DENVER -- The comparison from fans and media was inevitable, creating envy, anger, but also hope.
Buffalo's Josh Allen represents the type of quarterback the Broncos need. And they passed on drafting him with the fifth overall pick three years ago, despite deep familiarity with his college career at Wyoming.
During that time concern about Allen centered on two issues issues. For starters, was he too much like Paxton Lynch? Lynch was also mobile with a big arm and dominated lesser competition in college. However, Lynch's lack of passion for his craft went undetected and led to his career dissolving before it materialized in Denver. In contrast, Allen eats and breathes the game, and has mushroomed into a leader.
Secondly, Would Allen throw accurately enough to star, let alone start in the NFL? He has progressed from a 52 percent completion percentage as a rookie to 58 percent in his second season to 68.6 accuracy this year. It remains a testament to his talent -- few at his position have his ability to run and throw the equivalent of 100 mph fastballs -- and to consistency. Allen has had the same offensive coordinator for his entire career in Brian Daboll, who could be a candidate for the Chargers job if Anthony Lynn is fired.
Drew Lock, who has offered glimpses that he should remain the Broncos' future, has had the same coordinator in back-to-back seasons once since high school, not coincidentally having his best performance under Josh Heupel.
Lock can still be The Man in Denver. However, continuity matters in his development. Lock has shown progress in his past three starts for the Broncos to consider sticking with him this offseason. It would behoove the Broncos to keep offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula in that case.
"Yeah, that would be awesome. It would be my first comfortable feeling since my sophomore year in college (at Missouri) when I was able to have Josh Heupel in back-to-back years. He was one of the more inspirational guys in my football career and it's probably because I ended up having him more than one year in my life," Lock said.
"It's nice to have somebody you are familiar with and have continuity with. You know he knows you, and you know in your heart that you know him as a playcaller. It would make me feel comfortable, but I think it would make everyone feel comfortable (if the Broncos kept Shurmur and Shula). I think having the same playcaller in this organization for more than one year would be huge for us."
This is why where a quarterback goes in the draft remains critical. It is not to suggest that a player cannot have success, but it would be naive to think that Allen, Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, for instance, did not benefit from stability.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio agreed with this premise when I asked him about it Wednesday.
"There's no doubt about it that continuity, especially as it relates to a quarterback, can have a tremendous positive effect. You see it all around the league with a lot of the successful quarterbacks, both young and older," Fangio said. "Drew Brees has been with New Orleans forever it seems, Tom Brady's run at New England, Peyton (Manning's) run with the Colts. This is Mahomes' fourth year with the Chiefs. You just see time and time again where the continuity ends up paying off and players develop better, particularly the quarterback. Hopefully we will be able to get that done with Drew here."
Lock's smashing performance last Sunday required no epiphany. It can be traced to his growing maturity, and progress. The blueprint exists for his success. In his two best games -- at Houston and at Carolina -- he completed 30 of 34 passes that traveled in the air five yards or less. Simply put, he used the 7-iron, and, when necessary, broke out the driver.
Lock owns an 8-7 career record, and has improved over his last three games, completing 64 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and three interceptions. These numbers offer a glimpse of Lock's potential if the Broncos run it back with him next season.
"I think it's just having the mindset of taking the shots when they're there, but not forcing them. I did that a little bit in previous games, and it caused us to have to come off the field. We need to stay on the field as long as possible because when we do, we end up making those plays that keep us going, keep the drives alive and helps us get points," Lock said.
"That starts with me taking care of the ball and realizing when those shots are there or realizing when I need to check it down. It's just about being balanced and taking what they give me."
Early in the season, Lock tried to be the reason the Broncos won games. Then it transitioned to Lock needing to be the reason they did not lose. Now, he's finding a rhythm, recognizing his evolving role each Sunday, while limiting turnovers. This bodes well for his future.
"We just need to keep getting better each week," Lock said. "I wouldn't say we've grown up or arrived. We just need to keep improving."
Simmons a Good Guy
Broncos safety Justin Simmons became the first three-time recipient of the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award for his professionalism in working with the local media. Simmons is available weekly on Zoom, and is a postgame regular, showing his accountability.
"I said it in previous years, but I don't take this award for granted. I think the very first time I ever won it, I was very aware of the award itself and Darrent Williams and the legacy that he built here and has left here and obviously the tragic incident that happened. I always took it upon myself after the first time winning this award to really educate myself on the impact that he's had in this community," Simmons said.
"This is such a tremendous honor. I don't take this for granted at all. It's definitely something very special that I hold near and dear, as I've said before, so I can't thank everyone enough for this award and what it means. It really means a lot.”
Last week, Simmons was named the Broncos' Walter Payton Man of the Year for his community work for a second time. He is the exact type of player the Broncos should try to keep longterm: a homegrown talent who excels on and off the field and is in position to net All-Pro honors for a second-straight season. The Broncos placed him on the franchise tag last summer, and could do so again if they choose, but Simmons remains open to a longterm deal, which cannot be negotiated until season's end.
"I’ve had nothing but love for Colorado and Denver, specifically talking about the Broncos. They took a chance on me with a third-round pick. I know I was the last pick of the third round. They took a shot and I earned my spot in being able to become a starter and playing that out, and they stuck with me through those three or four years. It would mean everything to me," Simmons said. "I’ve built so many great relationships here, and I’ve built so many great relationships in the community. There are so many things that I care about here. It’s a no-brainer on my end that I love this place. I love being here and I love my teammates."
Receiver Diontae Spencer. He was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after delivering an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown vs the Panthers. He is the first Denver returner to earn the honor since Trindon Holliday in Week 2 of 2013. Spencer’s return for TD represents third longest in NFL this season and seventh longest in Broncos’ history. Darrien Gordon has Denver’s best, a 94-yarder vs Rams in the 1997 Super Bowl season. ...
When the Broncos return to practice Thursday, tight end Noah Fant and left tackle Garett Bolles are expected to participate. They dealt with what was either food poisoning or a 24-hour bug last weekend in Carolina, Fangio said. It knocked Fant out after two series, and snapped Bolles' streak of 60 straight starts. ...
Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Lock are friends dating to their time working out together in the offseason. They naturally follow each other's careers. "I will say this, he is a 10 times better dancer than I am. He’s got the moves," Allen said of Lock.