A day after the Denver Broncos completed a dreary 5-11 season, team general manager John Elway announced his decision to step away from the GM role. Elway isn’t leaving the Broncos; he’ll remain in his post as team president.
But when Elway fired himself as GM and said he’ll conduct the search for his replacement, it was probably unsettling news for starting quarterback Drew Lock. The man from Mizzou didn’t have a good 2020 season. And though Lock has only started 18 regular-season games since the Broncos drafted him 42nd overall in 2019, he’s made little progress in proving he’s a franchise-caliber QB.
The Elway resignation doesn’t help Lock. Elway wanted to draft Lock and install him as Denver’s quarterback of the future. But in discussing his exit as GM, Elway made it clear that his successor will have the authority over all personnel decisions.
“The GM is going to have the control of the draft, he’s going to have control of the 53-man roster and free agency,” Elway told reporters on Monday. “He’s going to have that control … I plan on being involved in some of those discussions, especially the big ones, to where I can be helpful. Ultimately, the GM is going to have that control and being able to come in here and do what he sees fit with the roster.”
Elway hasn’t bailed on Lock. “I think Drew’s got a chance to be a darned good football player in this league,” the boss said.
Here’s the problem: the Broncos compete in the AFC West. They have two games per season against the KC Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes. They have two games a year against the LA Chargers and quarterback Justin Herbert. Mahomes is only 25 but has won a league MVP award and a Super Bowl. Mahomes already is on a Hall of Fame track. Herbert, 22, had a fantastic rookie season for the LA Chargers with 4,336 yards and 31 touchdown passes. He’s a strong favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors for 2020.
So when the Broncos are playing 25 percent of their annual schedule against Mahomes and Herbert, they’ll need more than a “darned good” player at quarterback. And let’s be real about this: when Elway resigned as GM, Lock lost his biggest supporter in the Denver organization.
According to the 2020 Pro Football Focus ratings, Lock was No. 31 among 35 qualifying quarterbacks. “Lock showed flashes throughout the 2020 season,” PFF’s Steve Palazzolo wrote. “But he finished with the sixth-highest percentage of turnover-worthy plays and the eighth-worst accuracy percentage. On the positive side, he notched the seventh-highest rate of big-time throws (5.9%) and showed off his arm talent. Now, it’s just a matter of cutting out the poor plays.”
Lock threw 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this season. That’s awful for today’s NFL standards. His interception percentage was the second worst in the NFL, and his completion percentage (57.3) was at the bottom of the league among regular starters. Lock ranked 33rd out of 35 qualified NFL quarterbacks in percentage of throws on target (62.9.)
Denver Post columnist Sean Keeler sounded a warning:
“Bit of advice, Drew Lock:
“Rent, don’t buy.
“You’re going to have to fight for this now, brother. Your starting job. Your future as quarterback with the Broncos, if not the NFL. Your career. All of it.”
THREE THINGS THAT ARE GETTING ON MY DAMN NERVES
1-The word foment … or fomenting. You can’t watch any cable news without an anchor or correspondent or guest putting “foment” or “fomenting” into the conversation 25 times. You can go with some other words that essentially mean the same thing. Try provoke, incite, inflame, trigger, arouse, enkindle, whip up. Just stop with all of the fomenting.
2-The nonstop hype, the 10,000 sideline camera shots and general state-of-arousal gushing over San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. Hey, the dude is good at his job. Really good. But the TV people just can’t get enough of Saleh doing jumping jacks, glaring with fire-breathing intensity, or striking an action-adventure figure pose on the sideline. Will some NFL team please hire this guy as a head coach? I liked it better when the networks showed 25,000 sideline shots of the special teams coach each game.
3-Enough already with the phrases “Nothingburger” or “Fifty Burger.” It’s stupid, and outdated, and it’s the kind of thing that nerds go with in an attempt to display their cleverness, hipness, or some sort of latest-jargon sensibility. The only burger I.m interested in hearing about is served by Mac’s Local Eats.
READING TIME 5 MINUTES:
I had a good conversation with Bill DeWitt III on my KFNS radio show, and in the coming days I’ll pass along some of the things he had to say. Here’s one morsel: BD3 says that the park effects of Busch Stadium is one of the reasons for the team’s emphasis on pitching and defense. “We’re finding out that Busch is really shaping up as a pitcher’s ballpark,” he said. “That didn’t necessarily dictate our strategy but it further amplifies our position.”
DeWitt has a point. I looked at the numbers since the start of the 2018 season. Over that time the Cardinals rank 27th among the 30 MLB teams in home slugging percentage (.393) and 14th in road slugging (.419). They rank 25th in Isolated Power at home (.147) and 11th in road ISO (.175.) They’re 25th in home runs at home, and ninth in road homers. Overall there’s a 22-point difference in home OPS (.717) and road OPS (.739.)
