How Broncos' QB Drew Lock should spend his winter vacation

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Roughly 20 hours after the Denver Broncos closed out a 7-9 season, president of football operations/general manager John Elway stated it would be "unrealistic to say" Drew Lock would not be the team's starting quarterback in 2020.

"Unrealistic" might also describe the expectations on the second-year quarterback following his 4-1 record as a starter to close the season.

Lock can ease some of that burden by checking off a few items before the Broncos get back to official business in April.

In recent weeks we asked three head coaches and three offensive coordinators from around the league this question under the condition of anonymity: If Lock was your quarterback, what would you want him to do before your offseason program started?

Here's what they said:

Learn how Pat Shurmur thinks. Under the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, Lock and Shurmur -- the Broncos' newly hired offensive coordinator -- can't sit and talk about football yet. Same deal with new quarterbacks coach Mike Shula.

But that's not to say Lock can't look at how Shurmur called a game over the past three seasons. Lock can look at how Shurmur called down-and-distance situations before and after rookie Daniel Jones was his quarterback with the New York Giants last season.

Lock can also look at how Shurmur attacked defenses of common opponents. The Giants and Broncos both faced the Bills, Vikings, Lions, Bears and Packers this past season. And although Lock did not start any of those games, he can look at how the game plans differed.

Shurmur said this past week he had some conversations with Lock and was "very excited" to work with him. It's important for Lock to be ready for Shurmur as well.

Organize throwing sessions. Whether it's with just one or two teammates or with all of the pass-catchers on the roster, Lock simply has find the time to throw.

It's not just the work that's important, the coaches said, it's the act of organizing the workouts. It's leadership, it's letting teammates know he's working, it's the part of the job some who have had it since Peyton Manning retired haven't always been able to pull off, which makes it doubly important for Lock to do it.

It should be part of his offseason DNA, right from the start. And not some social media hey-look-at-me deal, but sessions with route concepts and progressions he has already taken from what he has seen of Shurmur's offense on video.

It's unclear why the quarterbacks between Manning and Lock didn't take this step -- whether it was because they felt as if they didn't have the backing of the organization to lead or it just wasn't on their offseason to-do list. But Lock can take a significant leadership step by simply doing what others before him haven't. It's what leaders at successful companies across the country do every day -- push themselves and others to be better.

When the season ended, Lock said: "I'll get some of the guys together." Now he needs to follow through.

Be honest in the mirror. When Elway took his job in 2011, he said one of the most important things he wanted to remember is, "I know what I don't know." Like most young quarterbacks, Lock's ability to grow will be based on how honest he is with himself.

He must consider what really worked, what really didn't, what really was his fault, what were the other circumstances.

But whether it's something as basic as footwork or a breakdown of each pass, give it all an honest assessment -- both good and bad. It's a skill some quarterbacks find difficult to navigate and a lack of honesty can often derail everything.

Be himself. Several coaches said this might be the most important item, beyond the nuts and bolts of the position.

One coach even used the word "authentic" when describing why he thinks Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has navigated the learning curve and scrutiny on and off the field. It's clear Mahomes' teammates respond to him because he has already shown he demands more of himself than his teammates.

If a young quarterback can't deal with the fact he has to be there when his teammates arrive and leave each day, then another job might be a better option. It's part of the gig, as is dealing with the day-to-day scrutiny. The best ones deal with it, treat people correctly, and the ones who don't succeed are swallowed up by it.

For Lock, who linebacker Von Miller has called a "f---ing rock star," it's his ability to maintain his personal composure with that enthusiastic side that his teammates love. Lock must talk to those he trusts as a way of handling what Broncos coach Vic Fangio has called the "toughest job in sports."