This week, the hype surrounding Broncos quarterback Drew Lock reached levels I’m not sure any of us expected. This is all thanks to Fox Sports 1 host Colin Cowherd and his proclamation that Lock is in position to replicate the sophomore year success we have seen recently with Carson Wentz, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.
Cowherd went so far as to suggest the Broncos could potentially knock off the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs and win the AFC West. I have no idea if the Broncos can beat the Chiefs, but it’s nice to see national attention back on the orange and blue.
This type of national attention and growing expectations is a lot to put on a second-year quarterback with just five starts. For Lock to live up to these expectations, he needs to learn from the career of one of the most successful quarterbacks in Broncos history – Jake Plummer.
Plummer came to the Broncos in 2003 after the team had managed just one playoff appearance after John Elway retired in 1999. The back-to-back Super Bowl wins were still recent in the minds of Broncos Country and the team had enough talent to be a contender. They just needed a quarterback. With Plummer leading the team, the expectations were once again to reach the playoffs.
The expectations were met. From 2003 to 2005, the Broncos achieved double-digits wins and appeared in the playoffs in all three seasons. Plummer famously took the Broncos to the AFC Championship Game in 2005 after a 13-3 season.
Plummer’s run during those three seasons is something Lock should pay close attention to. Plummer was able to succeed in Denver because he did not worry himself with playing in the shadow of John Elway.
Plummer was himself in Denver. He understood he couldn’t be Elway. It probably never occurred to him to try to be Elway. He led the team his way and never tried to be somebody he wasn’t. Plummer was authentic. During the Plummer years, we didn’t mention Elway as much. That’s because Plummer, whether he was being criticized or not, was the center of the team.
Plummer played in Denver with Hall of Famers like Champ Bailey and Shannon Sharpe, as well as future Hall of Famers John Lynch and Tom Nalen. Even with the all-time great talent around him, it was Plummer’s team.
The Broncos took on his identity and the locker room loved him. Nick Ferguson tells me Plummer would regularly hang out with the defensive players as much as the offensive players.
As we begin to watch Lock grow, the comparisons to Elway and Peyton Manning will grow with it. Lock can’t control if people compare him to Manning and Elway. What he can control is how he compares himself to Elway and Manning. Yes, he should strive to achieve their level of success, but understand he has to do it his own way.
Manning and Elway will both be available to offer advice and guidance to Lock and he should soak up as much of it as he can. He’d be a fool not to. He should probably talk to Plummer, as well. Plummer has more perspective to Lock’s position than either of the Hall of Famers in town.
Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian and Case Keenum never played convincingly enough to make Broncos fans forget about Elway and Manning. All three players played as if there were all trying to prove that they can be starting quarterbacks in the NFL. They desperately tried to be Manning or Elway. If a player feels the need to prove he should be a starting quarterback, chances are he’s not fully sure he has what it takes.
The shadow of Elway loomed large after he retired. It will always be there for as long as the Broncos are a team. Plummer simply chose to not stand in the shadow. He stepped out of it.
Like Plummer with Elway, Lock is taking over a team that has recently won a Super Bowl. It’s his choice if he tries to emulate something that isn’t him or start a new chapter in Broncos history.
Plummer didn’t try to prove anything to anybody, he just went out and played the way that worked best for him. Lock needs to have the same mentality. To be the next firmly established starting quarterback for the Broncos, Lock doesn’t have to play like Elway or Manning, he just has to look like he is a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL.
Broncos Country’s appreciation for Plummer has grown over the years. He won regularly enough that it spoiled the fan base. After Plummer was benched, the Broncos missed the playoffs five straight seasons. Jay Cutler was talented but inspired absolutely no one and Kyle Orton turned out to be a bigger jerk than Cutler ever was.
If the Broncos win with Lock, fans will shut up about Elway and Manning. As beloved as those two are, they need to become yesterday’s news. Tim Tebow got out of the shadow of Elway and he played terrible in doing so. He got out of the shadow because he won. Nobody cared about his stats.
The one thing about Plummer that is never mentioned is that he is the third-best quarterback in Broncos history. Third best isn’t bad when you consider who occupies spots one and two. He was the first credible starter after Elway. He was also the first quarterback to have success after Elway.
Before Lock can enter the conversation of Elway and Manning he first has to match the success of Plummer. Specifically, Lock needs to make Broncos Country forget about Elway, Manning, and he also needs to make us forget about Jake Plummer.
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