Report: 'Almost All Media Observers' Say Jarrett Stidham Leads Broncos' QB1 Race

Jarrett Stidham finishing the offseason training program as the leader in the QB clubhouse comes as a moderate surprise.
May 23, 2024; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Jarrett Stidham (8) and quarterback Bo Nix (10) during organized team activities at Centura Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
May 23, 2024; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Jarrett Stidham (8) and quarterback Bo Nix (10) during organized team activities at Centura Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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Bo Nix received nothing but rave reviews from media onlookers throughout the Denver Broncos' offseason training program. Head coach Sean Payton gushed about his hand-picked first-rounder at nearly every opportunity.

We heard a few things about Zach Wilson — the veteran newcomer acquired via trade before the NFL draft — but not much was positive, and reports claim that Denver is focused on repairing the former No. 2 overall pick's confidence. That doesn't say much for his viability as a plausible starter.

Jarrett Stidham had a quiet offseason. Payton didn't talk about Stidham much, and the media didn't ask many questions of the head coach about the incumbent.

That doesn't mean Stidham wasn't making hay, though. In fact, according to 9NEWS' Mike Klis, Stidham outperformed his fellow quarterbacks this offseason in the opinion of "almost all media observers."

Say this for Stidham: He hasn’t moped about becoming crowded with hotshot newcomers. He bowed his neck and competed. To almost all media observers, Stidham was the best of the three quarterbacks, with Nix also mostly promising, during the offseason practice sessions.

Mike Klis

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As the incumbent, Stidham's advantage isn't just that he was a Bronco who started two games last year for Payton, it's also that he's in Year 2 of the offensive system. That's typically when a playbook and all the nomenclature subsumes into a quarterback's psyche and becomes second nature, like breathing.

Nix and Wilson are in Year 1 of Payton's scheme, so unlike Stidham, they've had to weather a learning curve as they've acclimated to being in Denver. Thus, if Stidham managed to edge out Nix this offseason by anything other than a wide margin, it wouldn't be a good harbinger for how the QB battle will coalesce for the veteran in training camp.

By virtue of his NFL experience and reps in Payton's scheme, to media "observers," Stidham should be palpably better than Nix and Wilson. By leaps and bounds. If it was negligible, again, it doesn't bode well for Stidham retaining the QB1 job.

Nix isn't exactly green behind the ears, by the way. Not only is he 24 years old (Stidham is 27), but Nix is also the most experience college quarterback to ever enter the NFL ranks.

Let's see what else Klis wrote on the Stidham subject.

Truth is, Stidham is the incumbent starter. He was 1-1 in the Broncos’ final two games last season, throwing for nearly 500 combined yards with two touchdowns and an interception. That doesn’t mean Stidham will start Game 1 at Seattle on Sept. 8. It just means he remained the top performing QB through the Broncos’ offseason – again, by most media views, not necessarily from Payton, the only view that counts – which concluded Wednesday.

Mike Klis

Klis' concluding point is the most salient. It's not what I think, it's not what Klis thinks, or any other outside observer; Payton's opinion takes precedence. And Payton told us not too long ago what conditions need to be met in the NFL, traditionally, in order for a team to feel confident playing its first-round rookie quarterback. The quote below is likely the most accurate predictor of all.

“I think some of it is a byproduct of what you have in the building," Payton said back on May 23. "If you have a starter in the building, then that’s the path you go. Then sometimes, you don’t have that luxury, and then that’s the path you go. A lot of it is dependent on the quarterback, his mental makeup. So I think it just varies. When you look at [Packers QB Jordan] Love, who went to Green Bay behind [Jets QB Aaron Rodgers], and then Rodgers who went to Green Bay behind [former QB Brett Favre]. There’s a little bit of a luxury there, but it’s really dependent on the roster.”

The question remains unanswered whether the Broncos have such a "luxury" at quarterback. Stidham has started a grand total of four games as a pro, so that disqualifies him as being a bonafide "starter in the building" guy, strictly speaking.

Wilson is far more experienced than Stidham, with 33 starts under his belt. Alas, he exited the Big Apple with his tail between his legs and the 'bust' label practically tattooed on his forehead.

Meanwhile, Nix's 61 career starts are an NCAA Division I record, so while he's yet to take an NFL snap, the former Heisman Trophy finalist has a lot of live-bullet experience. He's married, and eats, sleeps, and breathes football.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, Broncos Country might take Klis' remarks about Stidham a lot more seriously if the veteran quarterback had received even a modicum of positive reviews on Twitter or in the Denver blogosphere and newspaper columns while the offseason training program was rolling. It's a little "sus" (as the kids would say *suspect*) to hear nary a word about Stidham all spring and summer long, only to then be told that nearly every media observer would say he was the best QB of the bunch.

I'm being a titch hyperbolic, as the internet wasn't exactly replete with negative reviews about Stidham. He did receive an occasional mention here and there — just nowhere near what media onlookers were saying about Nix.

So, what Klis says may be true. But, again, in order for Stidham to stave off the Nix-as-the-starter eventuality, he can't just be a little bit better in OTAs. When training camp rolls around, Stidham must be demonstrably, palpably, undeniably better.

Otherwise, with Nix that close to him in the scales of open competition, Payton and the Broncos coaches will see very little downside in ushering in the future now, instead of playing games with the lineup knowing that it's only a short matter of time before the 2024 first-round pick takes the Mile High mantle of QB1 — and never looks back.

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Chad Jensen

CHAD JENSEN

Chad Jensen is the Founder of Mile High Huddle and creator of the wildly popular Mile High Huddle Podcast. Chad has been on the Denver Broncos beat since 2012 and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.