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Elway: Rookie Drew Lock 'not ready to go right now'

Denver Broncos fans hoping for a reprieve from the Joe Flacco show will have to wait a bit longer, at least.

Speaking on KOA radio on Wednesday, John Elway noted that rookie Drew Lock wasn't ready to come off injured reserve yet and take over the starting gig for the 2-5 Broncos.

"I will say this: The most important thing for a young quarterback is not to put him out there before he's ready," Elway said, via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic. "So that is the most important thing and if he's not ready, we're not going to put him out there. That is the key thing. And as you know dealing with quarterbacks, it's a very tough thing because if you don't put him in a situation where he has a chance to be successful and he's not successful, the whole roof will cave in. So we have to make sure that Drew is ready when he does get in there, if he does get in there.

"We're still in the process of evaluating that. He is not ready to go right now, I will tell you that."

Lock remains on IR with a thumb injury on his throwing hand. The Broncos haven't started the clock yet on potentially activating him. Denver is delaying the clock in part because the team doesn't view the rookie as ready to take over from a mental standpoint.

If he were sitting behind Flacco as the backup, the pressure to play Lock in a game like last week's blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs could be too great for coach Vic Fangio to eschew. Keeping Lock on IR wipes out any chance he could be tossed into the fire before he's ready.

Elway spoke of his own experience of getting benched as a rookie for four games in favor of Steve DeBerg, and how that helped him gain a different viewpoint on playing QB in the NFL. After DeBerg got injured, Elway returned to the lineup a better signal-caller.

"So I think that's why with young quarterbacks, it's always good for them to see what it's all about and the step that it takes instead of throwing them right into the fire, because very few of these guys have a lot of success early," Elway said. "They're going to take their lumps. As I did and as most quarterbacks do, they're going to take their lumps, and they have to be able to withstand that, and they got to be able to withstand the negative stuff that's going to come with the part that he continues to get better."

The difference here is that Elway got to grow on the field after the benching. Lock thus far has been merely a spectator.

The balance for teams trying to develop a young quarterback is delicate. There is value in playing through the growing pains -- Peyton Manning can attest to that. There is also value in growing on the sideline and understanding the nuance of the game before getting fed to the wolves -- a la Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers.

With a faulty offensive line, Elway and Fangio might decide Lock is best served sitting the entire season. After watching his previous attempt at a QB solution -- Paxton Lynch -- fail miserably when tossed into the fire, it's possible Elway will try a different path with his latest young QB who is transitioning to an NFL offense. On the other hand, it would behoove Denver to get a glimpse of the young QB down the stretch in a lost season to know where it stands at the position heading into 2020.

What path the Broncos take will depend on how they handle their final IR-return spot in the coming weeks.

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