USA Today came out with its first-ever “Sports Announcer Power Rankings.” And the list of 10 was topped by our town’s Joe Buck of Fox Sports. Wrote Steve Gardner: “Whether you love him or hate him, Buck deserves to start the new year at the top of the announcer heap. In addition to his duties as Fox’s No. 1 NFL voice, he recently called his 21st consecutive World Series (and 23rd overall). And he’s still at the top of his game, as his description of the wacky ending to Rays-Dodgers Game 4 shows. Even better, Buck has learned to embrace the hate – appearing as a smarmy version of himself in the IFC comedy series, “Brockmire.” And this NFL season he’s even expanded his horizons to become a bit of a jam band connoisseur,” … in case you’re wondering here’s the rest of the Top 10 list, in order: Kirk Herbstreit, Tony Romo, Al Michaels, Jim Nantz, Kevin Harlan, Doris Burke, Louis Riddick, the group of Chicago baseball announcers, and Tom Rinaldi.
In his latest men’s basketball tournament bracket projection at NCAA.com, the indefatigable Andy Katz has Illinois as a No. 2 seed, Mizzou as a 4 seed, and Saint Louis U as a No. 6 seed … ESPN’s Todd McShay is out with his first NFL mock draft, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to take several months of this. That said, I always take the bait. McShay has five quarterbacks going in the first round: Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 (Jacksonville), BYU’s Zach Wilson at No. 4 (Atlanta), Ohio State’s Justin Fields at No. 15 (New England), Trey Lance (N. Dakota State) at No. 19 to Washington, and Alabama’s Mac Jones to Indianapolis at No. 21.
There’s been some speculation out there about the Anaheim Angels making a free-agent run for catcher Yadier Molina. But not so fast. New gossip: manager Joe Maddon is pushing for the Halos to acquire Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, if he’s available. The Angels do need a catcher; projected starter Max Stassi doesn’t hit, and he’s recovering from hip surgery.
At ESPN.com our pal Greg Wyshynski rated all 31 NHL teams for “Watchability” going into the start of the season. He graded on a scale of 1 to 10 (the best) in several categories. The Blues were ranked 15th overall. Puck Daddy Wyshynski gave the Blues a 7 for star power, 9 for secondary plot lines, 7 for controversy quotient, 8 for the fun factor, and 7 for aesthetics. “The Blues would have a higher rating here if we knew more about if and when Vladimir Tarasenko is coming back,” Wyshynski wrote. “Because we’ve watched Vladimir Tarasenko. We’ve enjoyed Vladimir Tarasenko. And Mike Hoffman, you sir are no Vladimir Tarasenko. The Blues are one of the most interesting teams from a secondary plot line aspect, as they exit the Alex Pietrangelo era, enter the Torey Krug era, try to win a second Stanley Cup in three seasons and hope that Jordan Binnington reverts to form in his walk season.”
ON THIS DAY IN STL PRO SPORTS HISTORY: In 2002, Ozzie Smith was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s the greatest living Cardinal among retired Cardinals. (Albert Pujols is still playing) … in 2016, Chris Correa, the Cardinals’ former scouting director pled guilty to five charges of hacking following an investigation by the FBI over allegations that he’d spied into the Houston Astros’ scouting database. Correa always insisted that he went snooping to find evidence of the Astros’ snatching of Cardinals’ proprietary information — and a few years later his motives were viewed in a different light after the Astros were exposed as rampant cheaters.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Baseball Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter is 68. Also a member of the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame, Sutter played a decisive role in the Redbirds’ 1982 season that ended in celebration with a World Series triumph over Milwaukee in seven games … retired Blues defenseman Garth Butcher is 58 … I missed mentioning this yesterday, but a belated happy 65th to retired Blues goaltender Mike Liut … historically heralded Cardinals catcher Walker Cooper was born on this day in 1915. He died at age 76 in 1991.
AS OTHERS SEE US:
Sean McIndoe, hockey columnist for The Athletic, cited new Blues defenseman Torey Krug as one of the NHL’s most intriguing players for 2021.
“Let’s be clear,” McIndoe said. “Torey Krug was in no way, shape or form traded for Alex Pietrangelo. Those two signings were separate transactions, and each of the teams involved were acting independently. There was no trade to be seen here.
“But also, he was kind of just traded for Alex Pietrangelo, right?
“That’s going to make it interesting in St. Louis, where Krug will at the very least have to shoulder the pressure of replacing one of the most popular players in franchise history. I don’t think he takes the blame if it goes badly, because Blues fans already have Justin Faulk for that, but the heat is on for a guy whose new contract assumes he’s ready to be one of the league’s elite defensemen. He probably already was, but now he’s got a big spotlight.”
Thanks for reading!
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