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Vic Fangio expresses disappointment in himself and players, not NFL, for putting Broncos in dire quarterback situation

Zac Stevens Avatar
November 30, 2020

DENVER — It had been over 50 years since any NFL team was in the situation the Denver Broncos were in on Sunday. A team hadn’t started a non-quarterback at the most important position in sports in over half a century.

On Sunday, against the New Orleans Saints, the Broncos were in “some extreme circumstances that have never been seen,” as Vic Fangio stated, as Denver played the entire game without a quarterback.

“For our quarterbacks to put us in this position was disappointing,” the head coach said after the game. “Disappointing that I didn’t do a good enough job selling them on the importance of the [COVID-19] protocols.”

On Saturday, Less than 24 hours before the start of Sunday’s game, the Broncos were informed all of their quarterbacks were ineligible to play against the Saints. Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were all pulled from Saturday’s practice after the NFL deemed they were high-risk close contacts with Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.

“On Tuesday, of this past week, the players were off, but [the quarterbacks] came in as a group to do work on their own, which is commendable,” Fangio said after the game, explaining how the Broncos’ quarterbacks violated COVID-19 protocols and were thus deemed ineligible to play on Sunday. “They got together and were watching video and they got lax with their mask, I guess, and got lax with their distancing from each other, I guess.”

Two days later, on Thanksgiving, third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list for testing positive. Initially, after doing contact tracing, the league and team cleared the other three quarterbacks on the roster. However, that changed on Saturday when the NFL reviewed the matter further.

“Well, I was disappointed on a couple of levels. That our quarterbacks put us in this position. That our quarterbacks put the league in that position,” Fangio said when asked about the NFL’s decision to hold out Lock, Rypien and Bortles from Sunday’s game.

“You know, we count on them to be the leaders of the team and leaders of the offense and those guys made a mistake and that is disappointing,” Fangio continued, minutes after the team’s 31-3 loss to the Saints. “Obviously, I haven’t done a good enough job of selling the protocols to them when they’re on their own. Part of that could fall on me there. I thought I was. We have emphasized it a lot. We’re really doing good with COVID up to this point as it relates to our team relative to other teams. But there was a failure there and that’s disappointing.”

The NFL has made it clear masks must be worn at all times when in a team facility. An hour before Sunday’s kickoff, Lock tweeted an apology, in which he said, “we let our masking slip for a limited amount of time.” Lock called it “an honest mistake,” but said it is one he will own.

“I definitely think they understand the situation that they put us in as a team with them not following the protocols,” Kareem Jackson said after the game. “I had a chance to talk with those guys earlier and obviously, they feel bad for putting us in that situation… Those guys are definitely regretful about the situation.”

When asked if he thought the NFL should have rescheduled the game, Fangio said, “I’m not going to get into that.”

Without a quarterback, the Broncos called on undrafted rookie wide receiver Kendall Hinton to play quarterback for over half of the team’s offensive snaps against one of the best defenses in the NFL. When Hinton woke up on Sunday morning, he was still a member of the team’s practice squad. Hours later, he made his NFL debut at quarterback.

“He did everything he could. He was excited for the opportunity. We had about a two, three, four-hour window to get him ready, which isn’t a lot obviously. He was excited for it,” Fangio said. “We were excited for him; his teammates were excited for him. That’s a big, big ask and it just didn’t work out.”

Without a single quarterback available for Sunday’s game, the Broncos completed one pass—the second-fewest in NFL history—and were the first team in over 20 years to have more interceptions (2) than completions (1).

“We got to find out the status of our quarterbacks, obviously,” Fangio said on how the team moves forward from all of this. “That’s going to be important moving forward. Hopefully, they will keep passing their [COVID-19] tests that they are going through every day and they will stay negative, and if they do that they’ll be ready to be allowed back in on Tuesday.”

The Broncos play the Chiefs in Kansas City in Week 13. If all goes well with their COVID-19 tests, the Broncos will have a quarterback under center for Sunday Night Football.

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