The Broncos aren’t making the playoffs. They are 0-4. Bradley Chubb is hurt and nobody knows how to coach. I’m not an oddsmaker, but I’m guessing the odds of Denver making the postseason are like 0.01%.
The fans might already be checking out on this team. There are still six home games left and the Broncos need to give fans a reason to give up their Sundays.
Enter Drew Lock.
I’m not exactly setting the internet ablaze with this “hot take.” I think everybody here at The Fan and I are in agreement that once healthy, it’s time for the Drew Lock Show in Denver.
The argument for starting Lock makes total sense on the surface. Get him reps, take the bumps and he’ll learn from it without the pressure of winning.
If the Broncos front office and coaching staff would stop ignoring their own history, it’s pretty clear that providing a young quarterback with experience does pay off.
The 1999 season was the last time the Broncos were 0-4. Nobody really cared because the team had just won two Super Bowls. Right before the season, Mike Shanahan decided to bench Bubby Brister and start second-year QB Brian Griese. Griese did not play his rookie season.
Under Griese, the team started 0-4 and Griese was actually benched after week 4. Then, minutes before kickoff against The Raiders in week 5, Brister injured himself and Griese was back in. He won the game.
Griese would start 14 games (he missed two games in the middle of the season) and have a stat line of 14 interceptions to 14 touchdowns, 3,032 yards and a completion percentage of 57%. Not horrible, not great, about what you’d expect from a young first-year starter.
In Week 1 of the 2000 season, the Broncos played on “Monday Night Football” and challenged the defending Super Bowl Champions in St. Louis.
Griese, who struggled in 1999, would turn in an outstanding performance. His final stat line against the Rams was 19-of-29, 307 yards, two touchdown passes, one rushing touchdown, zero interceptions and a QB rating of 123.8.
Ultimately, the Broncos lost 41-36 to the Rams in a classic. However, the now-experienced Griese went out and traded punches with reigning MVP and future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner and “The Greatest Show on Turf.”
Make no mistake, that 2000 Broncos team was good all around and Griese only played 10 games that year as an injury would take him down. Gus Frerotte also played well and led the team to the playoffs.
Before anybody tries to diminish Griese that year, look at his final stats: 64% completion percentage, 2,688 yards, a QB Rating of 102 and most impressively, 19 touchdowns to only four interceptions.
In 1999, the 0-4 Broncos had lost Elway to retirement, Steve Atwater was in New York, and Shannon Sharpe and Terrell Davis were both lost to injuries. As one anonymous Bronco famously told Sports Illustrated that year, “We’re finished.”
The year wasn’t lost, though. The reps for Griese paid off and the Broncos were back with a capable starting quarterback the following season in 2000.
Griese’s 2000 season is one of the most underrated in Broncos history. Following the injury, Griese never quite seemed to get back to form in Denver. Had he managed to stay healthy, who knows what his career would have looked like?
The 2010 Broncos were not only one of the worst teams in Broncos history, they were downright stupid at times.
The Josh McDaniels-led Broncos (yikes) had some memorable moments, like losing 59-14 at home to the Raiders, getting caught spying (cheating) on the 49ers before a game in London, still being bad enough to lose the game in which they cheated, and lastly allowing Cardinals kicker Jay Feely, by himself, to score 22 unanswered points (including a touchdown). It was one lowlight after another.
In Week 12, the Broncos were getting blown out by rookie billionaire Sam Bradford. By halftime, the stadium was half full. The team was embarrassing and nobody cared. I turned to my friend Sergio and said, “It can’t get worse.” Then, it got worse; they played Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba” in the stadium.
The Broncos would fire McDaniels late in the year and the rest of the season was whatever. Interim head coach Eric Studesville announced that rookie quarterback Tim Tebow would start the final three games.
Tebow’s trio of starts were up and down. He had a 40-yard touchdown run and a 33-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd in a blowout loss to the Raiders. He also had a dramatic comeback win against the Texans in which the Broncos trialed by 13 in the fourth quarter, only to experience that unexplainable “Tebow Magic” for the first time. In Week 17, the Tebow led Broncos came back and almost beat the San Diego Chargers.
Despite the loss in the finale, when I left the stadium that day, you couldn’t help but notice fans were cheering loudly and happy on the way out. The Broncos were 4-12 and had a season full of embarrassing, awful and dumb moments, yet fans were happy. They were happy because of Tebow. Broncos Country had hope for the future.
The 2011 season was a wild ride. Tebow replaced “Mr. Personality,” Kyle Orton, in Week 5. The season ended in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The team hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2005, so the Broncos were relevant again.
Those three starts in 2010 helped prepare Tebow for 2011, while giving fans a reason to tune back in.
That brings us to Paxton Lynch.
There is no cool story to Lynch because the Broncos didn’t have the slightest clue what to do with him. John Elway and Company should have given Lynch the starting job in 2016. It was easy. Prepare him for the future or figure out he’s trash and move on.
Either way, they would’ve known.
The cases of Brian Griese and Tim Tebow shouldn’t be unfamiliar to John Elway. Griese replaced Elway after No. 7 retired. And in 2011, Elway was back with the organization and had front row tickets (begrudgingly at times) for Tebow Mania.
That’s why is puzzling the Broncos ignored these situations with Lynch and appear to be ignoring them with Lock.
Once he’s healthy, starting Drew Lock carries no risk. What’s the worst that can happen? The Broncos miss the playoffs? LOL. That’s happening anyway.
What’s the upside? You give Lock meaningful reps with no pressure to win. Prepare him for the future and give the fans a reason to attend games.
If the Broncos finish 4-12 but Drew Lock starts to shine, the season will be a success in everybody’s eyes. Elway will have found his quarterback of the future
Lock won’t be available until Week 8, so what I’m about to say doesn’t exactly line up. So follow me and have fun for a second.
The three different 0-4 Broncos teams never made the playoffs. But the 2011 Broncos started 1-4 and did make the playoffs. They did it by benching the veteran and playing the young guy.
Again, nothing but upside when a team goes with the kid.
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