Gary Kubiak is no dummy.
He knows when it comes to games, winning is almost never smooth and often ugly. You have to be able to improvise, handle psychological pressure, overcome adversity and take advantage of rare opportunities to be victorious.
So it is that ability Kubiak will coach.
"I tried to create a little chaos in practice today," the head coach said yesterday after the first practice of the last OTA week. "I wanted to see how some of our young guys react to a little craziness on the field."
Kubiak ran no-huddle the entire practice to "get the coaches out of the hip pocket and throw them out there" in all kinds of situations.
It went as you might expect when the no-huddle guru is no longer the quarterback but rather a journeyman, a second-year player and a rookie are the signal callers.
"It was a roller coaster ride. Some good, some bad," Kubiak admitted. "I told players after practice, I said, ‘I think you guys know who the guys are that reacted the right way to the chaos.' You can see guys that have it under control and then you see some guys that say, ‘What the heck happened there?'"
And like a good coach, Kubiak has no intentions of backing down now. This is the defending Super Bowl champion team and every opponent is going to come with their best, so this team and its QBs need to be ready.
"We'll give them a chance to come back tomorrow. We'll probably do the same thing," he said.
The head coach has resisted naming a starting quarterback in OTAs, insisting Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch all remain in the hunt. But he noted that his guiding characteristic right now is consistency - and two of the three contenders are better at that.
"What we're trying to find is that consistent guy. I think Trevor and Mark have kind of looked each other in the eye the whole offseason," Kubiak said, adding that the three are "battling their tails off" for the starter. "I think the young kid is extremely talented and young. He does a lot of great things, [but] he has his troubles."
Kubiak said he's looking for the "most consistent" QB to be the starter. Still, 1. Sanchez, 2. Siemian, 3. Lynch.— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) June 14, 2016
Kubiak believes Sanchez and Siemian are the obvious leaders in the QB competition - at least for now.
"I think those two guys are right there with each other. I think it's a very competitive situation," Kubiak said, noting both have been good throughout OTAs. "They're obviously ahead of our young guy just from a mental standpoint right now."
While "the young guy" isn't consistent in his play, the coach is still very high on his potential.
"He struggled through a period," Kubiak said. "We went to two-minute [offense], and he just went out there and reacted, played football and took his team right down the field. All the ability is there. It's just trying to get all the consistency in place for what you do."
Lynch said after practice Tuesday that he can see a difference between himself and the other two more experienced quarterbacks, but the rookie also sees a lot of improvement in his play already.
"I feel like I'm taking big strides in every area - footwork, accuracy, knowing my playbook, knowing what I have to do," Lynch said, adding he obviously needs to be more consistent. "I come out here and have some great days, and then I come out here and have some not-so-great days. The more and more that I learn about the offense, the less I have to think about it when I'm out here and I'm just playing, it'll come to me a little bit easier."
The young quarterback says he isn't paying attention to where he is on the depth chart right now or even in training camp. His main focus is learning the offense.
"I'm not sure where I'll be at the end of camp or when camp rolls around. I'm just staying in the playbook," Lynch said. "Coach Knapp likes where I am and said I'm heading in the right direction. I'm doing all of the little things right. I'm going to keep on track, and whatever happens, happens."
Sanchez felt his no-huddle work Tuesday "went pretty well" but definitely needs improvement.
"We wanted to see how well we do in a game-like atmosphere, and I thought we did well," Sanchez said. "I thought we moved the ball down the field pretty well. I've still got to watch the tape, so I'm sure it wasn't perfect. I was not satisfied, but I was happy with how it went."
The more chances the offense gets to play in that kind of environment, the better, Sanchez added.
"You're constantly honing your mechanics and constantly repping them, so you don't have to think about them," he said. "When you get into those two-minute drills today or no-huddle type stuff, you're footwork is automatic. Your defender that you're keying is automatic. You've got to know where to go."
Siemian also appreciated the chance for situational ball this soon before training camp.
"It's still early. We're all taking our lumps here and there, and we're all doing some good things," he said. "It's good to get into the situations for sure, and I'm sure we'll rep them a ton in camp as well."
The second-year quarterback noted that competing for the starting QB is "definitely a different role" for him, but he's not too focused on the competition as much as he is on getting better at his own level of play.
"Other than looking at those guys and helping each other out and learning from their reps, I don't look at it too much like [a battle,]" Siemian said, adding that he's more keyed into getting a command of the offense. "I think I know a lot, and I think I've learned a lot, but there is still a long way to go, especially in this position."
Mark Sanchez: 'There's nothing I'd rather be doing' than playing QB https://t.co/jwAXdU9n0U— ESPN NFL Nation (@ESPN_NFLNation) June 15, 2016
Siemian and Sanchez both see the upcoming break as an excellent time to get in a little extra studying, film review and drills.
"I'm excited to have some things I'm building on now and to carry some momentum into camp," Siemian said.
For Sanchez, the break will be filled with a lot of footwork drills, film study and even some flash cards.
"I'm a flash card guy. I'm a repetition guy," he said. "I just have to see it one million times and watch it one millions times."
The former Jets and Eagles quarterback is acutely aware of the "new lease on his career" with the Broncos, and he plans to take advantage of that in every way possible - including studying and practicing during the break.
"What a place to land. A quarterback-friendly system, a great defense, great special teams, a good running game, receivers that can go catch the ball and a revamped O-Line. I don't know what else you want."
Possibly a clear-cut starting quarterback for one. But Sanchez notes they're working on that.
"I knew coming in here there were a lot of things already in place," he said. "There was a big question mark at quarterback, and we're just trying to erase that."