Vance Joseph handed Denver’s starting quarterback job to Paxton Lynch on Wednesday, elevating the former first-round pick who failed to win the job outright under two different coaching staffs but gets another chance because of Denver’s tailspin.
The Broncos (3-7) have lost six in a row and Joseph replaced offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Monday with Bill Musgrave , who helped guide Derek Carr in Oakland the last two seasons.
The Broncos visit the Raiders (4-6), another underachieving team that had a staff shake-up this week, replacing Ken Norton Jr. with John Pagano as defensive coordinator Tuesday.
In Denver, Joseph instructed Musgrave to simplify the complex offense McCoy had installed and stubbornly stuck with despite a lack of depth at receiver and tight end and a porous line that crimped the passing game whether Trevor Siemian or Brock Osweiler was at quarterback.
Siemian handily won the drawn-out QB competition over Lynch for a second time this summer but a dozen turnovers left him benched after seven games.
The Broncos turned to Osweiler, Peyton Manning’s former longtime backup, but he went 0-3.
So, now it’s Lynch’s turn.
He sprained his throwing shoulder Aug. 26 in a preseason game against Green Bay shortly after Siemian was named the starter and spent September and October rehabbing. He returned to practice three weeks ago and amped up the throws last week when he was elevated to backup duty.
He suited up for the first time Sunday when he served as Osweiler’s backup in Denver’s first loss at home to the Bengals since 1975.
The Broncos need to find out if Lynch is a bust or just a late-bloomer as they prepare to head into a third consecutive offseason of uncertainty at quarterback.
If general manager John Elway comes to a conclusion that he erred in moving up and outmaneuvering Jerry Jones to select the former Memphis QB with the 26th overall pick in 2016, a deep draft class beckons as does a solid group of veterans in free agency.
This will be Lynch’s third career start. He lost to Atlanta at home and won at Jacksonville his rookie year in relief of an injured Siemian and also had a solid second half in a win against Tampa Bay after Siemian got hurt.
He completed 49 of 83 passes last year for 497 yards and two TDs to go with an interception. He was sacked nine times.
After his win over the Jaguars, ex-offensive coordinator Rick Dennison blasted the rookie for his unfamiliarity with the offense and earlier this year, running back C.J. Anderson said he felt Lynch had learned his lesson from not staying dialed in.
Lynch said upon losing the QB competition to Siemian for a second time that he wouldn’t check out mentally. But he followed that declaration with middling work at practice before getting hurt.
Lynch appeared to be less engaged that Siemian was in sweats during the game Sunday when Osweiler and the offensive staff huddled on the sideline between series.
What matters to the Broncos now is how Lynch performs on the field.
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