When Chad Kelly threw a 16-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Courtland Sutton in the second quarter of the Broncos’ second preseason game, Mile High erupted to levels the stadium has not heard since the team’s AFC Championship victory in 2016. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the “boos” and jeering from the crowd when Paxton Lynch took the field resembled the depressing days of Kyle Orton and Josh McDaniels.
There are numerous reasons to keep Lynch on the sidelines for the Broncos’ “dress rehearsal” game against the Redskins Friday, but the eccentric young QB nicknamed “Swag” has played his way into the backup quarterback spot for the Broncos. And if the team is serious about preparing Kelly for the 2018 season, he should be the only backup quarterback to actually see the field Friday.
The Broncos are in a critical point in the quarterback evaluation process and are still undecided on whether the team should bring in a veteran quarterback to play behind Keenum. Getting an extended look at Kelly should give the Broncos the information they need, and allow the organziation to determine if he is capable of being the No. 2 or not.
While Kelly has overwhelmingly won over the hearts of fans across the region, the Broncos coaching staff and upper management have not appeared eager to commit to making Kelly the team’s permanent backup. Another solid performance from Kelly could force the Broncos’ hand to commit to Kelly though.
Additionally, playing Lynch will only further diminish his trade value. So far, Lynch’s preseason has been disastrous. In two games, Lynch is 11-of-22 for 59 passing yards and one interception. It should be noted, for better or for worse, that Lynch has played with primarily the second and third-string offenses, but obviously so has Kelly.
Nonetheless, Lynch has played poorly and continued to look like a bust. There is no reason to believe that he will miraculously turn his entire NFL career around in one preseason game. Tossing him onto the field for potentially, (probably), another poor performance would only further diminish his already rapidly declining value. As the Broncos prepare for life after Lynch, it would be best to get as much as they can for him, and the best way to do that may ultimately be to play him as little as possible.
The battle for the backup quarterback spot is over and a victor has been named. While Lynch’s days as a Broncos are growing shorter by the day, Kelly’s support only continues to grow stronger. There is no reason to trot Lynch out onto the field anymore. Giving Kelly the best chance to perform in the team’s biggest preseason game will give clarity to what the team is capable of solely in Kelly’s hands.
Finally, the Broncos need to find a way to win on Friday for the sake of the fans, who have grown more and more alarmed of the team’s future every week. It would also be big for the players, who are anxious to taste victory after a rough 2017 season. While preseason games rarely determine a team’s success in the regular season, starting the year 0-3 is never a good thing, regardless of whether it is an exhibition or not. It should also be noted that no team that has ever gone 0-4 in the preseason has ever won a Super Bowl.