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History shows that Drew Lock’s audition won’t be long enough

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Joe Flacco is not the answer for the Broncos. Flacco did more than prove he should not continue as quarterback for the Broncos in 2020.

With Flacco down, and rookie Drew Lock returning from injury, the Broncos were given a perfect opportunity to evaluate Lock for the future. They blew it.

Lock will likely start five games to close out the season. As Broncos recent history shows, you need more than five starts to know what you have in a quarterback.

Here’s the story of three quarterbacks who were “the future” in Denver, until they weren’t.

Tim Tebow started three games as a rookie for the Broncos in 2010. And in 2011, he replaced Kyle Orton during a Week 5 game against the Chargers. Tebow would start the next two games, going 1-1. Even though Tebow managed to win a game, he looked completely inept on the field.

John Fox told Mike McCoy and Adam Gase to throw out the conventional playbook and run an offense that fit Tebow’s skill set. The result was an offense that resembled a college option-based offense.

Following the scheme change, Tebow would stun the football world and lead the Broncos on a six-game winning streak. The team went from 2-5 to 8-5. It didn’t always look pretty, but the new offense centered around Tebow totally worked. Until it didn’t.

After winning six straight games, the Broncos were shut down by the Patriots and would lose their final three games. The offense was completely neutralized.

Going into the Patriots game, there were six complete games worth of film on the Tebow offense. The Patriots loss was the seventh. Tebow had been figured out.

The three-game losing streak to end the season is largely forgotten because of the unforgettable playoff victory over the Steelers. The game is known for the walk-off touchdown in overtime when Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas.

The Steelers game was little more than an encore for the magic Broncos Country witnessed earlier that season. Tebow was figured out.

The Broncos were blown out by the Patriots the following week in the divisional round of the playoffs. Tebow never again started in the NFL.

In 2015, Peyton Manning was benched during a game against the Chiefs and replaced with Brock Osweiler. Osweiler finished the game and was named the starter going forward.

Osweiler would win his first game for the Broncos on the road against the Bears. He got the win largely by not making major mistakes and allowing the defense to lead the team to victory.

The following week, the 8-2 Broncos had a showdown on “Sunday Night Football” against the 10-0 New England Patriots. The game was played in a complete snowstorm. The Broncos trailed by 14 points in the second half and their hopes of winning looked slim.

Osweiler engineered a comeback. He connected on big time throws to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, as well as a touchdown pass to Andrew Caldwell. The Broncos would win in overtime. In only his second start, Osweiler got a win over the undefeated, defending Super Bowl Champions.

I remember watching Osweiler slap fives with fans after that game. It looked like we had our quarterback of the future.

Osweiler and the Broncos would then have uneven performances against the Chargers, Raiders and Steelers, losing the latter two. Injuries and poor offensive line play were more to blame in those losses than Osweiler himself.

On a two-game losing streak, the Broncos hosted the playoff-bound Bengals on “Monday Night Football.” It was a must win. The defense gave up early touchdowns, but once again Osweiler brought the team back.

Late in the game, Osweiler showed poise and leadership, and led multiple drives to put the Broncos in position to win. Once the game reached overtime, Osweiler drove the Broncos down the field for the go ahead field goal.

Once again, it looked like we had our quarterback of the future. Then, it didn’t.

In week 17, The Broncos hosted the Chargers. A win would secure the Broncos the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs. The Chargers were awful that season and the Broncos were expected to win.

Under Osweiler, the offense turned the ball over five times. In the third quarter, head coach Gary Kubiak benched Osweiler for Manning, and the rest is history.

Going into the Chargers game, there were six complete games worth of film on Osweiler (he only played half of the Chiefs game in relief of Manning). The Chargers benching was his seventh. Osweiler had been figured out.

That offseason, Osweiler signed a big contract with the Texans and was atrocious. After one year, Houston moved on. Osweiler never again had success in the NFL and is retired.

In 2016, with Manning retired and Osweiler playing bad in Houston, the Broncos turned to second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian. Siemian was a former seventh-round pick and, other than a kneel down, Siemian had never played a down in the NFL prior to becoming the starter.

With Siemian as the helm, the Broncos jumped out to a 3-0 start. During this 3-0 start, Siemian was praised for his grasp of the playbook and his intelligence on the field.

During a Week 4 game against the Buccaneers, Siemian was injured in the second quarter. The Broncos hung on to win and improved to 4-0. Siemian would miss a Week 5 game against the Falcons and returned the following Thursday in a loss to the Chargers.

After 10 days of rest, Siemian would lead the Broncos to back-to-back victories over the Texans and Chargers. The Broncos were 6-2.

Then, it all fell apart. Siemian and the Broncos were destroyed on “Sunday Night Football” by the Raiders. The rest of the season, Siemian was mostly ineffective, particularly in late season losses to the Patriots and Chiefs. Despite the hot start, the Broncos missed the playoffs.

Going into the Raiders game, there were six complete games worth of film on Siemian (he missed most of the Buccaneers game and all of the first Chargers game due to injury). The Raiders loss was his seventh game. Siemian had been figured out.

Unlike Tebow and Osweiler, Siemian actually returned to the Broncos the following season after his audition.

Siemian would beat out Paxton Lynch in 2017 for the starting job. In Week 2, the Broncos put a beating on the Cowboys 42-17. Some called for a contract extension for Siemian.

Much like Tebow against the Steelers, the Cowboys game was an outlier. Siemian had put plenty on tape in 2016 and teams knew exactly how to defend him. Following that victory, Siemian was awful in his next five starts and was benched, oddly enough, for Osweiler.

With Tebow, Osweiler and Siemian, all three were figured out by their seventh start after starting and finishing six complete games. In Tebow’s case, it was his seventh start in the run-heavy offense (he had started previously in a traditional offense and was figured out in about seven minutes).

When a quarterback first plays or a new offense is introduced, there’s an element of mystery, which is an advantage. We saw this on full display with Brandon Allen this past Sunday. Once teams are able to review game film and discover bad habits and tendencies, players like Tebow, Osweiler and Siemian get weeded out.

The Broncos are in a bad situation with how they’ve handled the situation with Allen and Lock. If the team continues with Allen, he likely gets figured out at some point, leaving only a few starts for Lock. That’s not enough time to properly evaluate for next season.

The understood plan for Lock right now is that he will not play in the next two games and will start the final five games of the season. Five games is not enough to learn what they have in him. He could look great, awful or mediocre for five games, but what happens after that?

It’s been beaten to death, but the Broncos should have activated Lock immediately and started him for the final seven games of the season. That sample size has proven to be reliable measurement for a team to get a firm grasp on what they have in a player.

There needs to be a sense of urgency here because the Broncos may have a chance to draft Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm or Justin Herbert. For the Broncos to make an educated decision, they need to know what they have in Lock. Unfortunately, they won’t.