Paxton Lynch still walks our earth. He’s still on the Broncos roster. He still could someday contend for the starting job. He’s still 6-foot-7 and blessed with a powerful right arm.
For weeks, it’s seemed The Big Man does not even exist. He’s become invisible. He’s been dismissed.
He delivered a decent performance against the Chiefs’ second-string defense to end the 2017 season. He’s only 24, and he’s been given the blessing to sit and learn behind Case Keenum, a football craftsman.
Am I convinced Lynch will someday develop into one of the NFL’s top 16 quarterbacks?
But that’s not out of the realm of possibility, and Lynch still has a strong chance to join the bottom half of the NFL’s top 32 quarterbacks, which means he could someday claim a starting job somewhere.
I asked Bronco coach Vance Joseph if he had talked with Lynch following the Keenum signing.
Yes, Joseph answered.
The coach said Lynch handled the news well. Lynch has a realistic view of his development. He knows he needs more time.
“Paxton is a young player,” Joseph said. “A guy who has four starts. It’s a new football world where you draft these guys and they have to play early and I don’t believe in that.
“For Paxton to have a chance to play behind Case, a guy who has been through a lot in his career, that can benefit Paxton. He has a chance to watch and learn how to prepare as an NFL starter behind a guy who’s been through ups-and-downs.”
Good point, Vance.
Talent is valuable, for sure, but perseverance can be even more precious. A year ago, Keenum resided in the NFL junk pile, which was no massive shock. He embarked on his pro ride as an undrafted free agent.
But he kept learning, kept pushing himself, kept improving. Keenum, 30, arrives in Colorado as the $18 million man after a sensational season with the Vikings. He persevered.
A quarterback should be not erased at 24 years old. Lynch’s story isn’t over. His story has barely begun.
Lynch realizes this truth.
“I want to be the quarterback of this organization,” Lynch said after the Chiefs loss. “... That’s what I believe in my heart. That’s what I’m trying to do, and that’s what I’m working to do.”
And he knows much work remains.
“I think there is just so much more I can get better at. That’s what I’m excited about. As a player, there is always something to grow, and this year obviously didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, but you have to move on from that.”
For most of us, the only lasting impression of Lynch came Nov. 26 when he sat weeping on the Bronco bench. He had played poorly in a loss to the Raiders and suffered a wickedly painful high ankle sprain.
His moment of sorrow divides those who adore Broncos, and the divide tilts toward those horrified by a young man’s open display of emotion. I’ve talked with a dozen fans who said serving as Broncos quarterback, the leader of our state’s secular religion, demands Winston Churchill-like poise and courage.
Tears are not acceptable.
I have a different reaction. I saw a young man in pain. A young man who knew he had fumbled a big opportunity. A young man who deeply cares.
A young man who can still surprise us.