Drew Lock gets 2nd chance with Pete Carroll, but is the same long shot he was 2 months ago
Seaside Joe 1162: Has there ever been a second chance QB who truly became special?
The last time I worked any job that wasn’t writing or “acting” (trust me, if you’ve seen me perform the quotes are deserved), I was in year seven of a dead end job as an IS helpdesk assistant.
When I want to send a message that I’m smarter than I actually am, I tell people that “I used to work in IT” but the truth is that I only worked in IS (Information Systems) and the difference in those two letters is massive.
Unless it’s writing on article on one, I don’t know shit about computers.
But because I wasn’t seemingly going anywhere else in life at the time, I felt like I should give computers a fair shot and tried to apply myself at a certain point. That all came to a sudden halt when out of nowhere, my boss hired a new boss to work between him and the IS staff, including myself. His name was not Frank, but that’s what I will call him today. This generally is not an issue, it surely makes sense in a lot of cases, but I knew within the first couple of days that my time at the company would be coming to a close soon enough.
Because Frank hated me from minute one and I wasn’t too fond of Frank either.
It never really felt like I was going to get a fair shot from Frank, and with hindsight I don’t really blame him. I questioned his authority and I probably didn’t hide my eyerolls when he would do something to prove my skepticism right (I stand by my opinion that Frank was a goofball) and people who act like I was acting at the time aren’t really good to keep around.
After months of me trying to stay on a course that would keep me employed there, I finally decided to make a new plan: Save $10,000, quit this job, and pursue writing full time.
Looking back on it now, that’s not even that much money to save, but I’ve always believed that sometimes your greatest enemy is security.
Only weeks after I made this decision, I got an e-mail out of left field from the new sports editor at Rolling Stone (dot com), and I was offered a chance to freelance for $150 an article. That would still not be enough money to live off of, but it was enough for me to put in two weeks’ notice, after which, Frank told me that I always had a job to come back to if I wanted it. Except it wasn’t in the genuine way, it was in the “You won’t make it” way. I told myself that if I could just work for one year as a writer, then that would be enough to tell my kids or grandkids one day, “Your pop used to be a writer!”
I don’t know how that was eight years ago. I still don’t have $10,000—but I’m grateful to say that I never had to go back to Frank.
I wonder how closely my story with Frank parallels the relationship between Vic Fangio and Drew Lock in Denver over the last three years.
On Wednesday morning, I reached out to Jake Fallon, an old improv buddy of mine who is a lifelong Broncos, and asked him what he thought of Lock. He said a lot of what we’ve heard from Pete Carroll and John Schneider already, which is that Lock has a great arm but needs to be a better decision maker. But he also referenced, as some former Broncos teammates have as well, that Fangio really despised Lock during their Denver tenure—it’s amazing that they really did overlap for three years.
As former Broncos safety Su’a Cravens put it, Fangio was “irritated” that “Drew had a personality.”
Jake then relayed another story to me that sort of says it all. Teddy Bridgewater and Lock were both born on November 10th, just four years apart. When that day came around last year, months after Bridgewater had beaten out Lock for the starting gig, Fangio made sure to wish his starter a “Happy Birthday” during his media session.
When a reporter pointed out that it was Drew Lock’s birthday as well, Fangio only said… “It is.”
That’s the same petty shit that me and Frank would throw at each other.
It’s rare that we get to see a three-year sample size of a head coach and quarterback being at completely at odds with one another. Why didn’t the Broncos simply trade Lock in 2021, if they were going to side with Fangio? Why didn’t the Broncos fire Fangio a year sooner, if they knew he was into childish mind games with somebody who the team thought highly enough to draft in the second round and keep on the roster for a third season? It’s not as though Fangio was ever an impressive hire.
Despite his reputation as a defensive guru—one that permeates throughout the league, including on the 2022 Seattle Seahawks staff—Fangio had to spend 19 (NINETEEN!) seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator before landing his first head coaching gig at age 61.
The fact that a 63-year-old couldn’t wish his backup quarterback a happy 25th birthday kind of says it all about his ability to set a public facing example of professionalism. It was a similar story after the Broncos faced the Ravens last year and Fangio was upset with former employer John Harbaugh for calling a Lamar Jackson run on the final play (when up 23-7) because Baltimore wanted to keep their 100-yard rushing game streak alive.
Nevermind that it was Fangio’s job to not lose the game, and whether or not there was any broken unwritten rules should have been so far down his list of priorities as to simply ignore that it ever happened. Not for Vic Fangio, who went on to say that he expected that “kind of bullshit” from the Ravens organization and Harbaugh.
But during his Monday news conference, Fangio acted tough and called what Harbaugh did “kind of bull___” and added that he “expected it of them. In 37 years in pro ball, I’ve never seen anything like it. But it was to be expected, and we expected it.”
A very astute Broncos reporter asked why he expected it from the Ravens. (Fangio was an assistant under Harbaugh from 2008-2009.)
“Because I just know how they operate,” Fangio said. “That’s just their mode of operation there. Player safety is secondary.”
John Harbaugh kept Fangio as the linebackers coach after Brian Billick was fired in 2008. Then his brother Jim hired Fangio as Stanford’s defensive coordinator in 2010, bringing him along for the same job with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. Fangio owes plenty to the Harbaugh family—I guess when he sensed that he might actually suck as a head coach though, decency wasn’t in the cards for a coach who never seemed to have it to begin with.
The Broncos started 3-0 but finished 4-10 beginning with that loss to Baltimore.
It’s fair then to say that Drew Lock wasn’t being nurtured as a quarterback in the best environment when the Broncos opted to pair him with a first-year head coach who may have hated his guts as much as he despised his choice of visor, then the organization confoundingly kept them together for three seasons. So for any Seahawks or Drew Lock fans out there craving optimism thanks to his placement in a Pete Carroll philosophy and a Shane Waldron offense, I support your desire to support him; it’s not my wish to rain on that parade.
