KUSA—To date, it has filled the entire 2017 calendar year.
Trevor or Paxton, Paxton or Trevor?
There’s a good chance The Great Quarterback Competition will end this week, perhaps at 1:15 p.m. Monday when first-year head coach Vance Joseph begins his game-after press conferences.
There can be no doubt Trevor Siemian will be named the Broncos’ starting quarterback for the regular-season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers on September 11. And if he starts Game 1, the intent will be for Siemian to start all 16.
Paxton Lynch had his moments during the competition. There were two times – the last two weeks of the Broncos offseason program, and two practices against the San Francisco 49ers last week – when it looked like the first-round draft pick was worthy of becoming No. 1.
But for the most part, when the pads went on in training camp, and during the Broncos’ first two preseason games, Lynch demonstrated he’s a talented quarterback who needs more time to figure out how to process and develop a feel for the NFL passing game.
Siemian was much more consistent, even if he had his difficulties trying to operate the new offensive system devised by returning coordinator Mike McCoy.
Here’s a chronology of The Great Quarterback Competition, starting with the start of the 2017:
January 1: For the final game of the 2016 season, Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak made the surprising decision to not play Lynch in what was otherwise a meaningless game.
The Broncos had been eliminated the week before, on Christmas Night in Kansas City, a loss in which Siemian played his worst game of the year. Denver’s record fell to 8-7.
Lynch, the first-round future who had just two starts as a rookie, should have started and played the entire final game.
But maybe Kubiak knew Lynch simply wasn’t ready. Siemian started and played the entire game. He played well, too, completing 17 of 27 for 206 yards and two touchdowns in a surprisingly easy 24-6 Broncos win against the Oakland Raiders, who were 12-3 coming in, but were demoralized by the injury loss of quarterback Derek Carr.
January 2: Following his second medical episode in four years, Kubiak officially resigned as Broncos head coach, and from coaching altogether. Kubiak is the guy who discovered Siemian in 2014.
Kubiak was the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive coordinator who while watching college football on his team hotel TV became smitten with the Northwestern quarterback who was throwing spirals despite inclement conditions against ranked Notre Dame in the hostile environment of South Bend, Ind.
Siemian led the Wildcats to a 43-40 upset win in overtime. The next week, Siemian blew out his ACL in a win against Purdue.
When Kubiak moved on to become the Broncos’ head coach in 2015, he convinced his good friend and boss John Elway to take a chance on Siemian with a compensatory pick in the seventh round.
Kubiak was Siemian’s greatest ally. And now Kubiak was gone.
January 5: Siemian underwent surgery to repair the grade 5 left shoulder separation that had affected him since suffering the injury in a week 4 win at Tampa Bay.
Siemian spent six weeks in a sling and got a late start on the Broncos’ offseason conditioning program, although he didn’t miss a rep once organized team activities (OTAs) began in late-May.
January 7: A Broncos contingency led by Elway and team president Joe Ellis interviewed Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan for their head coaching position.
Shanahan stated in his interview that he believes the team could win with Siemian. He wound up helping the Falcons reach the Super Bowl and became head coach of the 49ers.
January 12: The Broncos formally introduced Vance Joseph as their new head coach. At his press conference, Joseph declared the quarterback position, “an open competition.’’
May 23: Broncos hold their first of 13 offseason team practices – 10 OTAs and three mandatory minicamp sessions. Siemian got the first day with the first team.
June 5-15: For the final week and four sessions of OTAs, Lynch seemingly flipped a switch. He was making fewer mistakes, while making several strong throws. Lynch played well the final week of OTAs and the next week during the team’s three minicamp sessions.
June 16-July 25: During the Broncos’ six-week vacation, attempts to hold a two-day, off-campus, passing session between quarterbacks and receivers never happens, breaking a five-year run.
Peyton Manning organized the event from 2012-15. Mark Sanchez put it together in 2016.
But with neither Siemian or Lynch declared the No. 1 quarterback, neither one felt comfortable taking charge.
July 27: On the first day of training camp, Siemian again started with the first team, but Lynch continued to practice well. It’s when the team started practicing in full pads on July 30 that Siemian began to separate from Lynch.
August 2: This is what I wrote for 9News.com: “After watching practice in front of record crowds at UCHealth Training Center, Trevor Siemian appears to be the clear leader in the Great Quarterback Competition.”
August 5: Following Terrell Davis’ Hall of Fame induction speech in Canton, Ohio, Elway tells 9News the quarterback competition will be decided on how Siemian and Lynch perform in the preseason.
August 10: In the first preseason game against the Bears, Siemian and Lynch muster a measly 3 points in three combined quarters. No. 3 quarterback Kyle Sloter steals the show with an excellent fourth quarter performance.
Siemian is his usual steady, if unspectacular self, while Lynch is unsure where to go with the ball when his first receiver is covered.
Wednesday: After Siemian starts against the Bears, Lynch is to start Game 2 against the 49ers. As such, Lynch gets the majority of the first-team snaps during a joint practice with the 49ers.
Lynch plays very well early in practice while Siemian struggles. Uh-oh. But then Siemian starts playing better and Lynch has a couple misfires that miss by yards, not inches.
Thursday: During a half-padded practice with the 49ers, Lynch was terrific, making several strong and accurate throws.
Saturday: Lynch started the preseason game against the 49ers and leaves with a 13-0 lead. He does some good things, in particular with his legs. However, he is again shaky as a passer. He dumps off immediately and finishes 9 of 13 for 39 yards – a mere 3.0 yards per pass attempt. He does run three times for 27 yards – 9.0 yards per rush attempt.
Siemian comes off the bench and immediately delivers, finishing off his first drive with a brilliant, 19-yard, back-shoulder, touchdown pass to Jordan Taylor.
At halftime, 9News writes: “Much as the Denver Broncos’ brass will hate to leave such an exciting, young talent like Paxton Lynch on the sidelines for another year, they must go with Trevor Siemian.
By game’s end, it’s obvious to everybody: Siemian is the man who must become the Broncos’ opening-day starter.
Monday: Joseph is expected to meet with his team, then conduct a 1:15 p.m. press conference. Any time after that in which he hasn’t named Siemian his starting quarterback is wasted time. The Broncos must begin preparing for their third preseason game Saturday against the Green Bay Packers – which also serves as a final tune-up to their regular-season opener against the Chargers.
It’s time to call The Great Quarterback Competition. Siemian is the guy.
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