Fangio: Not imperative to get Lock into a game this season

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FILE – In this Aug. 1, 2019, file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock scrambles during the second half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons in Canton, Ohio. The Broncos are bringing rookie quarterback Lock back to practice Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, to see if he is going to be able to play this season. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)

ENGLEWOOD | Vic Fangio said Wednesday he doesn’t consider it “vitally important” to get rookie quarterback Drew Lock some playing time this season.

With that, he shot down a talking point so popular on Denver’s airwaves that the Broncos need to see Lock play this season to know what they have in the project QB before they head into free agency and the draft next spring.

A cameo simply wouldn’t expose Lock as a bust or reveal him as the franchise’s future, Fangio said.

“You can get a false positive; you can get a false negative,” Fangio said. “You need a whole body of work, and that body of work includes offseason, training camp, the buildup. I’m not putting any limits on him if he does get in there. But I would be reluctant to make final conclusions.”

That’s not to say Lock won’t get his chance, just that Fangio doesn’t see it as essential, an opinion the first-year head coach said is shared by his boss, John Elway, who drafted Lock in the second round out of Missouri after trading for veteran Joe Flacco last offseason.

Flacco (neck) went on IR after Week 8 and with Lock sidelined since the summer, the Broncos turned to Brandon Allen, a 27-year-old, fourth-year pro from Arkansas whom they signed off waivers from the Rams after Lock sprained his right thumb in the preseason.

Allen beat Cleveland 24-19 in his NFL debut and had the Broncos positioned for an upset at Minnesota on Sunday when he drove Denver to the Vikings 4 but couldn’t complete any of his three passes in the final 10 seconds of a 27-23 loss. He gets his third start this weekend when the Broncos (3-7) visit the Buffalo Bills (7-3).

A sixth-round draft pick by Jacksonville in 2016, Allen said he wanted to play right away like any other quarterback would but realizes his long wait prepared him for this opportunity.

“Just the amount of football I learned in the four years I was out and being able to sit back and watch how guys prepare and how a lot of defenses do certain things versus different quarterbacks, I think it definitely helped to be able to learn more before just getting thrown in there,” he said.

For the second straight week Lock is working with the scout team at practice and taking eight to 10 snaps with the starters.

Fangio said he’s not any closer to targeting a possible return date for Lock, who would remain on IR the rest of the season if he’s not activated by Dec. 3.

Asked if it’s essential to see Lock in action this season, Fangio said, “I don’t think it’s vitally important” because basing an opinion at the game’s most vital position on such a small sample size can be foolish.

He used an example from his time as an assistant in New Orleans three decades ago: When starting QB Bobby Hebert held out the 1990 season, the Saints didn’t fret, figuring, “We’ve got this guy who played pretty good for three games” the previous December, Fangio recounted. “Well, it didn’t work out.”

John Fourcade followed his 3-0 mark in 1989 with a 2-3 record, completing 43% of his throws, eight of which were intercepted. He was replaced by Steve Walsh and never played another down in the NFL. Hebert returned in 1991 and won 20 of his final 25 starts for the Saints.

The Broncos will weigh several factors in deciding whether to activate Lock, including how both he and Allen are playing.

One thing that won’t be a deterrent to starting Lock at some point next month is the possibility the young QB could crater and carry that experience with him into next year.

“I don’t worry too much about them getting overwhelmed,” Fangio said, “because … if a guy gets scarred from some bad performances, whether it’s all his fault or the team’s fault, he probably wasn’t the guy you wanted anyway.”