For the first time since Super Bowl 50, John Elway heads into an offseason not looking to change his head coach, starting quarterback or locker room chemistry.
Elway said recently that rookie Drew Lock showed enough in his five-week audition to earn the nod as the Denver Broncos' starting QB heading into 2020.
He also said he's a bigger fan than ever of head coach Vic Fangio and believes the Broncos, who went 7-5 after a winless September, have finally turned the corner despite missing out on the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
The biggest question awaiting Elway at his annual state-of-the-team news conference Dec. 30 was whether he's all-in on Lock, who came off IR to inject moxie, mobility and modernity into Denver's poky offense.
“Well, I mean, I don't see any (other) options right now,” Elway said. “Obviously, he finished and did a heck of a job, winning four out of five games and played well. He still has a long way to go, he's got a lot of work to do, but we're excited about where Drew is. We don't like to show our hand, but I think it's unrealistic to say that we're going a different direction.”
So, if Elway signs a veteran QB in free agency or drafts one in the lower rounds, it'll be to add depth at the position, not competition.
Lock told The Associated Press that he sees himself as the guy in Denver now but will work this offseason as though he still has plenty to prove.
“I'm one of 32 human beings who are starting NFL quarterbacks in this world, but no, I don't want to be 32, I want to try eventually to be No. 1,” he said. “You go about that with a lackadaisical mindset, you'll never get there.”
Elway, who switched head coaches three times in five years and flirted with bringing back Mike Shanahan two years ago, said he loved working alongside Fangio, a first-time head coach at age 61.
“Vic has been everything that I thought he would be and a heck of a lot more,” Elway said.
Elway credited his rookie head coach and his rookie quarterback with injecting enthusiasm into the organization that has missed the playoffs four consecutive years.
“We're at the point where the good feeling is we've bounced off the bottom,” Elway said. “The whole thing when you're losing is getting that locker room turned around. ... That locker room is excited again.”
So is the fan base, although 38,000 no-shows over the final three home games shows there's work to be done.
Elway will have up to a dozen draft picks and $80 million in cap space to bolster a roster that's already the third youngest in the NFL.
“Things are trending up,” Elway said. “Now, that's not to say they're going to continue to go that way. We've got a lot of work to do. We've got to get better in a lot of spots.”
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