Judging quarterbacks is one of the toughest jobs in sports.
It’s so difficult that even John Elway can’t seem to get the hang of it.
A first-ballot Hall of Famer who took the Broncos to five Super Bowls and won the last two, Elway would seem to know a good quarterback when he sees one.
The evidence, though, is that the Denver Broncos boss makes just as many mistakes as scouts who never played the position.
Just look at his record in trying to find a quarterback to replace Peyton Manning.
When he signed Manning in 2012, Elway knew Manning was near the end of his career and had to have a replacement ready when Manning was done.
Elway whiffed on his first try, when he drafted Brock Osweiler in the second round in 2012 over Russell Wilson.
Osweiler was supposed to be the heir apparent, and Elway seemed to think he was set. He didn’t draft a quarterback in 2013 – every player he drafted that year is no longer on the roster – or in 2014. In 2015, he finally took Trevor Siemian on the seventh round, but he figured to be nothing more than a camp arm.
When Manning retired after the 2015 season. Elway seemed to show some doubts about Osweiler. He didn’t give Osweiler a new contract, and Osweiler got a big one from Houston — $72 million overall with $37 million guaranteed.
It turned out Elway was right in letting Osweiler go. He was a flop last year, and Houston gave Cleveland a sixth-round pick this year (getting a fourth-rounder back) and a second-rounder in 2018 to get the Browns to take Osweiler off their hands. Houston dumped $16 million in cash and $10 million in salary cap room in shipping out Osweiler.
The first thought was the Browns would dump Osweiler themselves, although he started the first two preseason games. It’s uncertain if he’ll get the nod when coach Hue Jackson is scheduled to name his starter Wednesday, but Osweiler is not the longterm answer. Osweiler is being pushed by rookie DeShone Kizer.
With Osweiler gone, Elway went back to work to get a quarterback last year. He traded for veteran Mark Sanchez and drafted Paxton Lynch on the first round. The idea was that Sanchez would keep the seat warm until Lynch was ready.
But Siemian beat out Sanchez (who was released) and started 14 games, going 8-6. The Broncos finished 9-7 and didn’t make the playoffs.
This was supposed to be Lynch’s year. The Broncos opened up the quarterback competition, and he was expected to beat out a seventh-round pick. He didn’t. Siemian won the job again and will start the season.
The problem is that Siemian isn’t likely to be the long-term answer. The Denver Post reported coach Vance Joseph said, “He’s better than you think.’’ Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Joseph also said he’s talked to people around the league who say Siemian is a “pretty good’’ quarterback.
For a seventh-rounder, he’s pretty good. But Siemian had a strong defense last year and still lost six games.
A pretty good quarterback is not likely to take Denver to the Super Bowl.
So Elway will likely go back to the drawing board next year to try to find his franchise quarterback — again.
If he doesn’t find out soon, the defense will start to age. And it doesn’t help he got nothing out of the 2013 draft.
Elway is finding out that finding the right quarterback is harder than it looks.