CHICAGO — Butterflies become pterodactyls. Palms sweat. Pulses race.
Games raise emotions. Preseason games? Not so much. But this is not a normal exhibition. The Broncos, you might have heard, are searching for a starting quarterback in the competition between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. And their coach, Vance Joseph, is making his debut.
"Just to see our team," Joseph said, "to see our young kids play and to see our quarterbacks play, it’s a huge, huge game for a lot of people on this football team including myself.”
Joseph will direct traffic without the benefit of his best player. Von Miller is a healthy scratch as first reported by Denver7. It's not deemed worth the risk. Joseph left an out earlier this week when asked about the All-Pro outside linebacker. He used the term "as of now," when asked if Miller would play. There was always a chance he would not. That it could be raining at kickoff makes this an easy decision for a coach concerned about accidental injury.
Other players working out with Miller before the game who have been ruled out: center Matt Paradis (hips), inside linebacker Todd Davis (shoulder) and Jamaal Charles (knee). The starting defense is slated to play as little as one series and as many as three depending on performance and the length of the drives. Safety T.J. Ward (right hamstring) is also out, but could return to practice next week.
Joseph has earned high marks from players for his training camp. He brings energy, and a youthful vibe (particularly in the music selection).
Joseph has commanded respect, served as a captain and exuded a presence since the first time I met him at the University of Colorado as an option quarterback in the 1990s. However, he has never served as head coach at any level. Tonight is a terrific platform to audition. The coaching staff, too, needs to begin to mesh. Both coordinators, Mike McCoy and Joe Woods, will be on the sideline. They prefer it because of the communication it allows with players regarding nuances of the game.
So does Joseph. He has shown it practice. Now, he gets an opportunity under the lights.
"He is a player's coach. He understands what's going on," running back C.J. Anderson said. "He understands certain things that are going on in practice, where we need to be at the right time. It's just good to have someone out there like that."
With preseason games underway, take a look back at training camp in the 360-degree video below.