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GIF Horse - The Quarterback Roundtable

Who doesn’t have some thoughts on the Broncos quarterbacks?

Is Elway’s legacy as GM is directly tied to Keenum’s quarterback play?

As I’m sure most of you are aware, looking into Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum’s film left a lot of questions unanswered. Quarterback is a funny thing, two people can see completely different things when they watch the tape. It left me wondering where the rest of the MHR staff was on the subject, so what follows is our discussion into the matter, lightly edited and presented to Broncos Country for all to read.

How did you react to the Keenum signing?

Laurie: I’m pretty sure I wrote an HT or two lumping Case Keenum into the “second-tier” free-agent QB group and saying I didn’t think that was smart. But I am totally willing to admit that was wrong and jump aboard the Keenum Train because I love how so many players are singing his praises right now (which is partly just offseason optimism and PR blah blah blah), but the fact that offense and defense players see him as a leader and the real deal has me on the train saying, “All Aboard!” So come with us.

Ian Henson: The only reason that Case Keenum hasn’t been a Denver Broncos quarterback since 2014 is that Gary Kubiak was not coaching the team yet. In 2014, the Texans, sans Kubiak, waived Keenum to make room for Ryan Mallett and the St. Louis Rams signed him to their roster. Keenum was signed off of the Rams practice squad in December of 2014 by the still Kubiak-less Texans. Then the Rams traded a 7th round draft pick for Keenum in March of 2015. Keenum was named starter in November of 2016 after being extended a first round tender in the offseason. He replaced Nick Foles as the starter. In 2017 he signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings and finally the Broncos had a chance to sign him this past offseason. It was their first real opportunity to do so.

I was as ecstatic as the Broncos were.

Joe M: My gut reaction was “UGH!”, because I knew very little about Keenum and figured that we had just signed a one-year-wonder QB. Then I went and researched him. The more I read, the more I liked the signing. There are plenty of precedents for late-career journeyman QBs finally figuring it out and turning into above average starters. I did a whole piece on this two years ago when I was trying to sell myself on Mark Sanchez. While the Sanchize is NOT an example of this, here are some of the best

Do I think Keenum will be able to reproduce his numbers from 2017? Probably not. He completed 67.6% of his passes in 2017. Keenum has a career 61.9% completion %. He has 46 TD and 27 INTs for his career, yet he was able to do 22/7 last season. However, even some regression by Keenum will be a huge improvement over the second-to-worst in the league QB play that we have seen over the past two seasons (only CLE has had worse).

Sadarine: I was hesitant to be sure. Keenum by all measures looks like a one hit wonder. Nevertheless, I also felt reassured. Our team needs legitimate quarterbacking skill and has been bereft of it for the better part of 3-4 years. The biggest plus I saw was that we no longer would be putzing around with dumpster fire QBs.

JoRo: Personally- I was disappointed because I was all in on Baker. It may be due to all the time I’ve spent with Madden and studying roster management, but I’m a diehard believer in the benefit$ that a “hit” at rookie QB can do for the rest of your roster.

What could have been...

Taylor: I was all over the idea of signing Kirk Cousins, with drafting Baker Mayfield as a close second among my preferred outcomes. So my initial reaction to the Broncos signing Keenum was pretty negative. Like Joe M., I just saw a one-year wonder who’d been almost Siemian-level bad before having a great season. I’ve definitely come around on Keenum since then, though. Part of that just being a typical fan: I’m hoping for the best out of my team’s best option, so it’s hard to stay down on him. But the bigger reason I’m sold on Keenum for 2018 (and possibly beyond) is based on actually digging into his performances in Minnesota. I think that success is repeatable here in Denver, and that Keenum has the potential to be a Jake Plummer kind of franchise QB. He won’t be an elite franchise guy like Elway or Peyton, but he could very well be a guy you can win a championship with if you’ve got good talent around him.

Jess: When Keenum was signed, I was relieved we weren’t in on the Kirk Cousins sideshow. However, it’s hard to view the signing as the answer to all the Broncos quarterback woes. Let’s be honest, without last season, he would hardly seem like much of an upgrade over Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch. That said, you can’t take anything away from him after the tremendous run he had with Minnesota. I’m viewing Case Keenum in Denver with reserved optimism.

