Less than seven months ago, the Denver Broncos were celebrating a Super Bowl win over the Carolina Panthers while quarterback legend Peyton Manning enjoyed one last moment in the spotlight before calling it quits and handing the torch to capable backup Brock Osweiler.
But just two days after Manning’s retirement became official, Osweiler decided to head for the Lone Star state, signing a four-year contract with the Houston Texans and turning his back on the first four years of his career when he learned the NFL ropes as an understudy to one of the game’s greatest.
For some reason, news that the Broncos had signed quarterback Mark Sanchez and subsequently handed him the vacant starting gig a few days later slowed the panic caused by Osweiler’s sudden departure. But as Denver prepares to defend its NFL crown in a Week 1 rematch versus Carolina, Sanchez has fallen off the depth chart, and the Broncos will be led into battle by two quarterbacks with absolutely no NFL experience.
Now in his second year as a pro, Trevor Siemian is currently head coach Gary Kubiak’s unofficial starting quarterback after a solid training camp and a fate-sealing showing in Denver’s preseason dress rehearsal against the L.A. Rams. In Saturday’s win, Siemian tossed his first touchdown pass of the summer, but more importantly, the former seventh-rounder looked comfortable operating the offense.
Following Denver’s victory, Kubiak sounded pleased with Siemian’s progression–even if he stopped short of stating the now-obvious.
”I’m impressed,” said Kubiak via ESPN. ”I think he’s very calm. I can tell by the way he handles the team in the huddle, he’s got control of what’s going on. What I see is I see a guy getting better every time out.”
During his final year at Northwestern, it’s not as if Siemian lit up the stat sheet, finishing with seven touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and the lowest passer rating of his collegiate career. And as a rookie, Siemian didn’t throw a single pass while Osweiler and the Broncos prepared for life after Peyton.
If things go south with Siemian, Denver’s offense will be left in the equally-inexperienced hands of rookie Paxton Lynch, a 22-year old quarterback out of Memphis and the franchise’s first pick in this past June’s NFL Draft.
Although Lynch has been blessed with a pro football frame—6-foot-7, 244 pounds—he’s a long way from being able to completely command Denver’s high-octane offense. Saturday’s win over the Rams saw Lynch play the entire second half, and in Week 2 of the summer schedule, he put forth his best effort by throwing for 113 yards, a pair of touchdown passes, and one interception. Of course, it was all against the San Francisco Forty-Niners’ second- and third-string defenses.
But progress is progress, and considering the circumstances, the fact that Lynch played the entire second half of Saturday’s win, rather than Sanchez getting a single snap, says a lot about Kubiak’s opinion of the rookie. And afterward, Lynch told the media that he was ready for the responsibility.
”[It] felt good. I got a lot of playing time,” said Lynch via ESPN. “First, I just feel more comfortable. I’m not so surprised by what’s going on. When we came out, before we went out, he [Kubiak] told me I was going to get the whole second half.”
If you think that naming Siemian the starting quarterback of an elite team such as the Broncos is the same as putting a Lawn Boy motor in a new Porsche Carrera, you’re not alone. But Father Time and free agency have combined to leave Denver with no other choice while giving two of the NFL’s most unheralded young quarterbacks an unlikely opportunity to win now.
[Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images]