As the Broncos’ season quickly spiraled out of control, the notion of a playoff appearance quickly vanished as the team’s quarterback carousel spun out of control for a second straight season. On Sunday, the Broncos want to see it slow down with Paxton Lynch under center, and hope that by the time they reach what will be a long winter, that the carousel will stop entirely with No. 12 atop the tallest horse.
The two quarterbacks selected ahead of Lynch in last year’s draft — the Rams’ Jared Goff and the Eagles Carson Wentz — are already established starters, and in Wentz’s case, an MVP candidate. For Lynch to prove he was worthy of last season’s first-round selection, he’ll need to at least show signs that he can claim the Broncos’ job by the end of the season — and here’s what the team will need to see:
Don’t just ‘take off and run’
Coach Vance Joseph’s advice to Lynch was, “if it’s not there, just take off and run.” In what’s likely the most obvious disconnect between the team’s situation and reality, watching Lynch take off and run doesn’t help the team learn anything whatsoever about the Memphis product, whose ability to scramble and run is the only facet of his game that anyone, anywhere, can discuss with any certainty. What the Broncos need to see is that Lynch’s ability to read defenses and go through his progression before throwing the smartest pass possible has improved — dramatically. If it hasn’t, then there’s a chance that Lynch may turn out to be a taller version of Tim Tebow — and that’s not going to solve the Broncos’ quarterback problem in the long term.
Keep it simple…
For the last three weeks, the Broncos’ coaching staff has said they’ll simplify the offense. Each week, they’ve done so, and after a changeover from Mike McCoy to Bill Musgrave in the offensive coordinator role, it’s unlikely that the offense can get any simpler without becoming wholly predictable. In other words, this is as easy as it ever gets, from a mental standpoint, for NFL quarterbacks — and if Lynch look confused about what to do, it speaks volumes regarding either his readiness or his ability (or both) to handle the position as a starter.
It’s not about winning — yet
Of course, the Broncos want to win — this game against the Raiders, and all the ones left on their schedule — but wins or losses won’t be a true measurement that determines how he’s progressed. If Lynch plays efficiently and effectively, protecting the ball and keeping the Broncos’ defense off the field, that’s all the brass will need to see. While the quarterbacking situation is the Broncos’ biggest problem, it’s nowhere near their only one. If Lynch can simply do what he’s supposed to, the game’s result doesn’t matter all that much when it comes to the way the team will look at him.
Lynch, finally recovered from a shoulder injury and ready to take the reins of the Broncos’ offense, has a wide-open opportunity in Oakland; not only is there no one to turn to… the Raiders are the only team in the league that hasn’t yet made an interception.
Expect, at minimum, a solid performance for Lynch — one at least as good as any the Broncos have seen in their six-game losing streak. Anything less may mean that the team’s free-fall isn’t over… and worse, the answers to their quarterbacking woes may not be on the roster at all.