ENGLEWOOD—Rex Ryan knows that when it comes to evaluating college quarterbacks for the NFL, there are no geniuses, not even John Elway.
As head coach of the New York Jets, Ryan went to two AFC Conference Championship Games with Mark Sanchez at quarterback – a feat that becomes more impressive with each passing year. But inadequate quarterback play eventually helped take Ryan down as head coach with the Jets and then the Buffalo Bills, to the point he is now an ESPN color analyst who will call the Broncos’ opener Monday night against the Los Angeles Chargers.
During a conference call Wednesday, Ryan was asked about the Broncos’ quarterback picture now that first-round, second-year quarterback Paxton Lynch failed to, first, win the starting job, and then injured his right throwing shoulder.
Lynch has not come along as hoped. It’s too early to call him a bust, but Elway, the Broncos’ general manager, said after he traded up to get Lynch with the No. 26 overall pick in the first round 17 months ago, his prospect would be “ready sooner rather than later.”
Ambiguous as that may be, it’s safe to conclude sooner is gone. Whether Elway missed on his evaluation, or two offensive coordinators and two quarterback coaches in two years couldn’t unlock Lynch’s potential, or it was the player himself, first-round draft picks are supposed to be playing by now.
“As everybody has said it’s probably the toughest position to evaluate,’’ Ryan said. “I know for many years I’ve tried, and failed. But you’ve got to keep taking throws at it because if you get a franchise quarterback like a John Elway – and they come from different ways, look at Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick. So, you’ve got to keep taking throws at it till you hit one because if you get one, if you get a franchise quarterback, then you’re pretty much set. It’s hard not to make the playoffs with a franchise quarterback. I think that’s why the demand is so high. But it’s got to be the hardest position there is to find.
“You always say he has the ‘it’ factor. Well, really? Well, go ahead with all the analytics and everything else that you have out there, go find that guy with ‘it’ thing. It’s much (easier) said than done.’’
However, it does sound like Trevor Siemian is growing on Ryan. After Siemian beat out Sanchez and Lynch for the Broncos’ starting quarterback job last year, Ryan publicly stated it was time for Lynch this year. Instead, it’s once again the seventh-round draft pick from Northwestern.
“The thing about Siemian is, look, I was the guy who was saying Paxton Lynch will be the quarterback,’’ Ryan said. “You invest that first-round pick he will automatically be the quarterback. But you forget about the other guy. Well, there’s competition at that position. This is the second time that Trevor Siemian’s won the job. Nothing was given to him. If anything, he was probably the underdog in both those scenarios but he wound up winning the position.
“So, that’ll tell ya about him. He’s got grit, he’s got command of the offense. And the biggest thing I see is the players believe in him. He was voted team captain last year. So, that’s a huge thing for him. The guys buy in, they believe in him. They know he believes in himself and I think that’s what you have to have at that position.’’
The Broncos are voting on team captains today. It would be a surprise if Siemian is not elected an offensive captain.
“Obviously, he doesn’t have the measurables that you look for when you say this is what you want as a standard with the height and all that stuff,’’ Ryan said. “But this is a game based on production. And that’s all people need to know. He’s had success in the league when he’s been healthy. And let’s face it, it’s pretty good when you have a great defense behind you and he certainly has that.’’