Paul Klee: No more rookie alibis for Paxton Lynch and Denver Broncos in Year 2

By: Paul Klee
February 21, 2017 Updated: February 22, 2017 at 7:37 am
Caption +
Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch scrambles with the ball during the second quarter of a game against the Falcons at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium on Sunday, October 9, 2016. The Broncos lost their first game of the season 23-16. photo by Jerilee Bennett,The Gazette

DENVER — Should the Broncos' cafeteria serve only chili cheese fries as appetizers?

Paxton Lynch loves chili cheese fries. What about switching his jersey from No. 12 to No. 1, the number belonging to Lynch's favorite quarterback, Cam Newton? Should local media talk and write only about the Broncos' second-year quarterback during the NFL's offseason?

OK, we've got the last one covered.

The Broncos have Lynch covered — in every way a 23-year-old quarterback could ever hope, dream or wish. From the way he was drafted to the wide receivers paid handsomely to catch his passes to the staff they brought in to coach him up, it's possible the Broncos never have invested more in a single player than Lynch. Once general manager John Elway ravages the draft and free agency for an offensive lineman or four — and you know that's the next step in the process — the castle around Lynch will be built for a king.

Now it's on Lynch to prove he's worth the throne.

Judging a quarterback on his first season is too harsh. Despite an underwhelming debut season that saw Lynch get beat out for the starting job by Trevor Siemian in training camp and stay beat out while the offense narrowly outgained the Tim Tebow season in 2011 (5,169 yards to 5,066), the leap from the AAC to the AFC is real. Rookie quarterbacking is no joke.

It didn't help Lynch's cause that the Broncos had been emboldened by a Super Bowl-winning season in which the quarterback was more of a game manager than a risk-taking gunslinger. Gary Kubiak saw Siemian lead Northwestern to a win against mighty Notre Dame and stuck with Siemian through thick and thin. And if a coach's job is to identify the better quarterback, Ol' Kubes made the logical choice. It was clear to everyone at training camp Siemian won the job fair and square over Lynch. But the rookie alibi is no longer.

To make certain Lynch succeeds in Colorado, the Broncos have done everything aside from hiring Stuart Smalley to build his confidence with daily affirmations: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, Demaryius likes me!" On draft day 2015, the Broncos traded the 31st and 94th overall picks to Seattle to move up in the first round and hitch their future to the Lynch wagon. (File this away for Tuesday trivia night at the local pub: the Seahawks used those picks on Texas A&M offensive lineman Germain Ifedi and Ohio State tight end Nick Vannett.) The Broncos also have committed $70 million guaranteed to wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to make sure the next quarterback has able pass catchers.

Then there is the coaching change. After seeing Lynch rock an ankle-length winter coat on the sideline instead of a jersey with grass stains in the meaningless season finale against the Raiders, the Broncos went out and hired a former head coach and offensive coordinator as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Mike McCoy and Bill Musgrave were the best available options, a coup by any measure. And it must have been a feather in their caps that McCoy has worked with all levels of quarterbacks over the past six years, from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning to Philip Rivers. Meanwhile, Musgrave helped Matt Ryan, Michael Vick and Derek Carr reach the Pro Bowl by the time each quarterback was 25 years young. Theirs is a braintrust built for Paxton.

The Broncos washed his Titleist and placed it on a tee. Now it's on Lynch to stripe one down the fairway.

The Broncos should kick the tires on a deal with ex-Cowboys star Tony Romo. As anyone who shelled out $99.99 for the No. 18 jersey hanging in their closet would tell you, signing a proven quarterback is the fastest way to success in the NFL. And signing Romo fits their M.O. to a 'T': the Broncos are more like the Yankees than a franchise that seeks to develop stars from within. Super Bowl 50 doesn't happen without big-splash additions Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib.

But if the Broncos roll with the quarterbacks already in the house, there will be no rookie alibis for Lynch. What the team has invested in him should be enough to succeed in Year 2 and beyond. Then it's chili cheese fries for everyone.

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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