But that doesn’t mean that Seaside Joe can drift from a place or realism to a place of fantasy—I pride this place on not falling for the same mirage act you usually get from Twitter—and Lock becoming a great quarterback in Seattle would be one of the most unbelievable change of scenery outcomes in NFL history.
It’s funny because when the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson on March 8th, nobody was talking about Lock as a potential answer at quarterback. We talked about the draft picks, the young tight end, and even Shelby Harris constituted a more likely puzzle piece to fit into Seattle’s 2022 season than Drew Lock. For almost two months I kept cautioning people against expecting Pete Carroll to make any moves at quarterback that would represent a more likely starter than Lock. It just doesn’t fit Pete’s history at the position and it also didn’t make sense given how much better the Seahawks still needed to get at other positions before throwing good money or good draft picks at quarterbacks who were not likely to elevate the team into being a true contender.
I also kept writing that the 2022 NFL Draft was not the place to find a quarterback and didn’t give anyone other than Kenny Pickett anything higher than a third round grade. The first round of the draft played out as I expected it to, and after challenging Tony Pauline’s reports that Seattle was desperate to land Desmond Ridder, that also turned out to be as false as every other report of his.
So looking at the depth chart today and seeing that Lock and Geno Smith are the two options at quarterback after the draft, that doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is that even though Lock is the same quarterback now that he was on March 8th—when nobody thought twice about his inclusion in the trade—there seems to be a groundswell of support for him as a potential “answer” for the position.
That belief can’t possibly have emerged from anything that Lock has done—no football has happened in the last two months. The only thing that has changed, for some people, is that they’ve realized that Lock and Smith really are the two players most likely competing to start for Seattle in Week 1.
I’m still of the belief that Drew Lock, despite his arm talent and his cantankerous relationship with the NFL’s version of Al Swearengen, probably isn’t one of the few special quarterbacks to grace our football fields with the rare talent that it takes to be great. And let’s not confuse “special”—nothing could be easier to diagnose. Special means SPECIAL.
Special quarterbacks don’t often tend to lead the NFL in interceptions despite playing in 13 of 16 games, as Lock did during his second season in 2020. Special quarterbacks don’t tend to cause teams to trade for Teddy Bridgewater—after he had been replaced by a trade for Sam Darnold—then lose a competition to Bridgewater; a special quarterback would’ve overcome Fangio’s distaste for his personality because Fangio was also coaching for his NFL job.
When Lock took over for Bridgewater at the end of the season, not only did Denver go 0-3 in his starts, but Lock’s 23.4 QBR was lower than all 33 qualified starting quarterbacks in 2021—Justin Fields finished 33rd with a 26.4 QBR.
It doesn’t mean that Lock can’t be serviceable. It doesn’t mean that Lock can’t be good. It means that during my lifetime, I don’t know if there’s a single example of a quarterback who was among the worst starters in the NFL for three years, then changed locations or got a new coaching staff and then became special.
Who are the closest examples?
Carson Palmer - Palmer’s change of scenery from Oakland to Arizona in 2013 helped him a lot. But Palmer is a former number one overall pick, led the NFL in touchdown passes during his second season with the Bengals, and talent wasn’t the issue with the Bengals or Raiders.
Tony Romo - Never had a change of scenery but I could see people citing Romo because he was a UDFA that took a few years of development before starting at age 26. But Romo never sucked in the NFL. Like Kurt Warner, he was a complete blind spot and discovered late in life—Lock was not in a blind spot. He had a lot of chances.
Brett Favre - Also a 2nd round pick and a horrible fit for the team that drafted him (Falcons), but Favre was a Pro Bowl QB in his first season with the Packers. Another blind spot. He was a star by the time he was Lock’s current age.
Matt Hasselbeck - Actually not that bad of a ceiling comp. Hasselbeck is my favorite all-time Seahawks player, but I’m also aware that he’s not nearly the most-talented player in Seattle history.
Matthew Stafford - Uber talented player who finally won a playoff game, and a Super Bowl, after a change of scenery. There’s really no comparison to be made between Stafford’s resume and Drew Lock’s, but figured people might cite him because it’s so recent.
Kirk Cousins - Was fairly bad for his first three seasons, didn’t become Washington’s starter until he was 27. He’s now had seven more years as a starter, split between two teams, and it’s hard to not feel like when it’s third down or the fourth quarter, Cousins is not that guy. I also feel like Cousins proved to be better through his first three years than what Lock showed—but I may be wrong about that.
Ryan Tannehill - He was kind of good with the Dolphins actually-they gave him a second contract! Tannehill is a fine quarterback, but it won’t be that surprising if he’s starting for a team other than the Titans in 2023.
Jay Cutler - Was better for the Broncos than Lock, also traded after his third season, and I think that deal could have setback the Bears by a decade.
None of this is intended to dissuade Drew Lock from proving me wrong. I don’t know whether it is up to him or to the heavens to become the next exception who proves the rule—like Warner and 28-year-old rookies out of grocery stores or Tom Brady and sixth round picks—but it takes more than just getting away from a bad coach (or a bad IS manager) to become a great employee. It’s not like I left my job and started Apple 2. I went into an entirely different field to pursue something I might actually be good at.
Lock has to be good at something that he’s been mostly bad at for three years now—being an NFL quarterback. Vic Fangio’s lack of birthday wishes wasn’t holding Lock back, only Drew Lock can do that. How will Lock perform for a coach who probably already bought him a cake that says “Always Compete” in frosting? We’ll find out… That’s been the case since March 8th.
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