherwise, they need to stop the charade and get Lock one step closer to being the quarterback of the future.
The Kevin Hogan experiment makes no sense. It’s time to pull the plug.