CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- After eight months of evaluation, three weeks of training camp and two exhibition games, clarity arrived in the Broncos' quarterback derby on Monday afternoon.
What was obvious Saturday became official 48 hours later.
Coach Vance Joseph namedTrevor Siemian the starter for the season opener on Sept. 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers. For the second straight year, Siemian won the QB derby, staving off former first-round pick Paxton Lynch.
"Whatever happened, I was proud of the body of work I put together going back to OTAs," Siemian said. "As a quarterback and leader of team, I have to embrace that. I will continue be an authentic teammate. Hopefully teammates can rely on me. That’s my mindset.”
Steady play proved decisive for Siemian. He gained the trust of the coaching staff with his reliability.
"The operation of the entire offense—decision-making, ball placement—was more consistent with Trevor, that’s why he won the job,” Joseph said.
Joseph said he met with both quarterbacks Monday morning and both understood the decision. He informed the rest of the team at a meeting ahead of the news conference.
Joseph admitted Siemian was the “clear-cut winner,” and said that he told Siemian simply to “be a leader.” He also said Lynch was “a guy with rare talent” who needs more reps in practice.
“We’re all going to support Paxton moving forward. He’s a young player, he’s got a bright future still,” Joseph said. “And in my opinion, we have two quarterbacks. Most teams can’t say that, and I truly believe that.”
Added Lynch, who has a strong relationship with Siemian, "It's disappointing. I just really want to continue to get better and not sit around and pout and be upset because that's not going to make anything better."
Lynch serves as the Broncos’ backup, and he will not compete with Kyle Sloter for the job. Sloter’s been an impressive rookie in camp for the Broncos out of Northern Colorado. The Broncos have no plans to keep three quarterbacks on the active roster, leaving the practice squad, either here or somewhere else, as a potential avenue into the league for Sloter.
Timing, even if the Broncos downplayed it, played a role. This is a game plan week against the Packers, a dress rehearsal for the regular season. There's no denying the quarterback needs to be in place.
“It was important to make the decision now—when it was clear. And it was clear,” he said, adding that it wasn’t a surprise to the team that Siemian was named the starter.
Joseph added that Siemian would play the first half of Saturday’s preseason game against Green Bay, and that Lynch would play the second half.
“Trevor is ready to lead this team,” Joseph said.
Rookie tackle Garett Bolles will start the season opener against Los Angeles, and Allen Barbre and Max Garcia are battling for the starting left guard spot. Ronald Leary will stay at right guard, Joseph said.
Anyone who watched Saturday's game knew Monday's press conference was a formality. Siemian proved he ready to start, while Lynch needs more seasoning. Siemian was succinct Saturday when asked if he had done enough to win the job.
"I think so," Siemian said. "I am not the coach. But I think I did."
Joseph established the rubric for the competition: He wanted solid decision making, production and leadership. Siemian trumped Lynch, who showed clear progress this summer, in all categories. While Lynch took the early lead in camp, Siemian passed him once pads came on and the playbook expanded. As Siemian grew more comfortable in new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy's offense, Lynch lagged behind, struggling to make reads beyond his first target. So big was Siemian's advantage entering last week, it made Lynch's start against the San Francisco 49ers seem pointless.
However, the former Memphis star rallied, putting together his best two practices since the start of camp. He rekindled optimism that perhaps he could close the gap, and force the competition into another week. In the end, Lynch failed to do enough. He looked more like Siemiam, who plays the conservative role better. Lynch completed 9 of 13 passes for 39 yards and rushed three times for 27 yards. He missed two wide open receivers, including Demaryius Thomas on third-and-6. And he reacted late to a blitz that led to a sack. Moments later, Siemian delivered a touchdown against the same pressure, illustrating Siemian's stage of development.
Joseph wants the starter to take the job by the reins, and ignite an offense that nosedived last season (26th in red zone touchdown percentage). However, Siemian must prove he can be effective and stay healthy. The Broncos went 8-6 under his watch last season as he threw 18 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. However, he missed two games with shoulder and ankle injuries.
"The way you stay on the field and stay healthy is decision making," said Siemian before explaining what could help him become a franchise quarterback. "Win a lot of games, go to the playoffs, throw in a Super Bowl. Those are what those guys do."