In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos invested a second-round pick, No. 42 overall, to select Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. Broncos GM John Elway was wowed by Lock’s big gun of a right arm and had visions of a franchise quarterback. Elway’s search for the new Elway led him to Columbia, Mo. – and led him astray.

Let’s fast forward to Dec. 27, 2021. The Broncos are for sale. Elway is no longer the GM, having been escorted upstairs to a nice office that comes with an impressive-sounding title. But the GM is George Paton, and he makes the decisions now. And while the Broncos haven’t totally given up on Lock, he’s done little to show that he can fulfill Elway’s fantasy.

Lock started at Vegas on Sunday, replacing Teddy Bridgewater, Denver’s injured No. 1 quarterback. Though Lock didn’t make any egregious mistakes – a small triumph – the Broncos were horrendous offensively in a 17-13 loss to the Raiders. The frustrating setback left Lock’s record at 11-18 in 19 NFL starts.

Lock completed 15 of 22 passes for 153 yards and was sacked twice. At least this start was clean; Lock came into the game with 25 turnovers in his first 22 NFL appearances.

But the Broncos remain among the league’s worst offenses in generating explosive plays. In the defeat at Vegas the Broncos had only 158 yards overall. (The fewest allowed by a Raider defense since late in the 2012 season.) Their Bronco running backs carried 14 times for eight yards, and Lock added another 10 yards on scrambles — giving the offense a sickly total of 18 yards on the ground.

The Broncos scored one touchdown – a one-yard “drive” set up by a Derek Carr interception. The Broncos kicked a field goal — courtesy of a Vegas turnover. So 10 of Denver’s 13 points were gifts from the Bronco defense.

The Broncos scratched for only eight first downs – two via penalty – and converted 1 of 10 third-down plays. Lock completed five of eight passes on third down, but for a measly 27 yards. Denver’s futility surfaced against a Vegas defense that ranks 26th in the NFL in points allowed.

After a 3-0 start to the season, Denver has lost eight of its last 12. Bogged down in mud at 7-8, and with only two regular-season games to go, the Broncos have a 0.1 percent chance to make the playoffs according to Denver hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2015 season, when it won the Super Bowl with defense, running the football, and a fading Peyton Manning. Denver’s sixth consecutive absence from the postseason seems all but certain.

Third-year head coach Vic Fangio is 12-19 since the start of the 2020 season and has a 1-10 record against Kansas City and Vegas. Fangio is likely on his way to getting sacked; the Broncos have too much talent to be so dull and mediocre.

One obvious thing remains missing from a deeper roster: a starting quarterback that Denver can count on. Eight quarterbacks have started games since Manning retired following the 2015 Super Bowl campaign: Trevor Siemian (24), Lock (19), Case Keenum (16), Bridgewater (14), Joe Flacco (8), Paxton Lynch (4), Brock Osweiler (4), and Brandon Allen (3.)

“We always felt like we had the talent to play with anybody, and we just never put it together,” Denver defensive end Shelby Harris said, after Sunday’s loss in Vegas. “Look, I’ve never been to the playoffs in my life. I feel like this was the most complete team to make this run, and we just keep falling short.”

Only four teams have scored fewer points than Denver in Fangio’s two-plus seasons. The Broncos are 0-8 this season when trailing at any juncture in the second half. They’ve failed to reach 17 points on the scoreboard seven of their 15 games. And 15 of Fangio’s 28 losses as Denver’s coach came by one-score margins.

Two morals to the story: (1) There’s only John Elway, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, so the Broncos should just look for a guy who can do a good job and win games instead of thinking that another Elway is possible. And (2) for all of Elway’s many brilliant qualities as a quarterback, he cannot evaluate quarterbacks.

Among 33 NFL quarterbacks that have attempted at least 660 passes since the start of the 2019 season, Lock ranks 33rd in completion percentage, 32nd in touchdown-pass percentage, 32nd in interception rate, 32nd in passer rating, and 29th in average yards per passing attempt.

That pretty much sums it up.

Or maybe not.

How can you expect Lock to settle in and perform better when he doesn’t play much? Instead of going with Lock as his starter this season, Fangio went with Bridgewater. Their competition was about even – slight edge to Lock – during the preseason. But Fangio opted for the steadier, safer, bland, and game-manager style – Bridgewater – over Lock’s upside.

Lock made Fangio’s decision less controversial by messing up in multiple of appearances this season with giveaways as a relief pitcher for Bridgewater. If you’re Fangio, it had to be difficult to shake off memories of 2020 when Lock had the second-highest number of giveaways (18) even though he played in just 13 games. With more emphasis than ever on efficiency, NFL teams aren’t as forgiving about foolish interceptions and careless fumbles. Lock has fumbled 14 times in his career; the Broncos were fortunate to lose only five of them.