Adam: When the signing was announced I was disappointed. I was on the “sign Cousins, draft Barkley” bid for a while. I wanted the Broncos to draft Baker Mayfield. Elway went out and signed Keenum so quickly that it felt like capitulation. There were too many variables with Keenum. He had one good season with a great offense, surrounded by weapons, with protection. Denver has a terrible situation with the offensive line, and Keenum is the guy? After one good season? Skeptical was my initial reaction, and I still am, although I’m coming around.

Christopher Hart: I was a huge proponent of the franchise going after Kirk Cousins. When they failed to get him, I was slightly disappointed, but I was satisfied with Case Keenum. Living close to Minneapolis, I have seen my fair share of Vikings games and Keenum played very well for them last season. If he can replicate or do better than what he did last year for the Broncos in 2018, Denver will have a great shot at winning the AFC West.

May be keeping an eye on the Viking’s this year.

Is Keenum “the Guy”? Why/Why not

JoRo: My thoughts right here.

Sadarine: He very well could be. After spending some time this offseason watching all of his 2017 season play, I’m very encouraged. A lot of what was on film was him executing and his ability, not others making plays in spite of him.

As long as he’s able to build report with the receivers and we get any kind of tight end who can actually catch consistently, he’s going to make our passing game very legitimate.

Jess: Is Keenum is ‘the guy?’ He is right now. This is a great opportunity to make his case that he can be the guy. Whether or not he takes advantage of it is purely up to him. Let’s hope he grabs it with both hands and doesn’t let go.

Joe M: I’m cautiously optimistic. He had some talent around him on offense last year in MIN. You could argue that the talent around him has gone down a little in Denver, but I think he will still flourish with the players here. Can he lead us to the promised land? Maybe, the team around him in Denver is going to be oddly similar to the team he had around him in Minnesota and that ended in the NFC championship game where he finally withered under the pressure from that Eagles D. Few QBs can handle the pressure of piloting a team all the way to the Lombardi. I’m skeptical that Keenum is one of them.

Laurie: I don’t even care if he isn’t the guy past this year. I love going through the offseason and into the regular season already planning on our starting QB. Whether Keenum plays beyond his contract will depend a lot on his performance this year, and that kind of motivation should be great for him and for the team.

Taylor: Keenum is definitely the Guy for 2018. He’s a competent NFL quarterback, and of the three QBs on the roster he’s the only one you can say that about.

His status beyond 2018 is totally up to him, though. He’s only 30, so it’s not impossible that he could turn out to be the Guy for 6 or 7 years. But he’s got to earn it. The starting job was handed to him on a silver platter this year, but going forward he’ll have to earn the right to keep it.

Adam: From what I have seen and heard, the Broncos are fully behind him. Does that make him “the Guy”? Not yet. Obviously, he is the guy the Broncos are starting at QB in 2018. He is the player that Elway settled on, and the team is rallying behind him. He is the guy who the Broncos are going to trust to be the veteran presence in the locker room, and the QB room. I’m not sure if that makes him the QB of the future that the fans were hoping for, but he can turn that around with another big season.

Hart: Keenum is the Broncos’ starting quarterback for 2018 and likely 2019, but beyond that nobody knows. If Keenum were to struggle this year, they could cut him next offseason and save ten million against the cap, but incur eleven million in dead money. I think it’s safe to say he is ‘the guy’ for two years.

Ian Henson: Peyton Manning had the greatest season of all time, was league MVP twice (as a Bronco) and Denver Broncos fans will still tell you that John Elway was the greatest, so no... No one in Denver will ever be ‘the Guy’ short of being drafted by the Broncos and living out a 14-15 season career with five trips to the Super Bowl. MVP seasons be damned.

Now, can Keenum be league MVP as Denver’s quarterback? I mean shouldn’t he be? Why would we expect less? He came close last season.

Just in case you needed an extra reason to watch the Broncos TE derby in camp...

When it’s all said and done, where do you think Keenum will rank among quarterbacks since you’ve been a fan?

