ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Whenever the Broncos find the next coach to lead their team, they'll soon face another enormous question that will affect the trajectory of the team as they look to provide more consistency at the quarterback position.
At that point, General Manager George Paton and the team will conduct a "deep dive" to identify the future of the team at every position, including quarterback, and change could be in store for the Broncos.
In 2021, the Broncos brought in a new face at quarterback in veteran Teddy Bridgewater, who started 14 games for Denver. In that time, Bridgewater threw for a career-high 18 touchdowns and limited turnovers as he helped lead the team to a 7-6 record before suffering a concussion in Week 15.
After the injury to Bridgewater, which would sideline him for the remainder of the season, the Broncos turned to Drew Lock to finish out the season. Lock, who had struggled with turnovers when filling in for Bridgewater previously, rebounded to avoid turning the ball over in any of his three starts, though the team still fell in each of those games.
"Obviously we were a little up and down," Paton said Sunday. "I like the way Drew finished the season. He didn't turn the ball over in his starts, but we want to win games. Part of the quarterback's job is to win, and we were close, but we need to finish those games. Teddy did a nice job for the most part; he was up and down as well, as was our whole offense."
Still, Paton identified that there were other issues that factored into the Broncos' offensive woes in 2021.
"You can't just pin it on the quarterbacks," Paton said. "We need to block better, we need to catch better. We need to make the key plays in the key moments of games, and we haven't done that. Whether it's a drop here, a penalty there, a missed block, a fumble — two fumble returns for touchdowns is unprecedented. And you're not going to win many games when you lack those details and you make those mistakes in key moments in games."
Regardless of background, Denver's next head coach will be tasked with improving that side of the ball, Paton said.
"We need to upgrade the offense," Paton said. "We know that. Whoever we talk to, obviously they're going to have to have a plan for our offense. And if they're a defensive-minded coach, they're going to have to talk about their plan and their offensive coordinator, his coaching staff and what his vision is with our personnel. So all that goes into it. Offense is obviously a priority, but we don't want to take a step back on defense. We also need to elevate special teams. We need someone to take over the whole operation. We're just not focused on one side of the ball, even though we need to really upgrade on that side of the ball."
While Paton would not pin the team's lack of success from one head coach to another in recent years solely on quarterback play, Denver's struggles to find a long-term answer at quarterback has been a focal point each year and will be once again as the next head coach takes the reins.
"Obviously, I know how important that position is," Paton said. "It's the most important position in sports. But we're focused on the coach. If you can get the right leader, that's the most important thing … and then we'll get the quarterback, we'll get the other position. … The leadership and the right head coach for this football team is the number one priority."