Lock also seems to give himself good grades after mediocre – or just OK – performances. That happened after the four-point loss to Vegas. Except for one 40-yard strike to wide out Jerry Jeudy, Lock made no impact in the passing game. Denver couldn’t run the ball and wasn’t stout in pass protection. But at times Lock held onto the ball for too long – or he failed to spot open receivers.

A couple of days before the Vegas game, Fangio was asked what he’d like to see from Lock against the Raiders.

“I want to see a good operator,” Fangio told reporters. “I want to see a guy that runs our offense with confidence and efficiently from huddle to snap. Then after that, I’d like to see him make good throws — good, accurate throws — and get our guys in stride.”

Very little of that was displayed by Lock on Sunday.

Fangio said Lock was “up-and-down” against the Raiders. “You get 158 yards of offense, and eight first downs, it’s hard to say anything good about the offense,” he said.

Despite the Broncos losing a close game they really needed to win, Lock had no problem saying nice things about himself.

“I want to be able to sign off on every single throw,” Lock said, postgame. “That’s what I’ve started thinking about this year. Every time you put the ball in the air, that’s got your stamp on it, it’s got your name on it, so sign off on it. I’d like to think I can sign off on almost all of them today.”

Later, when acknowledging that he could have done more, Lock made sure to include this: “There’s going to be a lot of good things on tape and a lot of things I can hang my hat on and say that I was proud of this throw or that.”

And the offense that had only 158 yards?

“We did a lot of good things,” Lock said.

Good grief.

The Broncos have most of the pieces in place for an above-average offense. (Or higher.) There are speedy and skillful young receivers, a tough offensive line and two outstanding backs in Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. And with a top-five defense that’s the heart of this team, there’s no excuse for this Denver collapse. But I just have to wonder where would Lock would be in his development had he been drafted by a team that has creativity and credibility in the shaping of an offense.

Denver management can fire Fangio and/or offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, but the moves will fall flat unless the Broncos find the missing quarterback. But will the next quarterback sputter because of coaching? All of that said, there’s no excuse for a QB that fills baskets with turnovers.

For now, let’s keep this on Lock. And if this Lock’s last chance, then he’d better come up with exciting performances if he starts the final two games. Lock may like himself a lot, but he can’t fill out his own report card. That job belongs to his bosses, and right now Lock’s grades definitely represent a failure in progress.


I’m hoping Secret Santa dropped off a lefthanded-swinging hitter at Busch Stadium. It had to be secret because the bidness of baseball has shut down because of the lockout that went into effect Dec. 1 after the non-negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. But I’m not sure if the Cardinals really, really need a LH bat. I’m still mulling this one over and will have more to say later in the week. Santa and me will get back to you. But for now, I leave you with this: last season STL’s lefthanded batters (including switch hitters) ranked 29th in OPS and 30th in slugging among the 30 MLB teams. And not having Matt Carpenter and Justin Williams will reduce the heavy volume of awful at bats by LH hitters. But is that enough? Nope.

— Since I mentioned Santa, may I share an opinion? Listening to the music of the season over the Christmas weekend, I remembered a fantastic and underrated song written and performed by the Beach Boys: Santa’s Beard. It’s about a brother who takes his little brother (maybe five or six years old) to visit Santa for the first time. This experience encompasses all of the emotions kids feel when they go visit Santa for the first time — anticipation, excitement, a little confusion, some anxiety. Is Santa for real? The kid isn’t sure.  Is he? What about the beard? Is that for real? Can I pull on it? I’ll pull on it … he’s not Santa. He’s Santa’s helper? Yes, it’s Santa’s helper. Disappointment? A little touch of anger? But little brother shouldn’t have pulled on the beard, or pulled the pillow out of Santa’s shirt. Santa’s guy is just helpin’ out. Gotta be nice to Santa … or his helpers.