Jess: When it’s all said and done, I can honestly say Case Keenum will likely be better than Steve Tensi, but worse than John Elway. Unfortunately with the giants at the top of the scale it’s not likely he’ll crack the top three.

Joe M: It really depends on whether he has “found his stride” ala Rich Gannon, Jim Harbaugh or Alex Smith or whether he was truly a flash in the pan in 2017. The optimist in me wants to believe that he has figured it out and that he will last 3-4 years as the starting QB for the Broncos (into his mid-30s). If he does that he will probably surpass Jake Plummer, because to do so would mean that we are getting incrementally better each year with him.

Hart: I agree with Joe that his ceiling is third behind John Elway and Peyton Manning, with his biggest competition being Jake Plummer. I think if Keenum can help the Broncos win the AFC West and make some noise in the playoffs he can certainly snag that third spot.

Laurie: If he’s great, No. 3 (behind the obvious top two). If he’s pretty good, No. 4 (behind the obvious plus Jake Plummer).

Taylor: Among Broncos quarterbacks? Realistically, his ceiling is 3rd behind Elway and Manning. But his floor is pretty high too in my 20 year span of being a fan. One good season arguably vaults him past a crowd of disappointments to 5th best, while any degree of playoff success pretty much guarantees him the 4th spot ahead of Cutler. From there the question would be whether or not he can match and/or exceed Jake Plummer.

Adam: If Keenum can win a Super Bowl he solidifies the 3rd spot in Broncos history. He has a long way to go to replacing Jake Plummer, though, as number 3. And I would argue that many fans have Plummer ranked in that 3 to 5 range with Kubiak and Brister (for sentimental reasons). The success of this team still rests in the hands of the defense. Keenum can be a good addition, but he will never break the top 2.

Ian Henson: Below Peyton Manning, but above John Elway.

Could Keenum reach the heights Elway’s last free agent QB prize did?

Sadarine: That’s honestly impossible to tell. The proof is in the pudding. I like Kool-Aid this time of year just like any other fanatic, but the dude has yet to suit up in a real game for us. He could be anywhere from Trevor Siemian to John Elway on the range of bad to good QBs.

Where do you think the Broncos O will stack up by seasons end?

Jess: As much as I’d like to say that I expect big things from the offense, I have a hard time believing a rally is in the cards. This will, as it has been for the last few years, be a defensively driven team.

Joe M: In 2017 we were 27th in points per game and 29th in YPP. MIN was 10th and 12th in those stats respectively. I think we will land somewhere in that range - in the middle tier of teams. Keep in mind we’re 22nd and 25th in those stats in 2016 and 19th and 18th in those in 2015 so we have not been in the upper part of the middle tier since 2014 in either scoring or YPP.

The 2017 Broncos offense, in one play.

Taylor: My expectation here is about the same as Joe M.’s. If you want to see offensive greatness in orange & blue in 2018, you’ll have to roll with re-watching some 2013 games. But if Keenum maintains his play from Minnesota, or experiences only typical NFL starter levels of regression, the Broncos’ offense can be a bit above average. Or even if it’s only average, that’ll be A-okay and a vast improvement.

Hart: I think the Broncos will sport a Top 15 offense in the NFL this year, but wouldn’t be surprised if they reach the Top 10. I think that’ll depend on how quickly Keenum can create chemistry with our receivers and the unknown impact of our young skill position players like Jake Butt, Royce Freeman, DaeSean Hamilton and Courtland Sutton.

Sadarine: There’s question marks at RB and TE, but I think we’ll at least be the middle of the pack in every major facet of the game on offense. I really like what the team has been doing to get their offensive line better from a run blocking perspective and we’ve obviously made some much needed changes that should improve the passing offense as well.

Ian Henson: The 2017 Broncos surprisingly finished in the Top Five for some significant RPO categories. Keenum isn’t going to get us a faster snap-to-throw time than the team had with Trevor Siemian or Brock Osweiler, but he is much more likely than those two to hit the correct receiver. That changes first down percentage, scoring percentage, third down conversions and will open up the run game. It is all up from here. Those conversions will ease tension on the line and allow them to run-block as relief instead of being forced to sustain pass-blocking for 45-50 plays per game.

