DENVER — For as long as the Broncos use the most convenient of the conjunctions — “or” — I am going to employ it as well.
Today I'll clean out the garage … or I won’t. I’m going to sell this juicer on Craigslist … or I’ll just keep it and make delicious juice. I’m going to work out at 6 a.m. tomorrow … or I’m going to sleep in.
See how nice “or” is? Problem is, it's not very productive. Give a man an out, he might just take it. Trim the options to one and that’s when stuff gets done.
By league rule, the Broncos were obliged to release their first depth chart of the season Monday. Lord knows they didn’t want to. The position that matters the most around these hills, where “The Decision” carries import comparable to a presidential election, complete with allegations of fake news, was QB. Anyway, here’s how the position looked on the depth chart:
Trevor Siemian ... OR... Paxton Lynch.
Nice, but not very productive.
The Broncos must know by now the best option to open the 2017 season is Trevor Siemian. (After 2017 is a separate conversation.) Yes, the preseason that begins Thursday at Chicago could be useful in their final decision. But the intangibles that have lifted Siemian above Lynch in training camp are unlikely to change in exhibition games: maturity, trust from teammates and, if last year is an indication, ability to grasp a full playbook.
Any day now the Broncos should — to borrow the advice John Elway gave Tim Tebow — pull the trigger. Name Siemian the starter ... or waste precious practice reps as the regular season inches closer.
Have you seen the Broncos’ schedule? It’s the Hunger Games, and with four of the first five at home, anything shy of a 3-2 start digs a sizable hole. An extra two weeks of the first-team offense working only with the first-team quarterback would be beneficial to all parties involved.
Yes, even Paxton Lynch. The Broncos did Lynch a favor by tabbing him QB2 against the Bears. His best chance of creeping back into this competition is to beat up on a bad team’s backups. His confidence appears wobbly, evidenced by Lynch launching a football into a wall out of frustration, turning heads in the indoor practice facility, and not in a good way.
Rolling with Siemian out of the gate also takes the pressure off Lynch. This camp is the most pressure he’s faced as a quarterback, and the result has been footballs thrown at a wall. Lynch’s best performance as a Bronco came last season in Week 4 — a game at Tampa in which he wasn’t expected to play, so not much was expected of him. Blessed with a 7-0 lead, Lynch spelled Siemian, and the Broncos trimmed the playbook to fit what he knew.
No pressure, no problem.
But the way his shoulders slump after mistakes in practice do little to suggest Lynch is ready for a September against Philip Rivers on "Monday Night Football," the NFC’s reigning No. 1 seed in the Cowboys, a road game against the Bills (and former Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, who lamented Lynch’s limited knowledge of the playbook last season) and the new-and-improved Raiders. Denver’s is a smart and volatile locker room. No one in there would bat an eye — or poke one — if Siemian is named the starter.
But the loud, proud "No Fly Zone" knows if it has figured out that Lynch inevitably throws to the right hash mark, opposing defensive coordinators will see the same. Even the most ardent members of Team Paxton — a special interest group that includes roughly 98 percent of Denver media, so good luck to Siemian getting a fair appraisal from the locals this season — must admit Ol’ Trev’s been better than Action Paxton.
Not just in this training camp. For over a year now.
Lynch is only 23. It’s a safe bet he matures down the road, but his training camp has been this bad: Alfred Williams, a high-profile member of Denver’s twin Super Bowl champs in the '90s, declared on 104.3 FM “The Fan” that Kyle Sloter, an undrafted prospect who played only one full season of quarterback in college, is a better option right now than Lynch.
“No, no, no. No, no, no, no, no, guys,” Vance Joseph said recently when asked if a decision has been made on the quarterbacks. “No, no, no. No, no, no.”
Just to be clear on what I'm saying: neither quarterback has inspired confidence the Broncos are a threat to the Patriots in the AFC. If Handsome Tom avoids the age wall, everyone outside Foxboro is playing for second. And the Patriots must be chuckling about all of this, by the way. The only team in their division with a shot to beat them, the Dolphins, just hitched their wagon to Jay Cutler. And the only team in the conference with their number, the Broncos, has an “or” tagged to its quarterback depth chart.
But when you stick to the topic at hand — Who gives the Broncos a shot to make the playoffs and, you know, see what happens? — it’s Trevor Siemian.
Do the Broncos have a long-term answer at quarterback? No.
Do they have a clear winner in this quarterback competition? Yes — no ifs, ands or ors about it.