Congrats to St. Louis U. basketball great Jordan Goodwin, who on Monday was signed to a 10-day contract by the shorthanded Washington Wizards. Goodwin – a rookie guard who made a positive impression in Washington’s preseason camp – had played in 14 games this season for the Capital City Go-Go in the G League. And he did well, averaging 15.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game …

Goodwin had a 30-point game earlier this season and is fresh off a triple-double performance at the NBA G League Showcase in Las Vegas – with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a victory over the Iowa Wolves … the Centreville, Ill. native departed SLU as the program’s all-time leader in steals, and finished in the top five in rebounds and assists. He’s friends with Wizards star Bradley Beal and even played for Beal’s St. Louis-based AAU team from the eighth grade until the completion of high school …

— Some peoples are suggesting it might be a good idea to send rookie Blues defenseman Scott Perunovich back to the AHL for a while to round out his game, strengthen his weaknesses, etc. We welcome all opinions here, so let’s think about this one. Well, first of all he’s played only 15 games so a period of adjustment is natural. But it’s not as if Perunovich is overwhelmed and embarrassing himself out there. Mistakes in his own end are inevitable. But he’s smooth. Let’s think about the expectations. What are his attributes? We know he’s undersized. We know he won’t be crushing opponents in front of the net, or immobilizing them with a well-placed spear. That isn’t his game. He will never be stout in that old-school way; he won’t be Barret Jackman. But Perunovich is an outstanding skater who can move the puck by himself or adeptly make a pass to start the rush. We know that his skills are tailored for the power play — but he definitely shoots more. But let’s get to the bottom line here: When Perunovich has been on the ice at all strengths the Blues have outscored their opponents 13-5. That’s a goal share of 72.2 percent. And when Perunovich is on duty at five-on-five, the Blues have scored eight of the 11 goals, a share of 72.2 percent. As for his development, Perunovich will learn more on the big NHL pond than he will during another stay in the minors. If Perunovich show signs of unraveling — or something like that — then we can revisit this topic again.

Speaking of Beal: it hasn’t been a smooth year for the three-time NBA All-Star. It’s been a very stressful 2021. Beal is coping with the passing of his beloved grandmother in early November. “I’ve never lost anybody close to me,” he said at the time. “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to feel, I don’t know who to go to.” … Beal landed on the Covid protocol list last week – this, after missing the Olympics this past summer after testing positive for the coronavirus just before Team USA left for Tokyo …

Beal’s shooting problems continue. He’s down to a success rate of 28.3 percent on his three point shots; in his previous eight NBA seasons Beal made 37.6% of his threes. His effective field goal percentage, .495, is down from a rate of .535 in the six seasons before 2021 …

NBA analyst John Hollinger, writing for The Athletic, wrote this about Beal: “I’m keeping an eye on Bradley Beal. No, not for trades – for basketball. The 28-year-old should be at the peak of his powers, but his numbers are way down this year. He hasn’t been able to draw fouls, his outlier shooting on floater-range shots from a year ago has returned to earth, and for some reason, he’s become a steadily worse 3-point shooter. However, there’s another thing about Beal that’s been bugging me: Physically, there are times where I wonder if something is wrong, because his legs will just kinda … not play along with what his body wants to do … I think his left leg is actually the problem, as it seems to slip as he plants. If any other player had done it, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But this is an ongoing trend (and) I’m wondering if there isn’t something more going on there. Sometimes “slipping” like this is actually indicative of other problems.”

So the NHL and the NHL Players Association finally realized that testing positive for the coronavirus and its related mutations shouldn’t be viewed as the usual “lower body,” and “upper body” rigamarole. This stuff spreads like crazy and travels in mysterious ways, and the virus is difficult to contain. You can’t treat it like a sports injury, or a concussion. This league wandered back into the pandemic without a necessary backup plan to allow harshly impacted teams to lean on extra players to fill in for Covid-related absences. And with that, the garage league wouldn’t give teams relief on relatively minor salary-cap issues that prevented general managers such as the Blues’ Doug Armstrong to call up players from Springfield on an emergency basis – no, instead, the NHL thought it was fine to have shorthanded teams play games against fully stocked teams that had a competitive advantage. And having games that put a Covid-impacted team at a disadvantage is also a disservice to paying customers who expect to see a fair competition …

The league and the players’ union finally agreed to an arrangement that allows a six-player taxi squad and salary-cap relief to provide common-sense, short-term roster solutions. Fine. Swell. Thanks for waking up, you silly cavemen people who are hopelessly unfamiliar with the ways of the modern world. This should have been handled long before now. As Armstrong said Sunday: “Obviously, I was in favor of it maybe six or eight weeks ago. I think it’s the right thing to do. I think COVID is its own animal; it’s not related to hockey in any stretch.”

— Joan Didion wrote “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

She wrote the best book written about living while grieving, “The Year Of Magical Thinking.”

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe their husband is about to return and need his shoes.”

Many fans are grieving her death. While not unexpected, the news still delivered a jolt. My first impulse was to read some of her classic pieces in the New Yorker. Comforting. Inspiring. Confirmation: All that Didion wrote still lives. And that’s more than enough.

As she wrote, “We all survive more than we think we can.”

Thanks for reading…


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

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