Where will Elway and the Broncos be as far as quarterbacks this time next year?

Sadarine: Hopefully moving on from the Paxton Lynch draft pick so we can get reprieve from anything to do with the 2016 and 2017 NFL seasons. It should be interesting as heck though to see what happens with Keenum since he’s on such a short contract.

Joe M: I think we will still be happy with Keenum, particularly if he plays anywhere close to how well he played in 2017. I don’t think Case is going to fail miserably like our QBs have over the past two seasons, so the only situation in which we are back in QB-hell next off-season is if Keenum gets hurt and Kelly or Lynch come in an light it up in their starts.

Taylor: Based on how Keenum handled himself and handled pressure in Minnesota last year, at this point next year I think Elway & the Broncos will be heading toward a second Training Camp with Keenum as the starting QB. Unless Keenum totally self-destructs, the Broncos will win too many games to have a shot at the top pick in a 2019 QB class that’s iffy in any case.

Hart: I think Keenum will have a good year, so I believe the Broncos will be content with keeping him around for the 2019 season. I don’t think the franchise will be in a position to get a top-end signal caller in the draft and expect them to roll with Keenum and continue their development of their younger quarterbacks on the roster - in particular Chad Kelly.

...and he can run!

Jess: I believe the Broncos will still be on the hunt for a long-term answer at quarterback. Unless Keenum lights things up in 2018, Elway will continue to have a serious eye on free agent quarterbacks going into next season.

Ian Henson: I am going to duck as I say this, but Keenum’s final contract season and any possible extension will be dictated based on Paxton Lynch’s progress over the next two seasons. I imagine that the 2018 preseason will go drastically different for Lynch and he may even get some Brock Osweiler snaps (have that helmet ready, Paxton) to shine in blowouts throughout the season. I am not saying that there will be a QB competition in 2019, but the dice have been cast and the writing is on the wall — Denver’s long term plan revolves around Lynch progressing to a point where he can take the team over by the time that he is 26-years-old (2020).

JoRo: Barring injury, I think the 2018 Broncos have the look of an 8-11 win team. That’s an easy out, of course but in that range things will come down to injury and fumble luck on if they will make a real playoff chase. I think the pieces are there. Sanders is well aware that it’s probably his last year in Denver and he’s working his butt off to build the kind of chemistry to make an impact this year. Royce Freeman has the talent to be OROY, as I said here and then you have the younger receivers. While mostly unproven, they excelled at yards after the catch in college and that’s something Keenum can really do some damage with.

On the other side of the ball? I’m skeptical about the secondary. I think losing Talib is a big, big loss and Brock doesn’t excite me at all. Hope I’m wrong but I think a ton of pressure will be on Joe Woods to mask that with an enormous pass rush. The run D will be stout again and hopefully Marshall is healthy.

Without being too verbose: the offense will pick up some of the slack that the defense gives this year, making for a more exciting ride. Let’s hope it’s one that rolls into January.

Does Paxton Lynch have a future with this team?

Ian Henson: Let’s put it this way, they haven’t brought in anyone to replace Paxton Lynch. Chad Kelly has not taken a meaningful snap since joining the NFL. To say that he is anything other than a camp arm at this point is wishful thinking.

Lynch will look great in camp this season, mostly due to the fact that Denver re-upped with a new onslaught of talented rookie receivers to pair with some young and inexperienced cornerbacks. Lynch is only 24 at this point, but this is his third camp. It’s Branden Langley’s second camp, Isaac Yiadom’s first and Tramaine Brock has not made significant plays in five seasons...

The tools are there...

Taylor: I don’t think you can sit here as a fan and say, “No, absolutely not.” There’s always the chance that Lynch may get it together and start heading toward his ceiling rather than continue putting dents in his floor.

That said, it’s unlikely. He’ll stick in 2018 for cap reasons if nothing else, but I don’t expect him to be on the Broncos’ roster in September 2019.

Jess: Paxton’s performance in the present will dictate what happens with his future. He absolutely needs a better camp than he had last year or his time in Denver is more than likely over.

