DENVER — The trivia answer raises eyebrows, and creates pause. In the Broncos' celebrated history only one drafted quarterback owns a playoff victory: Tim Tebow.
Does this need to change as the Broncos look toward the draft on April 25 in Nashville? Unless you have been living in a spider cave or on the ocean floor with SpongeBob, you realize the Broncos have issues at the game's most important position.
Joe Flacco represents the team's fifth starting quarterback since Peyton Manning retired (and sixth if counting offseasons since Mark Sanchez briefly held the job). A common thread connects losing teams: instability at quarterback and head coach. The Broncos have experienced heavy doses of both over the last five years.
Flacco enters this offseason at age 34, agreeing with general manager John Elway’s assessment that he’s “in his prime.” Coach Vic Fangio cited Flacco’s availability, passion for winning and “stinger,” in why he believes he can help execute a U-turn.
Flacco, without question, fills a room. There remains no question that teammates will follow him, drawn to his leadership and resume, which is bedazzled by a Super Bowl ring. Still, like Case Keenum before him, the Broncos are dating Flacco, not married. He is playing on an $18.5 million salary with no guarantees after this season. He wins, he stays, and the rest of this article becomes a fruitless, if not fun hypothetical.
The Broncos own the 10th overall pick. They have Flacco, and retained Kevin Hogan. Is that enough? My Denver7 case for selecting a quarterback in the first round.
1) From now own
Elway makes moves with a narrow focus. The Broncos are attempting to avoid three-straight losing seasons for the first time since a 10-year slide from 1963-1972. They haven’t had three consecutive double-figure loss campaigns since 1967. All moves this offseason suggest a team attempting to rebound, not rebuild. And yet, what happens if Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock are on the board at 10? Is it time to shift from "for now" to "from now on?" Haskins is the one who is most curious. He has good size, plus arm strength and works from the pocket. Haskins, who will visit Dove Valley, started one season at Ohio State, so the idea he redshirts a year behind Flacco makes sense. Lock, who visited the Broncos on Monday, is valued more by scouts than media. He has terrific tools, but bombed in games against the SEC’s best last season.
2) Change the view
Everything the Broncos do is measured on their record in the upcoming season. There’s no context or perspective. Win today. I love that about the Broncos. However, they could benefit from a transitional period, framing to fans the idea that they are trying to win, but it might take two years before the roster fills out. It’s easier to frame a future playoff discussion for 2020 if Haskins, for instance, is on the roster.
3) Have a Plan B
Broncos Country wants Flacco to succeed. This is a city and a region not accustomed to losing. If Flacco does a Triple Lindy into the Fountain of Youth and plays like it’s 2014, the Broncos will return to the postseason. If he doesn’t? Then, the Broncos face an offseason of finding their sixth starting quarterback since Manning. That concern would be eased with a quarterback at 10.
4) It creates freedom
Follow me on this for argument’s sake. A quarterback falls in the Broncos’ lap at 10. It wasn’t the plan for a roster with so many issues, but proves too valuable to pass up. Drafting a quarterback frees the Broncos to address other needs in the early rounds in 2020 and beyond. Get the right young QB, and it balances payroll, and allows the front office to fill pressing needs rather than chasing one position as other spots rot from neglect.
5) Elway flips script
At the combine, I asked Elway, after everything he’s accomplished as a player and executive, why he wants to keep working. His legacy is secure. He doesn’t need the job. He told me he wants to “fix this.” He is wildly competitive, and desperate to return the franchise to glory. How good would Elway look in his scenario: Flacco gets the Broncos to the playoffs with a 9-7 record and Haskins or the like takes over in 2020. Winning returns, and the future appears a few shades brighter with a younger solution under center.
Reasons for taking a quarterback in the top 10 – where chances of success increase dramatically – are available and logical. And I don’t expect it. This draft brims with defensive talent at linebacker, defensive line, cornerback and edge rushers. If Haskins and Lock came out last year, they would have rated behind all first-rounders save for Lamar Jackson. I expect the Broncos to take a quarterback, but it’s more likely in the second to sixth rounds rather than with a top 10 selection.