DENVER — Drew Lock only wore a business suit when his Broncos lost. He needed just one suit.
The other four times, all wins, like the sloppy 16-15 triumph Sunday over the Raiders, the rookie quarterback who would be king of Colorado stayed in uniform. Lock fist-bumped a security guard, mussed his hair just so, hustled into a press conference and detailed plans for the offseason.
Step 1: Call Peyton and John.
“One’s in our building, and one’s been talking to me and leading me through these five games,” Lock said.
Smart move, QB1. Pick their brains until they block your number. And that was about the smartest thing done by the Broncos in a knucklehead finish that summed up their 7-9 season. It was never easy, it definitely wasn’t smart, but 7-9 after an 0-4 start sure does a good job of fueling the hype train for 2020.
“We’re done with this losing stuff. We’ll be ready to go next year,” Von Miller said afterward.
Most valuable was what the Broncos learned about Lock, who went 4-1 as the starting QB.
"The Broncos went 4-1," Vic Fangio corrected.
Fine, coach. But this is Lock's team now, and it’s pretty clear the new guy is going to need a lot of help and weapons around him. His 177 passing yards and eager scrambles Sunday sure looked more like Alex Smith than the “gunslinger” he’s advertised. And those types of quarterbacks can be fine! Shoot, Alex Smith’s made over $160 million in the NFL. But they also require a bunch of awesome blockers and speed positioned around them. This Broncos’ offense doesn't have those two things. Denver’s 19.3 points per game since Peyton Manning retired ranks 28th in the NFL. They've averaged 2.1 touchdowns and managed only one Sunday.
“I wasn’t happy with our performance offensively, but I didn’t see anything out of Drew that told me, ‘Oh, jeez. Maybe he isn’t The Guy,’” Fangio said.
If the Broncos are going to win big with Lock, it’s time to balance the checkbook. Only three teams spent less money on their 2019 offense than the Broncos. And neither the Dolphins, Redskins nor Lions made the playoffs, either. Linemen. Wide receiver(s). A running back, even though Phillip Lindsay became the first undrafted free agent to rush for 1,000 yards in his first two seasons. Pile up some serious speed around Lock, and the optimism that bubbled all over the final locker room could be validated.
"The dude just ... I mean he does some things and I turn around, like, 'Dang. OK, look at him,'" said wide receiver Courtland Sutton, who averaged 56 receiving yards with Lock, 75 without him.
That’s not just being Mr. Nice Guy, either. Chris Harris Jr. said Lock’s emergence will impact his decision in free agency, where he likely finishes his football career, where his family of six lives.
“We’ve got a quarterback now that I feel confident in that we can get it done,” Harris said.
Hey, this isn’t trying to be Debbie Downer. This season was a win for the Broncos. They found a quarterback who’s worth investing in, so now it’s time to start investing in the offense. But they also scored 282 points — the fewest here since 1992. The Raiders had 477 yards to the Broncos' 238. I'll jump in with the "Broncos are back!" chorus when they stop closing games like they’re blindfolded.
Goodness, gracious. What was that on Sunday? The final 2 minutes of the final game did a better job of summarizing this Broncos outfit far better than I ever could: Garett Bolles, personal foul; Vic Fangio calling for a totally unnecessary 57-yard field goal (wide right); Isaac Yiadom, penalized for removing his helmet.
I feel for you diehards the past three years. I really do. These Broncos are positively maddening, enough to drive you over to Pepsi Center to check out the Nuggets and Avalanche.
“I’m not real happy with some of the things we did in the fourth quarter there,” Fangio said.
It wasn’t even the smartest thing to win the game. Beating the Raiders is always a kick in the pants, but it also dumped the Broncos from the No. 10 pick in the draft to the No. 15 pick.
Shelby Harris knocked down a Raiders 2-point conversion with 7 seconds left. Does the scouting department still consider that a win?
This is only the third time the Broncos finished 7-9. Fangio said he’s coached two other teams that started 1-4 or 0-5 and finished 7-9: “The next year we won 12 games. I’m not saying we’re going to win 12 games, but I think when you end positively it can carry over into the next season.”
The Broncos are expected to carry somewhere between $60 million-$70 million in salary cap room into free agency. That’s a lot of dough. They own a dozen draft picks. That’s a lot of capital for moving and shaking, enough to build a playoff team after four consecutive whiffs. But it’s going to take a wildly improved offense surrounding Lock, who was more Alex Smith than Deshaun Watson in his first season in the NFL.
Time to get to work to upgrade the talent around him. Make sure Lock doesn't need more than one, two, maybe three business suits.