The lasting image of the Broncos’ 16-point loss to the Redskins on Sunday likely won’t be the poor decision by a rookie receiver that cost them a field goal. It likely won’t be the final five minutes of the first half that turned a close game into an ugly defeat for Denver. And it likely won’t be the myriad protection issues from the offensive line, or the breakdowns on defense.
It’ll probably be a 12-second clip of quarterback Brock Osweiler, screaming to his teammates on the bench and seemingly getting no response. Not even a glance.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 24, 2017
“I haven’t seen it. I’ve heard about it,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said Tuesday. “That’s Brock. One thing about Brock, guys, is he provides a leadership quality that we hadn’t had on offense from that position, in my opinion. If Brock’s doing that, it’s for the good of our football team. I’m not surprised it happened, and I’m encouraged by it because we need more of that. We need more players pushing players. We need more players helping our young guys become pros. … Now, who was listening? I’m not sure. I didn’t see it. But we need guys pushing other players and that’s the quarterback’s role.”
The truth is, the Broncos have been missing that and much more all season. They’ve lacked the stability at quarterback to garner the leadership most became accustomed to from Peyton Manning for four years and from DeMarcus Ware for three. And as they enter the final game of their first losing season since 2010, the Broncos are facing yet another quarterback swap — one that’s been weeks in the making.
Sunday against the Chiefs, the Broncos expect to have Paxton Lynch under center to give the second-year quarterback another shot to prove himself before the year expires and the Broncos’ focus turns completely toward rebuilding.
“He wasn’t quite ready last week, so hopefully he’s ready to go this week. That’s the plan, to start Paxton this week,” Joseph said. “We want to see him play. That’s been the goal the last couple of weeks and that hasn’t happened. … Our first goal is to win a football game, obviously. But, again, with it being a quarterback issue going into the offseason, we want to see him play to see what (kind of) player he is.”
The change will be the Broncos’ fifth at that position alone this season, but just another in a long line of changes to the franchise as a whole in recent years. Since the start of 2015, when they capped a roller-coaster of a season with a Super Bowl victory, the Broncos have had two head coaches, three offensive coordinators, four different starting quarterbacks, six right tackles, four left tackles, seven players rotating among the guard positions and at least three attempts to alter the offensive-line scheme.
Denver has experienced quite a bit in recent years, swinging from the highs of Super Bowl 50 to the lows of a losing season. But never has it experienced consistency.
And as the year turns, the Broncos are likely to endure even more.
Two days before the Broncos fell to the Redskins, general manager/president John Elway and director of player personnel Matt Russell watched from the sideline as top draft prospect Josh Allen guided the Wyoming Cowboys to a win in the Idaho Potato Bowl. Then Elway and Russell watched Kirk Cousins bounce back from a 1-7 start in Washington to key a Redskins victory in Washington.
In one weekend, the Broncos’ got a glimpse of what could be in 2018, sending a clear message to Lynch that time is running to prove himself.
Asked Tuesday if he viewed Sunday as a tryout of sorts for Lynch, Joseph chuckled and said the hope for him is simple.
“We simply want to see this guy play. He’s had one start this year where he played two-and-a-half, almost three quarters. So we want to see him play. He hasn’t played much as a Bronco. It’s simple: We want to see him play. Very simple.”
But the plan for the future is less so. The same message that was relayed to Lynch last weekend has been received by others across the board. Jobs are at stake, even if the playoffs aren’t anymore.