AFTER SEASON, IT’S BACK TO SQUARE ONE AT QB
As the 2016 season wraps up, the Broncos’ starting quarterback job for 2017 is up for grabs
The Peyton Manning era in Denver started when he stepped onto the field at Valor Christian High School in March 2012, just one week after signing a mammoth contract to quarterback the Broncos. He went to work immediately, timing passes with Eric Decker and Julius Thomas and streamlining snaps with center J.D. Walton.
With Manning, the pecking order was clear. He was on top. But nearly 10 months after Manning retired, the next era of Broncos quarterbacks is still very much uncertain.
Trevor Siemian, a first-year starter wrapping up his second NFL season, will be the starter Sunday for the Broncos in a mostly meaningless game against Oakland. Meaningless for the Broncos, because they won’t be in the playoffs. But not meaningless for their quarterbacks, who are still trying to impress.
Paxton Lynch, a rookie from Memphis in whom the Broncos invested a first-round draft pick, will probably play the second half of Sunday’s season finale, according to coach Gary Kubiak. The Broncos want Siemian to get past a poor performance last weekend at Kansas City and regain his confidence heading into the offseason. And they want Lynch to get more game experience.
Nearly one full season into the post-Peyton timeline, the Broncos are still deciding on a quarterback. They are back to square one, about to enter an offseason still unsure who will be their starting quarterback next season.
“They are two different quarterbacks,” wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said of Siemian and Lynch. “Both are young, basically rookies in their career. Both of them have the potential to compete at the highest level. The ceiling is high for both of them. It’s going to be tough because both of them can be potential starters.”
The most pressing question the Broncos asked themselves after taking down Carolina to win Super Bowl 50 last season was: Who will play quarterback in the 2016 season? The question remains the
same heading into 2017.
Siemian is 7-6 as a starter this season after missing two games because of injuries. The seventhround pick in the 2015 draft was a third-string backup as a rookie last season, behind Manning and Brock Osweiler, and has averaged 245.8 yards passing per game this season. That ranks 19th in the NFL, one slot higher than Dallas rookie Dak Prescott and one slot lower than Chicago journeyman Matt Barkley.
But Siemian remains somewhat of a mystery. A Swiss cheese offensive line that has allowed 97 quarterback hits, eighth-most in the NFL, has put pressure on Siemian. And a dis- appearing running game that averaged only 46.3 yards per game in December has led to the Denver offense grinding to a halt. All of which makes assessing Siemian somewhat difficult. Even the wide receivers are still curious who will be on the passing end of their catches next season.
“One thing I am going to try to do in the offseason is I’m going to try to host guys out of Houston,” Emmanuel Sanders said. “I’m going to try to host Paxton and Trevor out there and get the receivers out there to do what we do. I’ll probably do that about two weeks prior to OTAs, to get that camaraderie going.”
While Siemian did not settle the quarterback debate this season, neither did Lynch. The last time the Broncos had a rookie quarterback start a final meaningless regular-season game was in 2010. And in that game, they let Tim Tebow play the full four quarters. As a first-round draft pick, they knew, for the most part, Tebow would get a shot to start at some point the following season.
Lynch struggled in 2½ games he played this season, completing 59 percent of his passes and averaging 163.5 yards passing per game in two starts but looking unsure of himself at times.
So consider Sunday’s season finale another quarterback tryout.
“You’re evaluating a lot of things,” Kubiak said. “Obviously you have game film. I’m seeing a guy every day, how he practices, how he prepares and how he does things.
“There are a lot of things that go into evaluating guys — whether or not you think they can be a great player for many years and be consistent as a pro.”
Trevor Siemian, a seventhround pick in the 2015 draft, is 7-6 as a starter this season.
Paxton Lynch, a rookie from Memphis and first-round pick, is 1-1 as a starter this season.