DENVER — It’s time to face the facts.
The Broncos used a first-round pick to draft Jeff Spicoli.
Surf’s up, Paxton Lynch. Is he so bad the Broncos won't let him grab a board?
These are Ghastly Times at Mile High. For the duration of a 20-17 loss to the woeful Bengals on Sunday, the Broncos didn’t deserve to share the same field as legends Gary Zimmerman and Tom Jackson, here to elevate Red Miller’s good name into the Ring of Fame and honor Terrell Davis with a Hall of Fame moment to match the gold jacket he's worn so often the buttons are falling off. This season has become a joke. We’re still waiting on the punchline that has nobody smiling except for me-first wideout Emmanuel Sanders.
The Broncos are 3-7. A team that hasn't won since the first day of October would have to win out simply to achieve a winning record. The End.
“You are who you are,” said coach Vance Joseph, whose team was labeled “soft” on Friday by his own boss, John Elway. “It’s our record.”
But without a shadow of a doubt, the most eye-popping development during the Broncos' six-game losing streak doesn’t concern anyone who has played.
It’s who didn’t play on Sunday that tells the saddest story.
Whither Paxton Lynch? The goofball quarterback who dabs at Nuggets games like a teenager and has struggled to grasp the playbook, according to former coordinator Rick Dennison after the Jacksonville game, spent much of Sunday afternoon on the bench, literally, instead of interacting with coaches or teammates. At times it looks like Lynch has been quarantined to a safe space with the bird flu or something.
Here, I’ll say it, since everyone else seems to be afraid to tell a truth that hurts the most: Lynch is so bad the Broncos won’t even play him during the franchise’s longest losing streak since 1990. Yes, the Broncos are still mathematically in the playoff hunt. And I’m still in the running for World’s Sexiest Man of 2018.
This season was cooked long before 3,399 tickets went unused on a perfect Sunday for tailgating.
“I could feel it in the stadium,” linebacker Brandon Marshall said. “There was no energy, even from the fans.”
And the Broncos still wouldn’t play a quarterback they traded up in the 2016 draft to select. What about next week at Oakland? The Raiders just traveled to Mexico and lost by 25 points. Surely the Raiders' pedestrian defense is one the Broncos would feel comfortable playing their first-round quarterback against?
“We’ll see, guys. We’re going to watch the tape and see where we are as an offense,” Joseph said. “Obviously he’s healthy now.”
When Lynch sustained a shoulder injury during the preseason it was expected to keep him sidelined for roughly a month. Almost three months later it's turkey time and Lynch still hasn’t taken a game snap in his second season as a professional.
With the offense and quarterback Brock Osweiler looking like they spent their latest great week of practice on a beach in Cancun, Lynch never had reason to remove his orange ballcap. Trevor Siemian was put on the inactive list, and even Siemian was more involved than Lynch in sideline conversations with offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. At halftime the Broncos had as many turnovers as touchdowns (one). The Bengals had 100 interception-return yards; the Broncos had 79 passing yards. Denver trailed, 13-7. If not then, when?
“He’s a young player with talent,” Joseph said. “We’ll see.”
There are folks out there hanging onto the belief that Lynch is just waiting for his opportunity to light the NFL on fire, and it’s the coaching staffs (Gary Kubiak's staff and Joseph's staff, I guess) holding Lynch back. Bless their hearts. Back here in reality, the Broncos’ actions speak louder than their comforting words.
Sunday was a worse indictment of the draft pick than Kubiak’s decision to stick with Siemian over Lynch in a meaningless regular-season finale against the Raiders. Hey, I don’t blame Lynch. When a college basketball coach recruits a point guard who can’t dribble, pass or shoot, that’s on the coach.
Or in this case, the man who drafted Lynch. Speaking of Elway, the big boss was the No. 1 topic of conversation inside the losing locker room, which cleared out quicker than you can say, "Baker Mayfield, please."
Where there once was a nasty divide between the offense and defense, there’s now a chasm between the guys who think Elway was accurate when he called the Broncos “soft” and those who think No. 7 is just full of it.
“I think everybody — we didn’t take kindly to those remarks,” Marshall said.
“Nothing soft in my bones,” Chris Harris Jr. said.
“Whatever (Elway) says goes,” Derek Wolfe countered. “If the boss says this is not good enough, that means everybody is going to get fired.”
With his own appraisal of the "soft" comments, Joseph also divulged how much Elway is involved in daily operations. Turns out, Elway's hot take wasn't just a guess.
“John watches this team every day. He watches every meeting, he watches every practice, he watches every game,” Joseph said. “When he said that, I was initially offended. But in some aspects he’s right. When you’ve lost that many games in a row, you have to do things in a tougher manner.”
Broncos Country has seen its voicebox go hoarse by debating if Siemian or Osweiler is the best choice at quarterback. Meanwhile, in the worst stretch for the franchise in almost 30 years, the other guy can’t get on the field.
Playing Lynch now is a must. Either he proves the Broncos are wrong, or he'll be so bad the first-round quarterback brings another first-round quarterback.
At this point the Broncos should take wins any way they can get 'em.