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'We all want a franchise quarterback': GM George Paton offers early thoughts on Broncos' QB position

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As George Paton begins his tenure as the Broncos' general manager, he's not yet ready to make a declaration on Drew Lock's future at quarterback.

Asked during his introductory press conference whether he's seen enough from Lock to believe the Broncos can win with the Missouri product under center, Paton said he wasn't able to fully answer the question that could define the team's offseason.

"I liked Drew coming out of the draft," Paton said Tuesday. "Big arm, athletic, playmaker. I haven't studied him. I haven't gotten into a lot of tape. I've only been here four days. I've watched enough tape to know he's talented, he can develop. But I can't comment on your … question because of that."

Paton will surely continue that evaluation in the coming weeks, and Head Coach Vic Fangio said he believes it's best if Paton forms an opinion that's untainted by him, Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur or Quarterbacks Coach Mike Shula.

"I think the best way is for George to go and evaluate him himself and not have myself or Pat or Mike influence his thinking," Fangio said. "Let him take a sterile, unbiased look at it and then we can come back together and he can express his views based on what he's seen. Obviously we can answer some questions for him, like he might be wondering what he was being told in this situation or that situation or maybe clear up a question or two that he might have. I think it's best for him to form his own opinion without the influence of me or any of the other coaches here."

President of Football Operations John Elway said he is "still high" on Lock's potential and said the 2020 season unofficially served as Lock's rookie year. Despite the second-round pick showing "flashes," Elway acknowledged the team would continue to evaluate the position.

"I'm going to say that obviously we're going to continue to look at that position," Elway said. "You always are and look at opportunities that you have, and George is going to go through that whole process. And then if there's an ability for us to get better in that position — better than we think we have — then I think George will make that decision. I think there will be a lot of thought that goes into it.

"… [We're] trying to find that guy that can step in and be successful in that position. Doesn't necessarily have to be the franchise guy but has to be able to allow us and give us a chance to win and make plays to give us a chance to win. That's where the quarterback situation is. Obviously it's a very difficult position to find, but I think Drew did a nice job this year. George will continue to look to fill that spot if we don't think Drew's that guy."

While the Broncos have been unsuccessful in reaching the postseason since Peyton Manning's retirement, Paton and the Vikings made the playoffs with a variety of players at the quarterback position. During his 14 seasons with the Vikings, the team earned six playoff berths with six different quarterbacks.

Since 2015, Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum and Kirk Cousins have led Minnesota to the postseason.

"The quarterback's the most important position in sports, so if you don't have stability at quarterback, you're going to have a hard time sustaining and winning," Paton said. "So, [it's] very important. But I don't think the focus should be taken off the defense just because you want a franchise quarterback. I think we all want a franchise quarterback, and that's your No. 1 goal: to try to draft and develop or acquire in any way you can. When I was in Minnesota, I think we went to the playoffs with six different quarterbacks. … That's not ideal, but you can still win if you don't have the franchise guy.

"You can still win, but obviously we're looking."

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