John Elway Says GM George Paton Has Freedom to Replace Drew Lock as QB

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2021

Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) passes against the Las Vegas Raiders during an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

Denver Broncos president of football operations John Elway said Tuesday new general manager George Paton has the authority to replace Drew Lock as the team's starting quarterback before the 2021 NFL season.

Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post provided the comments from Elway, who said he still believes in the 2019 second-round pick:

Kyle Fredrickson @kylefredrickson

Here was John Elway's evaluation of Broncos QB Drew Lock today: "I'm still high on Drew" But... "George (Paton) will continue to look to fill that spot if we don't think that Drew is that guy." https://t.co/0vwLluBFqx

Lock showed promise after taking over late in his rookie season. He completed 64.1 percent of his throws for 1,020 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions while leading the Broncos to a 4-1 record.

He couldn't match that success in his first full season as the starter. His completion rate dropped to 57.3 percent, and he recorded 16 touchdowns with a league-high 15 interceptions across 13 games. He ranked 29th out of 33 players in ESPN's total QBR (48.9).

"I do believe I'm the guy here," Luck said in December. "With progressing over time with this offense and hopefully getting another year in the same offense, the sky is the limit for us as a young team. We learned a lot this year."

A new general manager often searches for a quarterback when there isn't an established one in place, knowing success—or the lack thereof—at the position will often determine their own fate as the leader of the front office.

Paton, who was the Minnesota Vikings' assistant general manager since 2012, didn't commit to Lock during his first news conference Tuesday, instead providing an open-ended answer about the future of the position.

"I think we all want the franchise quarterback, and that's the No. 1 goal," he told reporters. "You try to draft and develop and acquire any way you can. We are looking."

The Broncos own the ninth pick in the 2021 draft.

While the top quarterbacks—Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State's Justin Fields and BYU's Zach Wilson—will likely be gone if Denver doesn't trade up, it could have its choice of second-tier prospects, a group that features Alabama's Mac Jones and Florida's Kyle Trask. The Broncos hold the 40th and 71st picks as well.

Denver could opt to give Lock another year to prove himself while using that top-10 selection to upgrade the roster elsewhere after a 5-11 season, its fourth straight losing mark.