Everything points to Mark Sanchez as the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback.
Everything except a definitive endorsement from his head coach.
Sanchez has the NFL playing experience, the 78 starts, the ups through 95 touchdown passes, and the downs of 86 interceptions, while his two competitors, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, have none, none, none and none.
A veteran of six NFL playing seasons, seven overall (he was injured and missed the 2013 season), Sanchez was the No. 1 quarterback all offseason. Even during the one week of organized team activities (OTAs) when Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak rotated his three quarterbacks with the No. 1 offense, it was Sanchez who went first.
And yet when Kubiak addressed the quarterback position during his offseason-ending press conference last week, he would only say Sanchez and Siemian are in a virtual tie for No. 1.
Maybe Kubiak had so much success keeping the public guessing on whether he was behind Brock Osweiler or Peyton Manning during the second-half of last season, the coach wants to keep the mystery going for a second year. Only this time with a new set of characters.
Maybe, Kubiak’s non-declarative is because even though Siemian has been primarily running the No. 2 offense, he has been a touch more consistent than Sanchez through the offseason.
My thought? Sanchez is the guy. He’s going to be the Broncos’ starting quarterback Sept. 8 against Carolina in the Super Bowl 50 rematch. But because Sanchez hasn’t played much the previous three years, Kubiak can’t anoint him.
The Broncos need to first see Sanchez play in those first two preseason games at Chicago on Aug. 11 and home against San Francisco on Aug. 20 before they fully embrace him by that all-important third preseason game Aug. 27 against the Los Angeles Rams.
“Sure. I understand that,” Sanchez said. “Listen, I’m grateful for the opportunity. If they say compete in checkers or shuffleboard or flipping coins or playing hoops, I don’t care what it is. I feel like I can win. As long as they want that to go on, I’ve just got to keep winning.’’
The rookie Lynch showed his first round-caliber physical talent during the offseason. He does have a terrific arm that delivers a nice ball. He moves extremely well for a quarterback with a 6-foot-7 frame. It’s finding the correct receiver and delivering on time that Lynch must work on.
Siemian, though, was clearly the most consistent of the three quarterbacks in the three principles of NFL quarterback play. The three principles of playing NFL quarterback?
“In our QB room, we have decision-making, timing and accuracy,’’’ Siemian said. “Those three things. That’s not the whole pie but that’s a big chunk of it. There’s guys who have had success doing it different ways around the league. But usually, for the most part, most guys who have had success will do those three things pretty consistently.’’
A seventh-round draft pick last season out of Northwestern, Siemian missed most of his rookie offseason to recover from the torn ACL in his left knee late in his senior season.
He recovered in time to have a pleasantly surprising successful preseason, completing 23 of 40 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns while demonstrating poise in the clutch.
This year, Siemian has demonstrated mobility.
“I’m healthy which is nice,’’ he said. “It took me about a full year to feel right, I would say. So I’m excited to have my health back.”
He has also taken advantage of his year of study and playing in Kubiak’s offensive system. Siemian seemed to more often find open receivers, and find them sooner, than did Sanchez and Lynch, who are in their first season with the Broncos.
There were times during the final week of OTAs that Siemian seemed to play cautiously, completing a high percentage of checkdown passes. That may have been a function, though, of taking what the defense gave him. By the end of OTAs, the defense pretty much knew the play that was coming before the snap.
“I think I put myself in position to compete during this month or so here,” Siemian said.
Sanchez’ NFL journey is unlike any other. Because the football world thought Josh McDaniels was going to select the USC prospect for the Broncos with the No. 12 overall pick in the first round of the 2009 draft, the New York Jets traded up from No. 17 to No. 5 to take Sanchez. (McDaniels had no intention of taking Sanchez, but he put on a big bluff.)
Playing a relatively conservative, game-manager style in his first two seasons, Sanchez was terrific come playoff time, winning two games each year while beating the likes of Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Manning.
By his fourth season with the Jets, Sanchez’ play suffered. He threw 13 touchdown passes against 18 interceptions in 2012, then suffered a torn labrum in the preseason of 2013 and needed season-ending surgery.
He moved on to Philadelphia where in the next two seasons he backed up first Nick Foles, and then Sam Bradford.
The way it usually works in the NFL, a player who has been out of sight for a while becomes out of mind. Sanchez, though, not only has a strong chance to start again, he has a chance to start for the defending Super Bowl champs.
“I pinch myself that I got this opportunity now,’’ he said. “But I’m also more and more grateful for those first two years we had in New York. It’s not like that. It’s not scripted like that for a lot of people those first two years.
“Even when I would do interviews I thought this thing is not that hard -- going to playoffs every year, we’re not knocking on the door to go to the Super Bowl. We’re going to win one soon, I can feel it. Then you see what it’s like for a lot of players their entire careers. A lot of players don’t even get to play in a playoff game.’’
Or consider this: Sanchez had a 4-2 playoff record after his first two seasons. It took Manning nine seasons to get his fourth playoff win.
“It was such a blessing and so much success in such a short, bottled up piece of time,” Sanchez said. “It went so quick and now what’s going on, who knows what’s going to happen? This is the most important thing.
“I’ve just got to work through, whatever it is, I’ve got to work through it. I’ve got to control what I can control and hope for another shot. When I get that shot, like I do here, that’s it. Don’t look back. Give it everything you’ve got. Don’t find myself in 10 years saying, ‘Man, if I only would have worked harder.’’