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Klee: The Denver Broncos' next quarterback should be ...

By: Paul Klee
March 26, 2016 Updated: March 28, 2016 at 12:30 pm
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Quarterback ponderables, clockwise from top left: Matthew Stafford, Trevor Siemian, Mark Sanchez, Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow and Connor Cook.

DENVER - Maybe a Craigslist ad is the way to go.

WANTED: QB. Candidate must exhibit poise, mobility, willingness to crack jokes in press conferences. Pay negotiable depending on prior experience. Oh, and a laser-rocket arm would be sweet.

The honeymoon after a Super Bowl parade is shorter than it used to be, and that is doubly true when one quarterback retires and the other moves to Texas. An alarming percentage of Coloradans would suggest the man quarterbacking the Broncos impacts their lives more directly and intimately than the man governing the state, so the current dilemma is particularly unnerving: The world champs need a quarterback.

I don't have a firm opinion on who should quarterback the Broncos, and that's partly because I don't think they had a firm opinion on who should quarterback them last year, and they still won the Super Bowl.

The Broncos are the champs despite throwing 23 interceptions - a jarring number they have exceeded only once since John Elway was drafted in 1983.

Their quarterback play literally can't be worse in 2016; Peyton Manning was gutsy and an all-time leader, but his final quarterback rating in the NFL ranked dead last. In a numbers sense, there is nowhere to go but up.

I like the potential of Trevor Siemian more than most, even if the backup's audition tape is limited to a 92-yard drive against the Texans in the preseason. The Broncos like him, too, but apparently not enough to stop playing the field.

Here's the field, or at least the red zone:

The ideal answer is Matthew Stafford. He's from Texas, as Wade Phillips likes to say, but works in Detroit. Would you put it past John Elway to finagle a deal with the Lions if they are in search of a fresh start? Elway's best work has been his surprise(!) work, whether it was putting Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware on the same flight to Denver, re-signing Derek Wolfe before he could command Malik Jackson money, or convincing Emmanuel Sanders, a revelation at wide receiver, to join the Broncos instead of the Chiefs.

Yes, Stafford is a long shot, but so is winning a Super Bowl with fewer than 200 yards of offense, since it had never been done before the Broncos "did it."

The short-term answer - and answer is relative in this pool of candidates - is Colin Kaepernick. He's only 28, and, when there was leadership and structure in San Francisco, he and the NFL's third-ranked defense carried the 49ers to a Super Bowl. With Gary Kubiak as the chief witness, the Broncos have been inclined to draw on history to build their future, and perhaps they identify with San Francisco's history as a way to build their own - a dominant defense complimented by an athletic, slippery quarterback.

No, Kaepernick is not the perfect quarterback, but he's also not Josh McCown, and that's kind of the point of this exercise anyway.

The long-term answer - and this is my personal favorite - is gambling on Michigan State polarizer Connor Cook in the first or second round of the draft. One Spartan, Bennie Fowler, caught Manning's final pass; another should throw the Broncos' next pass. Would the Broncos trust their championship window to a rookie? Cook made 38 starts in college; Osweiler has made 22 since he graduated high school. Cook would be ready.

Put him in the kitchen with this defense, and the Broncos can play in Houston on Feb. 5, 2017 - Super Bowl LI, since we are back to Roman numerals again.

The absence of an obvious choice at quarterback here has a ripple effect. It causes otherwise sensible folks to freak out on sports radio, wonder aloud if Mark Sanchez is the answer and email sportswriters about Tim Tebow. The answers, in order: Take a deep breath, he's not and Happy Easter, but no.

The Broncos, of course, aren't scheduled to make their first draft pick until No. 31 - the final slot of the first round, because they are still the Super Bowl champions, even if there's not a starting quarterback left in town.

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Twitter: @bypaulklee

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