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Woody Paige: Broncos left with quarterback conundrum

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Posted at 2:54 PM, Aug 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-22 16:54:28-04

DENVER -- The Broncos have a quizzical quarterback quandary.

Mark Sanchez?

Trevor Siemian?

Paxton Lynch?

Here are the statistics of two exhibitions: Sanchez, 20 of 30 completions for 219 yards and one touchdown; Siemian, 17 of 26 for 168 yards and zero touchdowns; Lynch, 21 of 33 for 187 yards and two touchdowns. If you just dropped onto Earth and hadn’t seen the games, you might say the veteran Sanchez has the lead to be the Broncos quarterback.

But, then, there’s this: Sanchez, one interception, two fumbles in the Red Zone and three sacks; Siemian, one interception, 0 fumbles and one sack; Lynch, one interception, 0 fumbles and three sacks. Uh, who is the leader now?

On Saturday night, in the lousy loss to the 49ers at (Fill In The Blank) Field at Mile High Stadium, the Broncos’ quarterbacks made more mistakes than U.S. swimmers at a gas station in Brazil.

The Broncos’ quarterback is (Fill In The Blank).

Coach Gary Kubiak can’t even fill in the blank yet.

TV sports media analysts, not always the sharpest tools in the shed, tend to answer all questions with: “There is no question about it.” If there was no question about it, why was there a question to begin with?

Guess what, guys?  There is definitely a question about it in regard to the Broncos’ starting quarterback.

In the off-season, after Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler flew off to Houston because the Texans would “show him the money” (a la “Jerry McGuire”) in the form of a four-year deal that could end up paying him $72 million (a figure the Broncos weren’t about to pay), the Broncos were left with Siemian, who had played one snap last season when Brock was the starter and Peyton was hurt.

Siemian knelt.

So John Elway had to come up with a Plan B, or a Plan C or Plan X.

They started by trading for Sanchez, who had been gone from being a quarterback drafted fifth overall by the Jets to playing in an AFC Championship as a rookie, to reaching the playoffs again the next season, to being a non-postseason QB who was booed and made fun of (“butt fumble”) to being drawn into a controversy when the Jets acquired Tim Tebow from the Broncos, to being yanked as a starter (and not being replaced by Tebow), to being released, to being signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as a backup, to playing occasionally when the starter was hurt, to being expendable again, and, finally, to being obtained by the Broncos as a potential backup.

“This is just the start,” Elway said, of the process to replace Manning.

The Broncos wanted Colin Kaepernick, but he didn’t want to take a significant pay cut from a guaranteed $11.9 million. The Broncos checked out and rejected RGIII and Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Hoyer and all the McCown Bros.

They traded up in the first round to select Paxton Lynch.

And, in OTAs and at the beginning of training camp, Sanchez seemed to rise to Plan A.

Up popped Siemian.

It was Sanchez’ job to lose. And he’s losing it with turnovers. In fact, he could have suffered another interception Saturday night, if the 49ers cornerback didn’t have bad hands.

The idea is to have a quarterback who will protect the ball and not have multiple turnovers, and keep the Broncos in the game, so that the best defense in the NFL — as it did last year — wins it.

After Siemian smoothly and expertly took the Broncos 86 yards on the first drive Saturday night, it seemed as if he had moved past Sanchez. Then he threw a pick-six on his first pass of the second quarter.

Sanchez took San Fran apart when he went in and appeared to be back in control of his fate as quarterback. But he fumbled on consecutive possessions in the final minute when the Broncos could have and should have scored a touchdown.

When Sanchez threw three incompletions to begin the second half, he was dumped for Lynch.

And Lynch did have two touchdown passes, but he, too, caused a turnover on an interception.

If there had been an exit poll taken of the 70,000-plus people at the stadium on Saturday night, Siemian and Lynch would have finished a close 1-2 in the vote, and Sanchez would have been a bad third.

But the media and the fans are not choosing the quarterback for Denver.

What does Kubiak do for Exhibition Three against the Rams Saturday night?  Who starts with the other starters? Lynch? Siemian? Is Sanchez given one more chance?

Two prominent national writers, Pete Prisco and Peter King, have both declared Siemian should be the starter for the regular season.

 If I were in charge of the world and the Broncos, I’d go with Paxton. Good thing I’m not in charge of anything.

Yet, the three-man triumvirate of Kubiak, Elway and quarterback coach Greg Knapp will make the decision.

Yes, there is a question, a quandary, a curious puzzle surrounding the starting quarterback. And it probably won’t be settled Saturday night or even on the opening Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Peyton sits back in his Cherry Hills mansion taking it all in.

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