The Denver Broncos had literally no choice but to start an emergency quarterback against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, with all four active QBs ruled ineligible because of COVID-19 concerns. The experiment did not fare well, with Denver falling 31-3 and mustering just 12 passing yards as it dropped to 4-7 on the season, and now coach Vic Fangio has expressed "disappointment" in his QBs, suggesting they "put us in that position" with their actions in the lead-up to the game.
"I was disappointed on several levels," Fangio said, per The Athletic's Lindsay Jones, "that our quarterbacks put us in that position, that our quarterbacks put the league in that position. We count on them to be the leaders of our team, the leaders of our offense, and those guys made a mistake."
Fangio's remarks all but confirm reports that Denver's QBs -- starter Drew Lock, backups Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel, and practice-squad reserve Blake Bortles -- violated the NFL's COVID protocols prior to Week 12. The Broncos are reportedly under investigation by the league after Lock, Rypien and Lock were deemed close contacts to Driskel, who had already tested positive for COVID-19. According to Fangio, the four QBs apparently gathered at the team facility on their Tuesday off day and did not properly socially distance or wear masks.
"I haven't done a good enough job of selling the protocols to them when they're on their own," Fangio added. "That's on me."
At the end of the day, the issues did hurt -- or at least severely limit -- the Broncos' chances on Sunday. Practice-squad wide receiver and former college quarterback Kendall Hinton, who started against the Saints and completed just one of nine passes with two interceptions, told reporters afterward that the abrupt absence of all four official QBs resulted in Denver cutting its offensive playbook to just 20 to 30 plays for the New Orleans matchup.