The Denver Broncos switched quarterbacks on Wednesday, benching Trevor Siemian and giving Brock Osweiler a chance to see if he can discover some personal magic before head coach Vance Joseph inevitably turns back to 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch.
It will likely kick off an intense evaluation cycle for president and general manager John Elway, who has an important decision to make over the final nine games of the season: Will he end up becoming a player for the quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft?
Lynch’s preseason shoulder injury, from which he just returned last week, puts the Broncos in an unenviable situation. If he is the team’s franchise quarterback moving forward (Lynch started two games for the Broncos last year, going 1–1 as a starter with a 59% completion rate, 497 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception) he may only have about six or seven games to prove it. His turn in the starting lineup also depends on how well Osweiler plays against the Philadelphia Eagles on the road this Sunday.
As we see it now, here is what might happen in Denver over the next two months...
Osweiler plays to roughly his per-game average over his last 10 starts (19-of-33, 183 yards, one touchdown, one interception, 71.1 quarterback rating) and kicks off the inevitable countdown clock for Lynch’s return as a starter. If I’m Joseph, I’m likely keeping Osweiler in against the Patriots next Sunday then handing Lynch the ball on Nov. 19 against the Bengals at home. Unless he wants to wait for a Dec. 10 home game against the Jets, this would be the most sensible time to get Lynch a week of preparation and still have a decent shot at sparking a fire before the end of the season.
The Broncos get thrashed up front by the Eagles in the first half Sunday and Vance Joseph decides to put Lynch through the ultimate stress test, swapping him with Osweiler at the half. This would answer a few questions for the Broncos quickly: How does Lynch respond under pressure? How does he truly prepare during the week without the knowledge that he’s in charge? How does he fare against a relentless blitzing defense? That would seem to be a set up for failure, but then again, a good quarterback needs to be prepared for anything. This would also involve the Broncos making three quarterbacks active on Sunday or leaving Siemian in dress clothes.
HEY, YOU NEVER KNOW:
Osweiler finds himself in Mike McCoy’s offense and lets it rip. His only in-game performance with McCoy as an offensive coordinator was in 2012 (Dec. 30) in a 38–3 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs. In that game, Osweiler went 2-of-4 for 12 yards. But … McCoy has a great reputation with quarterbacks and even though Osweiler’s time in Houston was a complete disaster, there were moments when I thought he could save himself. Bill O’Brien clearly wanted to move on but, in the right circumstances, could call a mix of plays that maximized Osweiler’s strengths.
WHAT HAPPENS TO SIEMIEN?
If I’m John Elway, I’m not letting my former seventh-round pick walk once his contract expires at the end of the 2018 season. I think Siemian is an example to mid- and late-round picks of what is possible through hard work and late nights. I also think he’ll have offers—this is a league starving for quarterback talent and in stretches, he can be an effective player for stretches (79-of-127 for 888 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions through four weeks this year).