Brock Osweiler earned the starting job. He deserves it.
Paxton Lynch earned it, too, in a college sort of way. When you play well enough in college to become a first-round draft pick, certain privileges are bestowed. These rights don’t expire, apparently, until after the second season.
Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, general manager John Elway and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will meet Monday morning to decide whether to start Osweiler, who was marvelous in an off-the-bench performance in relief of the injured Trevor Siemian on Thursday at Indianapolis, or Lynch, who hasn’t practiced in three weeks because of a high ankle sprain, on Christmas Eve in Washington.
“Paxton being a young guy, we want to see him play more, so that part will have some bearing there,’’ Joseph said. “So we’ll see. Brock played really well last night. He made some big-time throws and his leadership showed. He played with great poise and he took care of the football. That’s going to be a long and hard conversation.”
If Lynch plays, it wouldn’t be the first time potential beat out production. The Broncos traded up 20 months ago in the first round of the draft to take Lynch with the No.26 overall selection.
Lynch struggled as a redshirted freshman starter at Memphis but he rushed for 13 touchdowns as a sophomore and threw 28 touchdowns against just 4 interceptions as a junior.
In taking Lynch, the Broncos outmaneuvered Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys, who were settled for a consolation prize in Dak Prescott.
That Prescott went on to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award didn’t help Lynch, who was beat out by Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round draft pick.
Ordinarily, the Broncos decision to play Lynch in a 5-9 season would receive zero resistance, complete understanding. There is some pause this time, though, because the team already made its play-for-next-year move back in game 11, when the 3-7 Broncos played at Oakland.
Lynch looked good early, then threw a pick in the end zone on second-and-goal from the 1. He then mustered just one first down in the Broncos’ next four, full possessions, then he hurt his ankle, and then he got emotional on the bench when he hit him he was finished.
The tears bothered some football observers, but they also showed how much he wanted to play well and how crushed he was that he wasn’t going to see it through.
The Broncos have played three games since and Lynch not only didn’t play in any of them, he didn’t practice.
Osweiler rescued the Broncos against the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night and clearly he would give Denver a better chance to beat Washington than Lynch would.
But that’s not the point when the team is 5-9 and a long, long away from its usual Super Bowl-or-bust mentality.
The Broncos could use the preseason approach and have Osweiler play the first half at Washington and Lynch the second. That’s what I’d do, I guess.
Or they could just let Lynch start and play out the final two games. With Osweiler’s contract expiring after this season and not expected to be with the Broncos in 2018, playing Lynch, and only Lynch, is logical for the long-term. (Personally, I think the Broncos should consider shifting their thinking to, 'Why not Brock?' But I don't think that will be the case).
The real problem here is long-term the decision may not matter. The Broncos’ 2018 starting quarterback likely isn’t currently on their active roster or injured reserve. Here's hoping before the season ends, the Broncos break out the Wildcat.