In eight years at the man in charge of the football operations in Denver, Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway has hired four coaches and rolled the dice on at least that many quarterbacks. Elway hired his latest head coach last week, and Elway will now continue the search for his next quarterback.
“[W]e’ve got to — Case [Keenum] is probably a short-term fix — find the long-term guy for us,” Elway tells Peter King of Football Morning in America. “When we do find that guy, we’ve got to have the continuity on the offensive side to where we can train him and develop him and get him there. This is our fourth offense in probably three or four years. Quarterbacks need to be developed. You don’t find one ready-made. We got to have a solid system in place for when we do go after whatever guy it may be, a young guy or a trade or whatnot.”
However they do it, Elway knows that winning consistently hinges on the position he played.
“It’s very difficult to do it year in and year out unless you find a franchise quarterback,” Elway said. “And, you know, we drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round [in 2016] and [head coach] Gary [Kubiak] was on board with Paxton and I thought he was a good fit with what Gary did. And then Gary gets sick and can’t do it anymore. Now all of a sudden we change a whole system that we had drafted a quarterback for. And once that [public] tidal wave started against him, he is getting bashed, and it’s hard for a 23-, 24-year-old kid to beat that.”
Then there’s the fact that Lynch, once dumped by Denver, hasn’t been able to find another NFL home — even at a time when the rosters have enlarged to 90.
It’s not just Lynch. Elway used a second-round pick on former starter Brock Osweiler. Former starter Trevor Siemian arrived via round seven, beating out Lynch in two straight open competitions before being traded to Minnesota. That move came not long after Elway committed $36 million over two years to Case Keenum, whose single year in Minnesota ended up being much better than his first tour in Denver.
Elway also had a chance to acquire Colin Kaepernick in 2016, but Elway wanted the former 49ers starter to drop his guaranteed pay for that season. Kaepernick declined, and then when he became a free agent the following year Elway wasn’t interested, for obvious reasons (even though Elway tried to claim it was because Kaepernick had his chance to join the team the prior offseason and passed).
The only thing we know at this point is that Kaepernick won’t be the long-term answer in Denver. Beyond that, it’s an open book and a blank page. We’ll see what Elway manages to write on it this time around, especially with no Peyton Manning or other sure-fire future Hall of Famer ready to fall into Elway’s lap.