Broncos suffer quarterback shortage, lose to Saints (copy)

Christian Murdock/The Gazette

Denver Broncos quarterback Kendall Hinton scrambles in the backfield during the first half against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 29 at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver. The Broncos lost 31-3. Hinton, who was on the practice squad as a wide receiver, was named the quarterback after the Broncos were forced by the NFL to place all their quarterbacks on the COVID/reserve list.

This year the Broncos have one of the most unappreciated and inexpensive quarterback rooms in the NFL. Last year they had the most stupid quarterback room.

The trio of starter Teddy Bridgewater, backup Drew Lock and practice squad player Brett Rypien had a combined starting record in 2020 of 9-20.

Bridgewater and Lock each won four games for the Panthers and the Broncos.

Rypien, an undrafted free agent in 2019, has been waived four times and re-signed to the practice squad. He has been promoted to the active roster twice. Brett played in three games, had one start against the Jets last season and won. He has thrown two touchdowns passes and four interceptions. He was placed on the COVID-19 list Nov. 29.

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Therein lies the rub for the latter-day Gary Kubiak and his three QB room associates.

As disclosed Monday by Hall of Fame-honored pro football writer Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, quarterbacks Lock, Rypien, Jeff Driskel (on the Texans’ practice squad) and Blake Bortles (unemployed after being released by the Packers) violated the NFL Pandemic protocol procedures before the Broncos’ game with the Saints and lied about their actions.

They will not be remembered like the legendary Four Horsemen of Notre Dame. They became the infamous Four Broncos Hindquarters.

The Broncos placed cardboard cutouts of “South Park’’ characters in the stadium last season. The quarterback quartet played out Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman in real life.

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In an extensive article about how the NFL handled the coronavirus issues, Farmer wrote that John Elway, president of Broncos football operations, reached out repeatedly to commissioner Roger Goodell in an effort to postpone the team’s Sunday game in Denver against New Orleans to Tuesday because the team had no available QBs. “The league denied those requests,’’ Farmer stated, “because surveillance video’’ at the team’s Dove Valley headquarters revealed all four quarterbacks attempted to scam the system when they “removed their contact-tracing devices and put them in the four corners of the meeting room, then they sat together to watch film. That close contact (to Driskel, who tested positive for the virus) made them ineligible to play.’’

Bortles, the former first-round draft choice who had been added to the Broncos as an emergency QB in case of a virus breakout, devised the silly scheme; the quarterbacks were outed by a whistleblower, and the Broncos were forced to use Kendall Hinton, an occasional Wake Forest quarterback until being switched to wide receiver.

Against the Saints, Kendall completed three of nine passes — one to a teammate and two to the defense. The Broncos were humiliated in defeat.

Meanwhile, the Broncos’ starting quarterback got Lockjaw, but eventually apologized for not wearing a mask, which was not the serious breach.

In four of the five games Lock started after the incident, the Broncos lost. He outdueled Bridgewater in Carolina.

Lock now is the Broncos’ backup, and Bridgewater will start Sunday’s opener.

The Broncos’ three quarterbacks are scheduled to receive approximately $6.5 million from the Denver franchise (including $4.4 million for Bridgewater, and the Panthers paid his $7 mil bonus). Lock will get $1.9M and Rypien $165,000. The total is the NFL’s fourth lowest ahead of the Panthers, the Eagles and the Ravens. Teddy and Brett are on one-year contracts, and Drew could become an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

Ten NFL quarterbacks earn $30 million or more in 2021.

Based on evaluations by a dozen respected websites and networks, Bridgewater’s rank among starting quarterbacks ranges between 24 and 32. Objectively, he would be rated above Lock, but not among the NFL’s elite starters of potential playoff contenders. The other starting quarterbacks in the AFC West, according to Pro Football Focus, are No. 1 (Patrick Mahomes), 13th (Derek Carr) and 15th (Justin Herbert). The Broncos also will play against Dak Prescott (7), Lamar Jackson (8), Baker Mayfield (10), Ben Roethlisberger (16), Joe Burrow (18), Ryan Fitzpatrick (19), Daniel Jones (20), Trevor Lawrence (21), Jared Goff (26), Zach Wilson (30) and Jalen Hurts (31).

Lock should be considered 10th of the No. 2 quarterbacks in the league.

The Broncos and their legions are begging for the quarterback(s) to be worthier and wiser — and have a better season than Justin Fields and Mac Jones.

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