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Woody Paige: Paxton Lynch has 6 weeks to establish if he's a Bronco or a Bust

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Posted at 10:13 AM, Nov 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-24 12:13:00-05

Paxton Lynch has six weeks to establish if he is a Bronco or a Bust.

Is Lynch the franchise’s starting quarterback of the future, or another JAG (Just A Guy) in the long line of past Broncos’ failures?

We’ll know considerable more by New Year’s Eve. Is Paxton the hope or the hopeless?

We do know that, despite what one lazy radio sports gabber claimed, this is not the first time the Broncos have started at least three quarterbacks in the same season.

Actually, this will be the ninth season in the team’s history that a trio of QBs started at least one game.

In two seasons, 1963 and 1966, the Broncos tried four different starters. The first time the Broncos finished 2-11-1 with a quarterback quartet, and three seasons later, they managed a 4-10 mark.

The first five seasons of three quarterbacks produced 4-10, 3-11, 5-9, 5-8-1, 6-8 and 2-7 (strike season in ’82) records. The last two were improved. In 1983, because of injuries to both John Elway and Steve DeBerg, Gary Kubiak started one game – and won. The Broncos ended up 9-7 and reached the playoffs (losing to the Seahawks when DeBerg started and Elway finished). Jake Plummer was the starter in ’03, but was forced out with an injury. Steve Beuerlein started the next two games, and he was hurt, too. Danny Kanell started two games before Plummer returned to push the Broncos into the playoffs (a defeat to the Colts and Peyton Manning).

Starting three and four quarterbacks in one season usually, though, is not a good thing.

Lynch is starting because the other two quarterbacks flopped in a 3-7 season.

The Broncos still could manage a winning season, and possibly a postseason berth, with victories in all six remaining games. Good luck on that.

If Paxton and new coordinator Bill Musgrave lead the Broncos to an 8-8 or 9-7 record, Lynch certainly will have a chance to be a starter again in 2018.

A 4-12 or 5-11 season probably wouldn’t bode well for his return as a starter.

But, Lynch could be the next Brian Griese – which would be a positive and a negative. Griese was drafted in the fourth round of 1998, Elway’s last year, and beat out Bubby Brister as the ’99 starter. The Broncos lost their first four, and six of eight, before Griese was injured. He came back for the last five and was 2-3 as the Broncos wound up 6-10.

It was enough evidence, though, to persuade Mike Shanahan to start Griese in 2000. The Broncos were 11-5 and made the playoffs. Griese was 5-5, but missed six games with injuries, and didn’t play in the postseason loss. Griese was 8-7 in ’01 (missing one game). Griese posted an 8-5 record in ’02 (and was out for three more games because of injury), and he was dumped the season for Plummer. Griese never played in the postseason in his four seasons with Denver, but he did start for four seasons.

Yet, the only quarterback ever drafted by the Broncos to start a postseason game (two) was Tim Tebow. He won one.

That statistic is rather hard to believe. Ripley wouldn’t.

It doesn’t speak very highly of the quarterbacks the Broncos have drafted since 1960.

Tommy Maddox was a first-round bust. After 2011, Tebow was traded and never started another NFL game.

Jay Cutler was another first-round pick who never made the playoffs in Denver before being dumped.

In the past, the Broncos generally relied on veterans obtained in trades (Elway, Craig Morton and Charley Johnson) or as free agents (Manning, DeBerg, and Plummer).

Elway really wanted Lynch in the 2016 draft, and moved up to 26th in the first round to select the quarterback from the University of Memphis.

“We started working early” on a deal, Elway said after choosing Lynch. “We worked the phones from noon on (Thursday) to try to find where we could slide in. We talked to everybody starting at 17 and all the way up, and we were finally able to do a deal with the Seahawks. We were thrilled to be able to do that, and Paxton was still there. We’re extremely excited. He’s a big, athletic, strong young guy that fits us perfectly.”

However, Lynch was beaten out by Trevor Siemian last year and again this training camp. Lynch played in three games in 2016, starting two, with a 1-1 record. This year, immediately after being told he would not be the starter, Lynch injured his right shoulder in the third exhibition. He hasn’t scratched the field since, and was inactive until last week while Brock Osweiler took over.

Lynch completed 49 of 83 passes (59.04 percent) for 497 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. He has run 11 times for 25 yards, and has been sacked nine times.

Now, the ball is in his hands once more, presumably for the rest of the season.

Paxton Lynch has a make-or-break, Bronco or bust opportunity.