Broncos Europe columnist Stuart Roche gives us his second preview for the upcoming 2017 season
Favre vs Rodgers
Morton vs Staubach
Brady vs Bledsoe
Tebow vs Orton
Young vs Montana
Siemian vs Lynch?
In some ways, there’s nothing more invigorating for a fan base than a good old-fashioned QB battle.
It can mean your present and future have now collided and a resolution is needed, which ultimately should result in continued glories as was the case in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
It can also be the final piece in a puzzle which unlocks success beyond a fan base’s wildest dreams, sadly the case in Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady (this may also involve some sort of Faustian pact with the devil, who will surely call to collect his dreadful price soon).
It may be the first sign of life in a moribund franchise run into the ground by a baseball cap-wearing fifth columnist sent from New England, which was Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton, but Denver’s current quarterback battle doesn’t really seem to fit into any of these categories, certainly not neatly.
The Broncos are sort of in transition, but not. Sort of contenders, but not. Sort of ready to rebound offensively, but who knows?
Let’s have a closer look at the two QBs in contention to start in 2017, with Chad Kelly redshirted.
A messy dispute between two of Ireland’s TV service providers resulted in the largest one deciding to drop ESPN with nary a word to its customers. As annoying as it was to lose MLB and the NBA, I was particularly disappointed to no longer have access to College Football.
I wasn’t glued to the couch all day Saturdays but would certainly watch as many bowl games as possible in January. One non-bowl game I did happen to catch before the plug was pulled on the service was Memphis-Ole Miss in 2015.
The reason I tuned in initially was to have a look the Ole Miss QB with the famous uncle, Chad Kelly. As impressive as the younger Kelly was in the face of a fired-up Memphis defense, it was a lanky, scampering Joe Flacco clone with a dash of Brett Favre on the other side that soon demanded my attention.
I’d never heard of Paxton Lynch before, he simply wasn’t on my radar. He was now. He had an absolute cannon of an arm, he extended plays, he took risks, he probably forced more throws than he should and he certainly made ones he shouldn’t have been able to. He was, to put it simply, a playmaker.
I didn’t see him play in college again. I did read about Memphis’ meltdown in their bowl game against Auburn, whose game plan to stop Lynch was executed to perfection.
There were two mitigating factors though. Head Coach Justin Fuente had left for Virginia Tech before the game and had taken several offensive coaches with him, and Lynch performed poorly, but his receivers had such a severe case of the drops that they wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Scottish goalkeepers convention.
As the draft drew closer, more and more pundits seemed to predict Elway making a move up to grab Lynch. Todd McShay’s comments pre-draft seem particularly prescient now:
“Lynch has been an extremely efficient passer for the Tigers this season and he showed up in a big way against Memphis’ best opponent [Ole Miss]. I still have a lot of work to do on him in terms of analyzing his work ethic, leadership skills, mental makeup and durability history — but Lynch has the physical skills to develop into a good starting NFL quarterback.”
So when Elway pulled the trigger and moved up, most Broncos fans seemed delighted with the outcome. Grabbing Lynch in the draft acted as a Mark Sanchez antidote, even if it might take a year before it kicked in. That was palatable.
The Brock Osweiler situation threw a curveball and this seemed like the best scenario. We’d watch as Mark Sanchez performed decently for a few weeks, then tanked as the pressure heated up and, who knows? Maybe we’d even see the kid for a game or two before the end of the season. Then Sanchez went full Sanchez, Siemian was excellent in pre-season and the whole landscape changed.
The story by now is a relatively well known one. Gary Kubiak channel surfing on a Saturday night, keeps returning to an average Northwestern team somehow hanging in with—and ultimately beating—Notre Dame. An unheralded QB makes an impression on him that he cannot shake and one he ends up drafting for a low pick, even after a serious injury.
Skip forward a year, and after the Osweiler hand grenade, no one seems to be mentioning Trevor Siemian. Colin Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, a trade for Tyrod Taylor, a rookie, anyone really, but not Trevor.
Then come OTAs, training camp, and suddenly whispers. Siemian looks like the best QB out there and it’s not even close. TJ Ward tells people not to sleep on Siemian. People continue to sleep on Siemian.
The whispers grow louder, the fans attending training camp, the reporters, pretty much everyone can see it now: Siemian doesn’t just look the best QB out there, he is the best QB out there.
All that really needs to happen now is for the Sanchize to do his thing and Trevor from Northwestern will be your starting QB. The Sanchize does as the Sanchize will and quickly, that’s that. A seventh round pick is the QB for the defending Super Bowl champions.
Even that last sentence is slightly condescending when you look at it. He would almost certainly have been drafted higher if not for injury. ‘Fourth round pick is the QB for…’ doesn’t sound so improbable.
But the numbers seven and one run all through the conversation about Denver’s QBs, whether or not we want to admit it. QBs selected in the first round play sooner or later.
Only two in recent years have sat for more than one whole season, Aaron Rodgers and Steve McNair. Seventh rounders are expected to be back-ups at best.
We all want to see Tom Brady in low-round QB draft picks, but remember that Faustian pact mentioned earlier?
For long stretches, Siemian didn’t play like a seventh rounder. Kansas City at home, at Cincinnati, San Diego at home, at Tennessee. All games he performed heroically in, but then there were games in which he did: at Kansas City, New England, Houston to an extent.
Yes, the O-line was dreadful bar Matt Paradis. Yes, the running game largely disappeared when CJ Anderson went down injured but like it or not, if an offence sits near the bottom of the NFL in nearly every statistical category then a large portion of the blame is laid at the feet of the QB.
Team-mates can talk about poise, control of the huddle and a toughness in getting up after getting blasted time and time again, but those qualities are at the least matched by check-downs, three and outs, and locking on to the primary receiver with the narrow focus of a jealous husband watching a pretty young bride across the dance floor.
We saw flashes from Lynch, some like Ole Miss in the game against Tampa Bay Buccaneers and some unfortunately like Auburn against Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons. We saw the utter farce of the final week when Siemian was left in for the full game for no apparent reason other than Kubes and Dennison proving a point in a very public fashion.
We heard rumours of poor work ethic, of being unable to fully understand the playbook, of settling into life as a back-up. We then saw a complete shake-up of the coaching staff and the hiring of Mike McCoy and Bill Musgrave, seen by many as Elway doing everything in his power to bring Lynch along.
Certainly the situation looks more promising for the young signal caller. The word from OTAs has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly from team-mates. He looks and sounds more like a leader, where at times last year he looked and sounded like a kid. We forget that some of these guys coming out of college are.
Shouldn’t Siemian be afforded the same fresh slate as Lynch? Can the new scheme fit his skill set as well? Perhaps throwing short of the first down was more on play-calling and the previous coaches?
Yes, is the answer to all of these questions, certainly if it is a genuine QB competition. Should Lynch win? Probably. Will he? We don’t know. It looks like everything has been done to get him over the line.
If Siemian has proven anything, it’s that he’s a fighter. His easy-going nature shouldn’t be mistaken for not caring. He cares, desperately and plays like it. If he wins this competition, I’m not going to throw my toys out of the pram, which I did when Orton beat Tebow (ah, such innocent times!)
Siemian isn’t Orton; not by any stretch. Orton played hang-dog his entire career. Siemian plays like a seventh rounder with a chip on both his shoulders who has been condescended to since he entered the NFL. Which brings me back to Chad Kelly.
Kidding! That’s for July 2018.
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