ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Their protracted quarterback competition last summer cost them cohesion as Trevor Siemian never really found a good rhythm with his receivers.
Now the Broncos aren’t going to name their starting QB until later in the week, another oddity in a strange season in Denver for a franchise still reeling from Peyton Manning’s retirement 21 months ago.
“Who’s the starting quarterback on Sunday?” coach Vance Joseph said Wednesday, repeating the question. “We’re not there yet.”
Joseph said Brock Osweiler, coming off his best game as a pro, and Paxton Lynch, coming back from a sprained left ankle, split snaps Wednesday “exactly down the middle, half and half.”
Joseph said Lynch “looked OK. You know he hadn’t practiced in three weeks. His ankle looked OK, not perfect. But he practiced. He started and finished practice.”
Joseph said the decision is a complicated one with several factors playing into it, “and I won’t share most of those.”
The Broncos (5-9) play Sunday at Washington (6-8), where they’ll face quarterback Kirk Cousins, whom many Broncos fans would like to see sign with Denver in the offseason.
The Broncos have juggled quarterbacks all year. Siemian started the first seven games before being benched for Osweiler, who started three before getting supplanted by Lynch last month.
Lynch sprained his left ankle against Oakland and spent the fourth quarter sobbing on the bench while Siemian nearly led the Broncos back from a 21-0 deficit.
“I was very frustrated in the fact that I just came back from a shoulder injury and missed a lot of time with that. The first game I got back, I tweaked my ankle. It just frustrated me,” Lynch said. “… I love playing football. When it gets taken away from me, it hurts.”
Siemian (left shoulder) was placed on IR after getting hurt last week at Indianapolis, where Osweiler led Denver to a 25-13 comeback only to have to fight for the starting gig this week.
“I’m not concerned with that,” Osweiler said. “You guys know me, I’m going to come to the building every day, study hard, work hard and have fun out there on the football field. If my number gets called, I’ll be ready to go. I’ll be ready to lead this football team. That decision is out of my control.”
While praising Osweiler’s performance, Joseph acknowledged this week’s QB competition is really more about seeing where Lynch is health-wise.
“I would agree with that. It’s definitely more about how ready Paxton will be on Sunday and what’s best for our football team to win a game on Sunday,” Joseph said. “Again, it’s not easy. It’s complicated, it really is.”
The Broncos want to see more of Lynch, who has only played in one game after spraining his left shoulder in the preseason. But they have to make sure he’s recovered sufficiently from his high ankle sprain to play.
“I’m just trying to get my ankle ready to go in case I have to go play,” Lynch said.
Another factor in the mystery surrounding the decision is keeping the Redskins in the dark.
Joseph said he doesn’t have to tell the media who his starter is “and I don’t want to tell Washington, either. So we’re going to take our time with this thing.”
Joseph did say this isn’t about tanking: “Whoever plays Sunday, it’s going to be about winning.”
And Joseph did allow it’s highly unusual this time of year to be splitting snaps at quarterback.
“Absolutely it is,” he said while insisting it has no impact on his game plan.
“It’s going to be the same receivers, same runners, same offensive line. So, everyone else is still practicing their assignments and their duties,” Joseph said.
While their teammates have their opinions on who should start at quarterback, they’re keeping those to themselves while publicly supporting the process.
“You go with the guy they choose and you make it work,” Demaryius Thomas said.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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