Will the Denver Broncos finally see what Paxton Lynch can do?
By Matt Conner
The Denver Broncos are a quarterback away from ever making serious noise, which is why they need to take a long look at Paxton Lynch in 2017.
The Denver Broncos only need a quarterback.
That’s both a good and bad thing. It’s good in that the rest of the pieces are still there for the Broncos to be seriously competitive after making a Super Bowl run as recently as 2015. The secondary is still scary for opposing passers and Von Miller and Shane Ray form one of the best pass rushing combos in the league, and the defense has other names worth mentioning if we needed to count them.
Unfortunately, the whole “getting a good quarterback” thing is also the single hardest thing to do in the NFL. Somehow a guy like Josh Johnson is still gainfully employed in 2017 for a reason: quarterbacks are hard to find. Teams pay a premium for a proven average player or a chance on a lottery ticket, one that could bust as easily as it booms.
The Broncos now find themselves alongside several other franchises with serious questions at the quarterback position, wondering whether they might already have an answer in house or whether John Elway needs to work some offseason magic to bring in someone who could potentially take the reins and re-establish this offense.
Two years ago, the Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round, a tall passer in the mold of Ben Roethlisberger with a live arm who needed to make the leap from picking apart opponents in the American Athletic Conference to the NFL. Playing at Memphis gave Lynch a nice stage upon which to showcase his skills, but scouts wondered whether he was ready to make the leap or not. Elway jumped at the chance to take him.
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Fast forward a season-and-a-half and the Broncos know as much about Lynch’s potential as they did when they first drafted him. During his rookie year, he couldn’t beat out the low ceiling of Trevor Siemian and he largely sat all year, starting only two games and going 1-1 in that span. He completed 59 percent of his throws, threw 2 touchdowns and a single interception.
Moving forward, however, the Broncos, for some reason, still were reticent to give Lynch the starter’s role after a full year with the team. The Broncos hired a new head coach in Vance Joseph which means installing a brand new offense, and it was clear the team lacked belief in Lynch’s ability to learn the new system and lead it well as they flirted with bringing in Tony Romo.
It didn’t help when Lynch injured his throwing shoulder in August, an injury which has kept him out for the majority of the season so far. However, now Lynch is ready and apparently moving up the depth chart behind Brock Osweiler at No. 2 overall. It means that Lynch is at the ready should he be needed.
But here’s what is most confusing about this whole situation. If Lynch is really ready to play when called upon, why not call upon him? What’s left out there to play for? Are the Broncos expecting to win out? And even if they still were clinging to what rare percentages were floating out there in terms of this year’s success, why would they be delusional enough to think Brock Osweiler is the one guy who can make that happen?
No one else in the AFC West will be complaining if somehow John Elway wants to stunt Lynch’s evaluative period and keep Osweiler in the pocket. It certainly only paves the Chiefs’ path to the playoffs for them to start Osweiler when the two teams meet up in December. But it’s amazing to see a team who so recently hoisted a Lombardi trophy completely flub the quarterback decision week to week like John Elway.
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If the Broncos are going to return to being competitive again in 2018 it’s going to hinge on having an official answer about Lynch’s readiness to lead the Broncos. There’s no reason, three years after drafting him, for Elway to still not have a firm understanding of that answer heading into 2018. The Broncos need to start Lynch for the next seven games without wavering on those reps no matter the performance. Moving on before then could leave Lynch as a diamond in the rough to be unearthed by another team or show that Elway is just fine wasting first round picks for no good reason.