INDIANAPOLIS — It’s no secret that there’s a quarterback competition in the Mile High City this offseason. In fact, the competition for who will be under center for the 2017 campaign started before the 2016 season even finished.
With the coaching staff overhaul that took place directly after the season—specifically on the offensive side of the ball—many believed that the “kid,” Paxton Lynch, would have the upper-hand over the “older” Trevor Siemian.
However, on Wednesday at the NFL Combine, Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph echoed the same noncommittal tune as former head coach Gary Kubiak did at the end of last season.
“It’s going to be an open competition and whoever wins the job that’s who’s going to play,” Joseph said in Indianapolis. “That’s as fair as it can be.”
While many will still write Joseph’s comments off as just fluff, the coach went into further detail about why neither candidate is ready to run away with the job. In fact, the first-time head coach gave no indication that Lynch—the first-round pick of less than a year ago—was ready to take over the starting job. When asked if Lynch was ready, Joseph simply responded, “I’m not sure.”
“Obviously he’s got great skills. He’s a tall man with a big arm,” he said. “Is he ready? That’s a tough question. He had two starts last year, Trevor played also.”
Since Lynch was only able to see the field for 16 percent of Denver’s total offensive snaps last year, it was difficult to get a full diagnosis on the rookie quarterback. However, for Joseph, Lynch’s ability to win the starting job for the upcoming season comes down to one thing: consistency.
“Playing quarterback in the NFL is about consistency—not turning the ball over, making good throws, making good decisions—that’s important to play quarterback in the NFL,” he said.
On the other side of the spectrum, Joseph was very complimentary of Siemian’s first year of starting despite battling through an injury most of the season.
“Watching Trevor last year, I was really impressed,” he said. “He’s a winner; he played with a horrific shoulder injury that most guys wouldn’t play with. He was a first-year starter, so he was basically a rookie starter last year. What he accomplished was big for the football team last year.”
Siemian had surgery on Jan. 5 to repair the grade-five separation in the AC joint of his non-throwing shoulder. What was originally thought to be a grade-three separation actually turned out to be much worse when doctors were performing the surgery. However, the Broncos are still confident that he will be ready to go when the team gets back to work on April 3.
“Trevor’s doing fine. He’s rehabbing everyday in the building. He’s on track for OTAs,” the head coach said. “It’s a left shoulder injury, so it’s not his throwing shoulder. We feel good about OTAs for Trevor.”
If Siemian is healthy for OTAs, that won’t allow Lynch to get a head start, which would keep the competition between the two close from the start.
If it wasn’t difficult enough already for the coaching staff to prepare two quarterbacks in the offseason, it makes it even more challenging that they are two completely different types of players. According to Joseph, that’s a challenge for new Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
“The problem with Paxton and Trevor is they are so different,” Joseph explained. “Paxton is a tall, big-arm guy, athletic guy. Trevor is a fundamentally sound, great footwork, great with the ball—he can really spin the ball. They are different. Mike’s challenge is finding an offense that fits both guys so they can compete equally.”
Instead of building an offense for Lynch—like most people believed was going to be the case—McCoy will be tasked with building an offense that fits both quarterbacks. This signifies that Joseph and his staff is in no rush to declare a starting quarterback anytime soon. Last year, the competition went into August. This year, there is no telling it will be any different.
“Whenever it happens, it happens. The best guy will play,” Joseph said.
The new league year is still over a week away, and the Broncos’ quarterback competition is already in full swing. With much left to be solved, the only certainty is the race is far from over.