DENVER -- Drew Lock opened training camp this past summer thinking he had what it took to be the Denver Broncos' starting quarterback.
And Saturday night, as he closed out a 2021 season spent mostly as the backup, he had the exact same thought. Lock said, without hesitation after the Broncos' 28-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, he thinks he has what it takes to be the team's starter.
"I do, I do feel that way -- again," Lock said. "Winning in this league, you always want to win, we didn't get that done [Saturday]. ... [But] I do feel like if you put me out there, there is not a play you can't run with me. I can make a throw here, I can make a throw there, I was waiting for the opportunity to show you guys I can run around and they gave it to me. But that's not a surprise to me. ... I feel like I can go in the locker room with these guys and fire them up, get them ready to play and that's exactly what we saw."
Lock, who lost a training camp battle to Teddy Bridgewater in August for the starting job, started the Broncos final three games of the season with Bridgewater in the league's concussion protocol. In those three combined starts -- all Broncos' losses to formally end their playoff chances -- Lock threw one touchdown pass with no interceptions.
Saturday, he rushed for two touchdowns, the first Broncos quarterback to do that in a game since Tim Tebow did it in 2011. Lock, who has a year remaining on the rookie deal he signed after he was a second-round pick in 2019, re-affirmed he'd like to be a part of the future when general manager George Paton starts to decide who stays and who goes in a quest to end the now six-year playoff drought.
"There is without a doubt a foundation in that locker room," Lock said. "I'd like to believe there can be a foundation with me in it, but, you know, that's not my choice."
Much has happened to Lock since the Broncos went 4-1 with him behind center to close out his rookie season. The team changed offensive coordinators to Pat Shurmur after that season, and COVID-19 wiped out any offseason work before the '20 season.
Lock then tied for the league lead in interceptions last season, was last among the league's starters in completion percentage and missed a start for violating the league's COVID-19 protocols. That ball insecurity was a big reason, maybe the biggest, Paton, who arrived last January, traded for Bridgewater last April.
Bridgewater won the training camp battle and went on to become one of the team's most important voices in the locker room. Along the way, he also became one of the more important people in Lock's own progress, at least this side of offseason discussions with the likes of Peyton Manning.
"I love Drew, man," said left tackle Garett Bolles. "... I love him, I think he's grown dramatically, I think Teddy has pushed him in so many directions. ... He didn't have somebody who was going to push him 24/7 like Teddy did, no disrespect to anybody else that was here, but he didn't have that person who was going to put his arm around him, watch film with him, and tell him, 'Hey Drew, that's not what we do' or 'Hey Drew, look at this.' ... [Lock] is going to be a great quarterback, it's going to take some time for him. I think he has a great future."
Saturday Lock completed 12 of 24 passes for 162 yards. It was the second time in the last three weeks he's thrown for fewer than 200 yards. While he has not thrown an interception in his last four appearances, the last interception he did throw this year -- Nov. 28 against the Los Angeles Chargers -- conjured up almost every memory of last season's ill-advised throws into traffic when the Broncos were in the scoring zone.
At one point this season he had lost the ball, either by fumble or interception four times in roughly four quarters of play. He appeared in six games overall this season, and the Broncos won just one of them -- the Chargers game when it was Bridgewater who scored two of the Broncos' three touchdowns and Denver cornerback Pat Surtain II scored the other.
That is the information Paton has to work with when he considers any and all moves the Broncos may or may not make at quarterback in the weeks and months ahead.
"I thought he had a good game, I thought he threw some really nice passes," coach Vic Fangio said Saturday. "Obviously his scrambling ability showed up in a big way. I thought he played his best game. Part of it has been when he's played this season, he's come in in relief with not much preparation. Last week was a COVID-19-week and we didn't get much practice. This week was really the first week he had a chance to practice at normal tempo and get some work in and I think it showed."
Bridgewater is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March while Paton will have some of the best salary cap space in the league to go with 11 draft picks already in hand for next April.
For Lock, that might mean a lot of wait-and-see before he actually knows where he'll be.
"I've learned more than I thought I would, from people I never thought I would," Lock said. "... I thought I faced adversity before, but nothing like this year. ... When you get the playing taken away from you ... it's different. ... [But] it lives in me, it breathes in me, it's who I am, I'm a quarterback."