Had the Denver Broncos started their vacation two weeks earlier, head coach Vance Joseph could have called off the quarterback competition.
Trevor Siemian would have been the clear No. 1 not so much by default, but with little threat from No. 2.
But in those final two weeks of the Broncos’ offseason program – the final week OTAs (organized team activities) and only week of mandatory minicamp – something happened to Paxton Lynch.
His switch was flipped. He started to get it. He started to play as if he was doing just that – playing. Playing and not thinking about his protections and hot reads and coverages and delivering the ball on time.
“Yeah, I mean the more reps I’m getting with these guys, the more I get to go against the defense and see the looks live compared to just on paper, it’s helping me a lot,’’ Lynch said in an offseason exit interview of sorts with 9News. “I think each practice I’ve progressively got better.’’
It’s not that Lynch has overtaken Siemian. It’s just that his game is now in legitimate position to compete once training camp opens July 27 and the preseason schedule begins Aug. 10 at Chicago.
It’s now a little easier to predict how this quarterback will finish. Joseph and his top offensive coaches Mike McCoy and Bill Musgrave -- with general manager John Elway observing from on high – will have to decide between Siemian, who is the more consistent, accurate and experienced under game pressure, or Lynch, who is capable of making more off-script plays but will also make more mistakes.
What was noticeable about Lynch in the final two weeks of the offseason is he played with greater fearlessness.
A pick six to Taurean Nixon was followed on the next play by a long touchdown pass to Cody Latimer. That takes confidence, mental fortitude.
“I think that’s a big part of being quarterback,’’ Lynch said. “You’ve got to be that guy that’s going to make big plays whenever the team needs it. When the guys are down and we’re struggling, you’ve got to be that guy to spark a fire and get that going.’’
The regular season will destroy the Broncos’ nearly year-long narrative. There have been occasional diversions like the drafting of new rookies, a few significant injuries to rotational defensive players, and the odd social media posting by Will Parks.
But pretty much since Elway hired Joseph and the new coaching staff in January, the overwhelming conversation topic has been Trevor or Paxton, Paxton or Trevor?
“Yeah, I mean it’s been fun,’’ Lynch said. “I think it’s made me and Trevor both better players going through it. Also, I think it’s made the offense even better as well. Us competing, making us play better, making the guys around us play better.’’
The offense McCoy installed this offseason is a passed-down version of the New England system with a few twists. It’s pretty much the same offense McCoy passed down to Adam Gase in 2013 and 2014, when Peyton Manning handed off only to allow receivers like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to catch their breath.
“He’s not afraid to push the ball down the field,’’ Lynch said of McCoy. “Obviously, he takes his shots, but he’s also very smart. And then coach Musgrave, both great coaches, both great people to work with. I know he’s taught me a lot just from the short time he’s been here already but he’s very smart, very good at getting guys open and very good at working with Emmanuel and D.T. and who we’ve got on the offensive side of the ball.’’
One of the more simplistic features of the McCoy offense is it will allow the quarterback to operate more often from the shotgun position than Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, Siemian and Lynch did the previous two years under coach Gary Kubiak.
All quarterbacks prefer to play from the shotgun, even Siemian. But Lynch’s shotgun preference is even more pronounced.
After two months of offseason work, the quarterback competition will carry on through the first three weeks of training camp and the preseason. How will it go down?
“I’m not really sure,’’ Lynch said. “I guess it’s up to the coaches to decide. They get paid that kind of money to make those decisions. All I can do is go out there and play, get better every day and then whatever happens after that will happen.’’