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The hard times will show whether Drew Lock is really the answer

(Photo by Rich Gabrielson/NFLPhotoLibrary)

Drew Lock’s debut as starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos was an overwhelming success. The stats weren’t mind blowing, but the visual was what Broncos Country has been waiting for since Peyton Manning retired.

Lock had the swagger that was missing from Siemian, Lynch, Keenum, Flacco and Allen. Those dudes are boring. Lock was cool out on the field.

It was exciting to see Lock celebrating with teammates and showing enthusiasm, but it was just one game. There’s a lot left to learn about Lock, specifically how he handles issues beyond the football field.

Broncos fans have fallen in love with young quarterbacks before. In two particular cases, the honeymoon ended and divorce soon followed.

Following an appearance in the 2005 AFC Championship Game, Mike Shanahan traded up in the first round and drafted quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler was big, mobile and had arm strength reminiscent of John Elway.

Cutler would start the final five games of his rookie season in 2006, and become entrenched in Denver’s lineup from 2007-08. In 2008, Cutler was selected to the lone Pro Bowl appearance of his career.

Broncos Country won’t admit it, but we loved Cutler. I was 24 years old and decided to drop a cold $300 on an authentic No. 6 jersey. We had our guy.

Cutler looked like the future. Following the 2008 season, however, Shanahan was fired as head coach and general manager, and was replaced by Josh McDaniels.

In a showdown between two incredibly unlikable people, Cutler and McDaniels feuded. The story goes that their relationship was contentious from the very first meeting.

Reports would soon surface that McDaniels was trying to trade Cutler in a deal that would bring quarterback Matt Cassel (LOL) to Denver. Many were puzzled as to why McDaniels would want to move on from a young and talented quarterback like Cutler.

While Cutler had shown a lot of promise to that point, his performances yielded mixed results. He hadn’t actually proven anything in the NFL. There were plenty of reasons to be optimistic about his future, but nothing was a foregone conclusion, either.

Cutler couldn’t control McDaniels trying to trade him, but he was in control of his own reaction. The reaction from Cutler was a trade demand and he would not budge. With full arrogance on display, Cutler refused to take a call from Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. There was no smoothing over the situation. Cutler wanted out.

McDaniels’ attempt to trade Cutler was baffling, but Culter thinking he was untouchable was equally as baffling. In the end, McDaniels and Cutler both got what they wanted and the QB was traded, leaving both men hated by Broncos Country forever.

Once he left Denver, Cutler earned the reputation of being a guy that didn’t really care about anything. There was nothing inspiring about Cutler or his demeanor. He would have a mediocre career as an NFL quarterback.

As much as we all hate McDaniels around Denver, he was right about Cutler’s lack of potential as a franchise quarterback.

During the 2015 season, Peyton Manning was injured and was replaced by Brock Osweiler. Osweiler was a former second-round pick and everybody was eager to see what he could do as the team’s starting quarterback.

Osweiler won his first game against the Chicago Bears, but it was his second start that really got Broncos Country excited.

On a snowy Sunday Night, Osweiler beat the undefeated New England Patriots in overtime. To this day, it was one of the most-memorable games in Broncos history. After the game, Osweiler celebrated with teammates and ran around the stadium slapping fives with fans.

Osweiler looked like a guy who cared about winning. He looked like the future of the franchise.

The problem with Osweiler came Week 17 against the San Diego Chargers. At halftime, he was benched in favor of Manning. The Broncos badly needed a win to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The offense turned the ball five times by the third quarter and Denver was in danger of losing. Manning entered the game and the team’s demeanor changed. With Manning back under center, the Broncos came back and won.

Osweiler felt that after seven starts he earned the right to not be benched and replaced with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. Nice ego, Brock. He never said it, but his actions following the season showed he was angry at the Broncos.

That offseason, the Broncos wanted to sign Osweiler to a new contract and make him the starting quarterback. Instead, Osweiler pouted. He refused to talk to the Broncos about an extension. The Houston Texans signed Osweiler to be their franchise quarterback.

Not only did Osweiler not take the Broncos calls, he skipped both the team’s trip to the White House and the Super Bowl ring ceremony. Osweiler was out to let everybody know that there were consequences to hurting his feelings.

It was perfectly fine to decide to sign with the Texans, but not taking the Broncos calls or taking part in offeseson celebrations showed a total lack of maturity.

In the following season with the Texans, Osweiler was awful. He’s considered one of the worst free-agent signings in NFL history. On a few occasions, Osweiler was seen visibly upset on the Texans sideline. There were reports he had heated exchanges with Houston head coach Bill O’Brien.

Once adversity hit Osweiler’s career, everybody saw that he wasn’t a franchise quarterback. The Osweiler we saw rounding the field at Mile High after the Patriots victory was gone. Osweiler was exposed as a fraud.

Neither Cutler nor Osweiler were built to lead a NFL franchise. They were too sensitive. Cutler and Osweiler went from potential stars to two of the biggest punch lines in NFL history.

Quarterbacks have to ignore the noise. I think it’s great for a franchise quarterback to have an ego, but he can’t have a fragile ego. Cutler and Osweiler each got their feelings hurt one time and crumbled.

Cutler and Osweiler were not unique. Both John Elway and Peyton Manning dealt with internal issues with the organization.

Elway famously didn’t get along with Dan Reeves. Reeves actually tried to trade Elway. And Elway was benched as a rookie.

Prior to the 2015 season, the Broncos asked Manning to take a pay cut. That came just two years removed from the greatest season an NFL quarterback has ever posted.

Neither tried to get out of Denver. Instead, they responded by staying with the team and winning Super Bowls.

As great as it was to see Drew Lock win and celebrate with teammates, we’ve been excited before. We can talk about footwork, reading defenses and accuracy all day. It is Lock’s ability to face down adversity and handle the pressures beyond the field that will tell the true story if he is the future in Denver.

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