MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — When John Elway and Dan Marino met on the field at Hard Rock Stadium prior to Sunday’s game between the Broncos and Dolphins, there were plenty of topics for the two legendary quarterbacks to discuss.
Perhaps they chatted about the 720 touchdown passes, two Hall of Fame jackets and six Super Bowl appearances as players they collected between them.
Or maybe they broached the subject of Elway’s most pressing task ahead as Denver’s general manager: finding a quarterback for the 2018 season and beyond.
Trevor Siemian, in his second opportunity to start for the Broncos this season, provided ample reminders as to why he was benched seven games into the season, even with less-than-appealing options in Brock Osweiler and, later, Paxton Lynch waiting to replace him. Siemian threw three interceptions, including his second pick-six of the season, as part of one of the most disastrous performances of his young career.
“We didn’t get off to a great start, and from there there was no rhythm, no momentum,” Siemian said. “We didn’t have anything going.”
The turnovers, though abundant, didn’t even begin to illustrate how bad Siemian’s day was in his home state of Florida. He completed just 19-of-41 passes for 200 yards, a big chunk of the yardage coming on a fruitless final drive, and was sacked three times. He posted a 30.5 quarterback rating.
If starting Lynch at Oakland last week was an opportunity for the Broncos to further evaluate their second-year, former first-round pick, Siemian was presented Sunday with a chance — due to Lynch’s ankle injury — to rebound from the mistakes that ended his first stint as the team’s starter.
Instead, it was more of the same from perhaps the NFL’s most dysfunctional quarterback situation.
“It was our fourth starter (change) of the year today, and it’s been hard to find a guy to operate efficiently for us so we can win a football game,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “So we’ll see. We’ll watch the film and see who’s the best option for us next week.”
It was a stark reminder of how desperately the Broncos, who extended their longest losing streak in 50 years to eight games, need to upgrade their quarterback position.
Siemian had zero chemistry with his top two wide receivers, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. At one point in the third quarter, the two had been targeted a combined 10 times without a single catch to show for it. On one throw in the second quarter, Siemian threw so high to a wide-open Thomas that the receiver didn’t even bother leaping for it.
When Broncos safety Justin Simmons returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, cutting the Miami lead to 19-9, Siemian promptly fired his throw on the two-point conversion attempt out of the end zone and into the third row of seats. And, on the final play of an unnecessary final drive, unable to find a receiver in the end zone, Siemian simply fired the ball against the wall behind the end zone, mercifully ending a day he said “was up there” with the toughest of his three-year career.
If there was a silver lining to the quarterback play, it’s that it helped the Broncos, now 3-9, strengthen their grip on a potential top-five selection in the 2018 draft, where quarterbacks like Sam Darnold of USC and Josh Rosen of UCLA might be available. Free agency or trades could present other options for the Broncos, whether it’s high-priced Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins or another veteran.
An eight-game losing streak can’t occur without crater-sized holes opening up across the roster. Offensive line, inside linebacker, wide receiver and tight end were among the positions Sunday that looked to be in major need of upgrades.
“You can’t have three interceptions and a pick-six and sacks,” Joseph said. “But it wasn’t all on (Trevor). Offensive line-wise we struggled. We had five or six holding penalties again. We had some dropped balls, guys not separating in coverage. So it wasn’t all on Trevor.”
But each pass Siemian fired woefully off the mark — like Osweiler and Lynch before him — further reinforced Denver’s top offseason priority. Elway will soon spend plenty of time talking quarterback.