John Elway has a lot of work to do this coming offseason to rebuild the Denver Broncos’ roster. His first step should be admitting he was wrong and cutting ties with quarterback Paxton Lynch.
While Lynch may be one of the more physically talented quarterbacks in the NFL, it’s become abundantly clear over the last two seasons that he doesn’t have the drive, work ethic, competitive fire, or football I.Q. to be the Broncos’ long-term solution at the most important position in the sport.
Elway made a significant investment into Lynch when he traded up in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft to select the former Memphis Tigers star. At the time, the move made perfect sense.
Within a span of one week in March, the Broncos watched Peyton Manning retire, and his presumed replacement, Brock Osweiler, spurn them for more money with the Houston Texans.
About a month later, Lynch helped himself by putting on an absolute show at his pro day during a scripted workout in a t-shirt and shorts. He showed above-average athleticism, and wowed everybody in attendance (which included Elway and his staff) with his arm strength.
When they drafted Lynch with the No. 26 overall pick, the only quarterbacks on the Broncos’ roster were Trevor Siemian, a former seventh-round pick, and Mark Sanchez, an embattled journeyman veteran. On paper, it looked like Lynch was a near-lock to be Denver’s Week 1 starter to open the 2016 season, despite his inexperience playing in a pro-style offense.
Instead, Siemian won the job and Lynch served as the team’s backup. He got to make two starts in his rookie season, going 1-1, while completing 49 of 83 passes (59%) for 497 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a quarterback rating of 79.2. He was very mediocre, but most of his issues were chalked up to the fact that he was a talented, but raw, rookie.
This past offseason, the Broncos did everything they could to set Lynch up to win the team’s starting job in his second professional season. They hired an offensive coordinator (Mike McCoy) whose system was a better fit for Lynch’s skillset; they made their quarterback battle a true open competition when they didn’t really have to; and they hired one of the most respected quarterback coaches in the NFL (Bill Musgrave).
Regardless, Lynch still proved to be overwhelmed by the speed of the professional level and the complexities of an NFL playbook. He was beaten out by Siemian for a second-consecutive year, and to make matters worse, Lynch suffered a sprained right (throwing) shoulder in the team’s final preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Siemian got off to a hot start, but quickly cooled off and was eventually replaced by Osweiler. Lynch returned from his shoulder injury in time to take over for Osweiler, who had also struggled in his three starts, against the Oakland Raiders in Week 12.
Against the Raiders, Lynch completed 9 of 14 passes for 41 yards, no touchdowns, 1 interception, and a quarterback rating of 38.4 before suffering a high ankle sprain in the third quarter.
The ankle injury has kept Lynch out of action in four-straight games, and it almost seems like the 23-year-old doesn’t really want to play.
Denver has made it clear that they want to see Lynch play before the end of the season to help with their evaluation process. Leading up to the Broncos’ Week 16 game against the Washington Redskins, coach Vance Joseph said that Lynch was about “90 percent” healthy.
Simply put: If he had the competitive drive that is necessary to be a successful NFL quarterback, Lynch would have been on the field against the Redskins on Sunday. Guys like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan would never miss an opportunity to play if they were 90 percent healthy.
In the best interests of the Broncos, Elway needs to swallow his pride, admit he was wrong about Lynch, and send the former first-round pick packing.