The most-important position in sports is quarterback. And it’s arguably the toughest position to find in the NFL. The Broncos have had their share number of quarterbacks over the years and have only struck gold twice.
Denver has yet to find that next quarterback to get them back to the Super Bowl since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset after winning Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos. Fans here in Denver are frustrated with John Elway by not finding that next gunslinger. Elway has done everything he can to find a quarterback to get this franchise back on top.
You can’t criticize Elway for having Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn on the roster in 2011 because that’s what he inherited from Josh McDaniels the year before. In 2012, Elway knew he had to make a dramatic move to get the Denver franchise back to the Super Bowl and he decided to go after the greatest free agent in NFL history with Manning.
After the Broncos signed Manning in March of 2012, they went ahead and drafted his backup in Brock Osweiler in the second round of the NFL Draft. Osweiler wouldn’t get much action in games until the 2015 season after Manning went down with a foot injury that would sideline him for nearly seven weeks. Peyton would take back the team in the 2nd half of Week 17 and through the playoffs into the Super Bowl.
In the offseason in 2016, the Broncos went ahead and tried to re-sign Brock Osweiler to a long-term deal with an average of $16 million per year. Osweiler declined the contract offer and took more money with the Texans. Denver would then to find a quarterback in the NFL Draft because the only other options available were Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Sam Bradford, and Robert Griffin lll. None of those quarterbacks are franchise-type passers.
In April of 2016, John Elway and the Broncos traded up in the first round of the NFL Draft to select one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history. Denver would take Paxton Lynch out of Memphis. Lynch would go on and only start two games in his rookie season because of Trevor Siemian beating out Lynch in training camp.
The Broncos were fine with letting Lynch not start his rookie season because they knew he was a project when they drafted him. But Denver also saw Siemian beat him out the next year, as well.
The Broncos drafted Trevor Siemian in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but it wasn’t really Elway’s pick. It was head coach Gary Kubiak’s choice. Siemian was good enough to win your team a game, but not good enough to get them to the Super Bowl behind a horrific offensive line.
In 2018, John Elway would go out and sign free agent Case Keenum after the journeyman quarterback had his best season of his career. Keenum led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game before losing to the future Super Bowl champion Eagles. Keenum finished the season with the second-highest completion percentage in the NFL, behind only Drew Brees, and would have finished in the top 10 in passing yards and touchdowns if he would have started every game of the season. It’s hard to blame Elway for going after a guy who had his best season and took his team one game away from the Super Bowl.
Elway refused to draft a quarterback in 2018 as well because the top two quarterbacks on the Broncos draft boards were gone before the Broncos could pick one with the fifth overall selection. Now, there were three other quarterbacks that went in the first round, but Elway wasn’t in love with one of them and if you miss on one of them it sets your franchise back at least two years.
This offseason, Elway went ahead and traded a fourth-round pick for Joe Flacco. Why trade for Joe Flacco? Well, he is Super Bowl champion and MVP, but more importantly, the Broncos traded for a guy that is among the elite quarterbacks in the AFC. Since 2002, there have only been four quarterbacks in the conference to get to or win a Super Bowl – Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco. It made sense for the Broncos to go after one of those quarterbacks that were available.
We also can’t forget that Denver drafted Drew Lock in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft. This is a situation similar to 2012 with the Broncos acquiring Manning and Osweiler. Denver is going to let the rookie quarterback sit at least in his first season and maybe takeover next year, depending on how Flacco performs in 2019.
One former Broncos player once told me that you need to keep going after quarterbacks each year until you find the right one that will get this franchise another Lombardi Trophy. Elway has done just that.
The Broncos GM has gotten a future Hall of Famer in free agency, drafted the first-round quarterback, signed a quarterback that took his team one game away from the Super Bowl, and now traded for one of four quarterbacks to represent the AFC in a Super Bowl since 2002.
Broncos fans can get mad that Elway hasn’t hit on a quarterback since Super Bowl 50, but in reality, he’s trying and gone after the one’s with the best resumes possible when available.
If Joe Flacco doesn’t have success this season, don’t be shocked if John Elway drafts one of the top quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
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