With OTAs and mandatory mini-camp officially wrapped and in the books, fans and media alike are clamoring to get a bead on how the Denver Broncos quarterback competition is shaking out. On the outside looking in, it would seem that Paxton Lynch has the most momentum heading into the summer break.
In this case, 'momentum' is a relative word. And it doesn't necessarily reflect the coaches' view of the situation.
Although Lynch does seem to be progressing in the way the team wants him to, the last several weeks of practices have been more about learning and installing Mike McCoy's offense than it has about competition.
Both Lynch and incumbent starter Trevor Siemian have started at square one in learning the Broncos new system. That makes the playing field more level than it was last year, with the rookie Lynch trying to play catchup in the Gary Kubiak system Siemian had already played in for a year.
This time around, they're both starting from the bottom rung of the ladder. We can try to evaluate each signal-caller's performance during OTAs and mini-camp and glean as much intelligence as we can from what the players and coaches have said, but at the end of the day, it's not what you or I think that matters. It's what the coaches think.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1784455-limited-offer-get-3-month... “My experience on offense, being a QB my entire life, except for two or three years, it helps me understand all phases of the game," Head Coach Vance Joseph said following Thursday's practice. "As far as the quarterback deal, I was in a competition in college with [former NFL QB] Kordell Stewart. It was very similar to what these guys are going through, so I get it. It is a tough deal. You have to be patient with the guys. You have to not take evaluation as a daily deal, but as a collective, full evaluation as far as time. It can’t be Monday he’s better; Tuesday, he’s better. It has to be a collective result as far as who was more consistent over time.”
Coaches speak in cliches. They try to reveal as little information as possible about what's actually happening with their team behind closed doors. Besides the learning process and opportunity to practice as a team, the coaches would have us believe that OTAs and mini-camp are relatively meaningless.
But let's face it. If they didn't matter, NFL clubs wouldn't bother with them. It is with that paradox in mind that we must interpret Joseph's coachspeak about how much — or little — these offseason practices ultimately impact the quarterback battle.
“Probably zero-to-none, to be honest," Joseph said earlier this week. "It’s going to be won on the football field. It’s going to be won in the games in the preseason. That’s where evaluation starts in my opinion.”
Obviously, how the quarterbacks perform in training camp and the actual preseason games will impact the coaches' decision-making process on a much greater scale. Although these summer practices have been intense and fiery at times, they've been without full contact and actual tackling.
Coaches can get a better bead on what's what when real football is actually being played. But that doesn't mean the offseason practices offer player evaluation on a "zero-to-none" scale. There's reason they're out there practicing.
So, with Denver's offseason training program officially in the books, where do Lynch and Siemian stand in the eyes of Joseph and his staff?
“It was more of a learning phase of where we are," Joseph said. "Both guys did some good things. Both guys did some off things. It was really equal.”
Here's what I glean from Joseph's remarks, within the scope of everything that's happened in the competition since the Broncos kicked off OTAs. Paxton Lynch has continued to do what he does — challenging the defense downfield and extending plays with his legs — but he's managed to do it a little more consistently.
Siemian's performance was also about what we could have expected. He quietly set about the business of being efficient with his underneath throws and decision-making, keeping the fledgling Broncos offense on schedule.
Lynch showed signs of improving in that area toward the end of OTAs and into mini-camp. And that's a step in the right direction if he hopes to win the starting job. Conversely, most on-site analysts who were able to watch the handful of practices open to the media reported that Siemian continued his penchant for being conservative with the ball downfield.
Siemian didn't show much progress in having the confidence to take some chances with the ball vertically. He's done what he always has — played it safe. Stayed on schedule.
That will endear him to his coaches. But that's only half the equation of what makes a successful NFL quarterback. Like the popular trope goes, if you could take Siemian's best qualities and meld them with Lynch's, the Broncos would have a top-five quarterback.
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Alas, there is no such thing as a football Frankenstein. The coaches will have to prioritize which philosophy matters most to them when it comes time to choosing a starter. Staying on schedule or making big plays.
And there's still plenty of time for both quarterbacks to show improvements in the respective areas they've lacked. What I've taken away from Denver's offseason program is that Lynch has shown encouraging progress, while Siemian has been confident in the same abilities we saw in 14 starts last season.
Lynch has the momentum right now. But Siemian still has the upper hand. The bottom line is that in order for the coaches to feel comfortable starting Lynch, he has to be more consistent in the little things in which Siemian thrives.
Don't think that the Broncos won't have similar conversations to evaluate the situation heading into the five-week break before training camp. Of course they will. Right now, Joseph doesn't have a deadline for naming the starter. He'll allow nature to take it's course until one of the quarterbacks clearly separates.
“I don’t have a timetable on it. It could be the first week of camp or it could be the end of preseason. I’m not sure. When I see a clear separation, I’ll call it off.”
Buckle up, Broncos Country. This year's training camp promises to be full of quarterback fireworks. And there likely won't be a resolution until the third, maybe even the fourth preseason game.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.