The Truth About The Denver Broncos Quarterback Situation

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to the Broncos quarterback situation. Erick Trickel is here to give you the truth.

The Denver Broncos have three quarterbacks who are all backups at best right now. That sums it up pretty well, and is taken from what a former coach said to me about the situation in Denver.

The full quote is as follows:

“Trevor Siemian has a shot to be the starter in Denver, despite being a backup at best. Why? Because every quarterback they currently have is a backup at best."

He went on to say that Paxton Lynch has a higher ceiling, but isn’t there yet from what this coach has seen and heard. To give us a better grasp on the situation, let's go through the QBs one at a time, starting with who seems to be the fan favorite.

Trevor Siemian

Trevor Siemian is a former seventh round pick. He spent last year on the 53-man roster, and is getting a shot this year. As the former coach said, Siemian is a backup at best and his game against the San Francisco 49ers proves that. He also showed that he isn’t ready to be a starter, but head coach Gary Kubiak named him the starter for Game 3 to give him one final shot to steal the job. To do that, he can't repeat the same mistakes he made against the 49ers.

In that loss, Siemian attempted 14 passes, completing 10 of them. Not a bad number for playing about a quarter and a half, except for the breakdown of those passes. Nine of those 14 passes targeted a receiver running a comeback route, four of them hitting a quick out, one screen that was behind the line of scrimmage, and a check-down.

Siemian did this while facing pressure only a handful of times. To start the game, taking those easy passes isn’t bad, as it can get your quarterback into a rhythm. The dink-and-dunk style of play that Siemian displays can work in the NFL, if you don’t become predictable and take some risk every now and then. Siemian is both predictable and doesn't take shots down field.

In the loss to the Niners, Siemian became predictable. His ‘love’ for the comeback route showed and the Niners defense caught on. This led to a pick-6. They loosely covered the receivers, who were not running comeback routes and sat on those who were. If you add that to Siemian staring down his target from the snap, it is clear why he threw the pick-6. When ‘playing it safe’ you can’t do that. You can’t stare down your receivers. You can’t favor a single route concept. You also have to mix up the dink-and-dunk and take a risk. Siemian had multiple opportunities for bigger throws to open receivers, but he passed on them. That screams to him not being ready to be the starter when the regular season comes around.

Finally, after the interception, Siemian was clearly rattled. His accuracy was poor before the turnover, but it was missing in action afterwards. He seemed afraid to get picked off again and was really errant on his throws. When talking about quarterbacks, you often hear the phrase "short-term memory".

His play after the pick-6 showed that Siemian doesn’t have short-term memory. In this loss Siemian did nothing that should make anyone comfortable with him being the regular season starter. However, he has another game to show something to assuage the fears. It is his final chance to win the starting job, but his play has to drastically change for the better. For me, he hasn’t inspired confidence that he will make those changes.

Mark Sanchez

As for Mark Sanchez, he gets a bad rap and is in a worse situation than many may ever realize. So far this preseason, Sanchez has had three total turnovers, but those three were not worse than Siemian’s one. I will tell you why here shortly. First, I want to talk about the situation Sanchez is in. He was acquired via trade to compete for the starting job, and with him came a bad reputation from bad play over a few years.

There is no denying that Sanchez turns the ball over too often. This is why he's known as a ‘backup at best’ quarterback. A single play has summed up his career and it has been deemed the ‘butt-fumble’. Over his career, Sanchez has had moments of greatness, followed by sub-par play or bad, dumb luck. This preseason we have seen all of that from Sanchez.

Now, back to those three turnovers. We had two dumb-luck turnovers and a bad play turnover. In the first game, Sanchez threw a pass that wasn’t a bad decision, but it was tipped and picked off. It's worth noting that the Chicago Bears scored no points off of it. In this last game, Sanchez fumbled twice on back-to-back series. The first was a bad play. Sanchez was trying to escape pressure, had a loose grip on the ball, and saw it knocked out of his grip. The final of his three turnovers was the bad, dumb-luck play.

The Broncos right tackle, Kyle Roberts, was beaten badly and his assignment knocked the ball free while Sanchez was in his windup to throw. Of course, due to the bad rep that Sanchez has, all blame immediately went on him without people realizing that Sanchez was at the mercy of horrendous right tackle play there.

So, how are Sanchez’s three turnovers not worse than Siemian’s? Well, that is simple. Siemian’s one turnover went directly to the opposing team, giving them seven points and all momentum. Sanchez's pick in the first game didn’t lead to points, nor a momentum swing.

As for his two fumbles, the following series (not counting the kneel down before half) the Niners fumbled with Denver recovering. All Sanchez's turnovers did were potentially keep points from Denver. Also, many are wanting to say that Sanchez gave up 6-to-14 (two field goals, two touchdowns) points with his fumbles.

That is factually incorrect. It gave up 3-to-7 points. Had he not fumbled the first time and they scored, the Broncos likely wouldn’t have gotten the ball back. All it did was give away two different chances to score, but had they scored before the first fumble, they don’t have a chance to score if even on another drive. Giving points directly to the other team is worse than not giving your team points, especially when the points gave them all momentum.

To answer those of you who will say that turnover margin wins games, that is true. However, you also look at what happens afterwards. Of the three turnovers from Siemian and Sanchez, the Denver defense covered for two of them. They forced and recovered two fumbles on the following 'true' drive from the Niners and didn’t allow any points off of those fumbles. As previously stated, the one Siemian turnover went directly to points and was never answered by Denver. As mentioned, the big issue with Siemian was his lack of short-term memory. Well, Sanchez showed he lacks that as well. After those fumbles, he was a mess. But, Sanchez took risks and shots downfield, which Siemian didn’t. Sanchez didn’t become afraid of more turnovers, he just allowed it to affect him.

The pressure Sanchez felt also didn’t help. It is worth noting that the number of times Sanchez didn’t face pressure is the same number of plays Siemian felt pressure.

Lately I have seen a lot of talk about arm strength. Sanchez has the stronger arm between he and Siemian. There is more zip on his passes, which gets the ball to the receivers faster. Siemian can make most NFL throws, but some he struggles with. Sanchez doesn’t have those issues. Of course, neither of these two compare to the final quarterback.

Paxton Lynch

Paxton Lynch is the rookie and he has looked really good, but he is still behind the other two. The coaching staff doesn't want to rush him, which is wise. It is my belief that letting him get reps with the ones is a win-win situation for the coaching staff, players, and even the fans.

You can talk about how a player is on the practice field, in the meeting room, or even in games against third or fourth unit players. But none of those compare to seeing a player against first unit players to give you a better idea of where that player is development-wise.

This is why it is a win-win for the coaching staff. If he fails, they get a better understanding of just where he is than they would any other way. If he does well, they could seriously consider letting him be the starter. This is also why it is a win-win with the players and the fans.


The competition is really between Siemian and Sanchez, with Lynch a distant third. Sanchez still should end up as the starter. Siemian has had something Sanchez hasn’t had. Siemian played with the likely first unit offensive line, while Sanchez was playing with a mix of first and second unit guys.

Siemian had Russell Okung at left tackle, while Sanchez had Michael Schofield. That plays a big part in how comfortable the quarterback is. Sanchez will make mistakes while taking risks and big shots downfield and no one knows just what Siemian will do while playing it safe.

I don’t envy the coaching staff in having to pick a starter from three backup-quality quarterbacks. Whoever they do pick, hopefully the defense can overcome the likely mistakes that are to come, like they did last year on their way to Super Bowl victory.

Erick Trickel in an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @Trickel_MHH. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook

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