ALL EYES ON QBS WHEN BRONCOS OPEN CAMP»
Mile-high stakes attached to this summer’s Siemian-lynch battle for starting QB job
A week before rookies were to report for Broncos training camp, general manager John Elway was on a golf course at Lake Tahoe for the American Century Championship, a celebrity tournament where he has been a regular for years.
It was one of his final getaways before football resumed at Dove Valley and focus shifted back to the Broncos. But even at Lake Tahoe, Elway couldn’t escape the questioning. Before he hit the green, he was asked about his quarterbacks. On the green, he was asked about his quarterbacks. As he rode with Joe Theismann, Elway recounted on radio recently, conversation trailed back to the Broncos and their QB quandary that has the NFL world on edge.
For the second consecutive summer, the Broncos are holding an open competition to find their guy. Last summer, Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round draft pick from Northwestern, parlayed a year of watching Peyton Manning from the sideline into one as his successor, beating out veteran Mark Sanchez in training camp and preseason to earn the job.
In January, when coach Gary Kubiak resigned and the Broncos’ offensive staff was overhauled, it was made clear that Siemian’s hold on the starting job wouldn’t stick. To keep it, he would have to ward off Paxton Lynch, the first-round pick the Broncos traded up to draft in 2016. Chad Kelly, the No. 253 pick in the 2017 draft and new coach Vance Joseph’s favorite quarterback in that draft, is expected to spend much of his first NFL season learning and observing before vying for the starting job.
So begins Round 2, with new coaches, a new scheme and new criteria.
“It’s going to be won on the football field,” Joseph said. “It’s going to be won in the games in the preseason. That’s where evaluation starts, in my opinion.”
The best quarterback will win the job, Joseph and Elway have said. But the competition is about more than 2017. The team’s future at the position, and the futures of both players involved, hinge on the selection. If Siemian is named the starter, do the Broncos’ shelve a first-round pick for another year? Would a third QB competition be held in 2018 if so?
If Lynch gets the nod, do they keep Siemian because he has experience and is due only $615,000 in salary? Or do they try to trade him?
The stakes are high as the Broncos try to bounce back from their first playoff absence since 2010 and continue to search for the quarterback they can “hang our hat on for a long, long time,” as Elway said in March.
To begin the process, the Broncos brought back offensive coordinator Mike Mccoy to implement a system tailored to both quarterbacks, who differ in size, style and strengths. During his previous stint as Denver’s coordinator, from 2009-12, Mccoy altered his scheme to fit three starters, from Kyle Orton to Tim Tebow to Manning. He did it for them and he can do it for Siemian and Lynch, the thinking goes.
“I feel like it fits more of how I play,” Lynch said of Mccoy’s offense. “I’m more comfortable in it and there are a little bit more similarities to what I did at Memphis compared to what I had to do last year. Obviously, at practice we’ve gotten into the gun a little more than last year, which is more comfortable to me because I’ve been doing it for so long.”
The playbook also suits the skills of Siemian, who had three 300-yard passing games and played with a bum left shoulder for most of last season. While not flashy, Siemian is the more experienced quarterback of the two after 14 starts and has poise and decision-making skills that can’t always be taught.
“I think I did some things I can build on last year and there are some things I want to do better,” Siemian said. “For me, I’m just focused on improving and I think if I can take care of things on my end, then everything will work out.”
This offseason, the Broncos — on paper — upgraded many facets of the offense to revitalize the entire unit and help their quarterbacks.
The linemen now feature more muscle from guard Ron Leary and tackles Menelik Watson and Garett Bolles. The running game welcomed the arrival of former AFC West rival Jamaal Charles and the return of a healthy C.J. Anderson. The tight end room expanded with the addition of rookie Jake Butt, a Mackey Award winner from Michigan. And the already lengthy list of wide receivers that includes two Pro Bowlers, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, grew with speedy rookies Carlos Henderson and Isaiah Mckenzie.
“I try to give that quarterback the best chance to be successful, and that’s getting him in the right system that fits him the best,” Elway said this month on “The Dan Patrick Show.” “Not necessarily the one that a coach has or has run his whole life, but also to be able to take advantage of what the quarterback does best.
“Now, you want to be able to find the most talented quarterback you can and take advantage of his talents. But I think quarterbacks in this league — to be successful — have to be in situations to where they’re given and it’s the best opportunity for them to succeed, and that’s doing what they do best.”
Siemian said last week the slate is clean for both quarterbacks and that he’s approaching it that way. He may be helped some by the experiences of last summer and last season, but the race has changed this year. More is at stake than simply finding the Week 1 starter.
Although each day of training camp will be weighed carefully, Joseph has cautioned that he’s operating without a deadline; he will call it off when he sees a clear separation between Siemian and Lynch. That may happen after two preseason games. It may require all four.
“You have to be patient with the guys,” Joseph said. “You have to not take evaluation as a daily deal, but as a collective, full evaluation, as far as time. It can’t be Monday he’s better; Tuesday, he’s better. It has to be a collective result as far as who was more consistent over time.”
“I feel like it fits more of how I play. I’m more comfortable in it and there are a little bit more similarities to what I did at Memphis compared to what I had to do last year. Obviously, at practice we’ve gotten into the gun a little more than last year, which is more comfortable to me because I’ve been doing it for so long.” Paxton Lynch, Broncos quarterback
“I think I did some things I can build on last year and there are some things I want to do better. For me, I’m just focused on improving and I think if I can take care of things on my end, then everything will work out.” Trevor Siemian, Broncos quarterback
Broncos quarterbacks Trevor Siemian, left, and Paxton Lynch had a huge gap in expectations when they became teammates. Siemian, from Northwestern, was a seventhround pick in the 2015 draft. Lynch, from Memphis, was a first-round pick in the 2016 draft. But Siemian made 14 starts last year, Lynch two.
Trevor Siemian passed for 3,401 yards and 18 touchdowns last season in 14 games, all starts.