Joe M: No. I think he has burned his bridges here and looking for a way out. I expect him to be given a way out via trade at some point most likely during the preseason.

Hart: I don’t believe Paxton has a future with the team at all. I fully expect the Broncos to decline their fifth-year option on him at the beginning of next offseason and believe that Chad Kelly will perform better than him in training camp and win the backup job. He will be on the roster for the 2018 season, but anything beyond that would be a surprise.

...but will Lynch ever become more than that?

JoRo: Check out my thoughts on Paxton here.

Have you given any thought to the 2019 QB class?

Laurie: Not at all. I let Christopher, the Jeffs and Scotty do that for me and then I start thinking about it in March.

Taylor: Not much, honestly. I pay little attention to college football, so what little I know about the 2019 QB class is pretty basic. But I do know that I’m significantly more impressed by a couple of guys who’ll likely be in the 2020 QB class.

The Broncos have had some luck with lefty's...

Jess: I think the Broncos defense will carry Denver to an improved record over last year. That said, I don’t believe that the Broncos will be as high as they were in the draft order as they were this year. Chances are slim they’ll be in on the quarterback sweepstakes and so I have, as a matter of sanity approaching the coming season, protected myself from such thoughts.

Joe M: Nope. I hope that we have our 2018 and 2019 (and possibly 2020 and 2021) starting QB on the roster right now.

Hart: There are a handful of interesting options, but I don’t see any of them being ‘special talents’ that are absolute game-changers at the next level. I would rather the Broncos not invest a high-round selection in a QB in 2019 and focus on building up other areas where they need help to make the best situation for whoever lines up behind center.

Ian Henson: Early word is that the new class is ‘not good’. That’s impossible to say, last season it seemed that there was a campaign among fans and broadcasters to downplay Josh Allen’s talent for an entire season... Then he was drafted ahead of Josh Rosen and the Buffalo Bills had a deal in place to trade with Denver to get inside of the Top Five to pick him... What does anyone know at this point?

Here is my list of 2019 quarterback prospects in order as of July 3rd, 2018: McLane Carter (Texas Tech), Will Grier (West Virginia), Jake Fromm (Georgia), Tyree Jackson (Buffalo), Justin Herbert (Oregon), Drew

Lock (Missouri), Shea Patterson (Michigan), Jarrett Stidham (Auburn), Khalil Tate (Arizona) and Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama).

Stidham does throw a pretty bomb.

Sadarine: No.

Still Grazin’? A couple of random thoughts.

*Most controversial opinion unrelated to sports, politics and religion?*

Taylor: Rap is almost never good music.

Jeff: Chewing gum and wedding hashtags are two of the dumbest things ever.

JoRo: Mountain Dew is overrated. We ran out of Pepsi at the day job and I was stuck drinking Dew the last week. Awful.

Joe M: Mello Yello 4Eva! It’s much better than the dew.

Sadarine: From Terry Goodkind: “People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”

Ian: Peter Thiel asks an interview question similar to this, “Tell me something that’s true, that almost nobody agrees with you on.”

I think that certain beliefs and fanaticism should qualify as a mental disease. For example, it is odd to say that the Chargers will compete for first place in the AFC West. It is even weirder to say it every year... when it’s clearly never happening. Should these same people that figure out a way to say it every season not be certified?

At some point is it not our obligation to take this ability to hurt people away from these broken records?

*LeBron’s a Laker. Do you care?*

Ian: I would play for the Lakers too if they let me. I feel bad for Cleveland, but hopefully the Browns can get it together this season. They did mostly the right thing in the first round of the draft, they should have drafted Bradley Chubb though and that may be why they suck still...

Sadarine: Only in that I find it hilarious. Now he’ll have even more ample opportunities to get his season put out of its misery by the Warriors even earlier than the Finals.

JoRo: Maybe that’s the point. He realized he can’t get past the Warriors, so he figured it’s time to just live it up in Hollywood and get to his vacation a month earlier?

Joe M: Steph is da man. I don’t really care what team LaBron fleeces next. The Warriors are going to win the next two NBA championships to solidify their place as the second best dynasty in NBA history

Jeff: Even though I’m not a huge Lebron fan, it always hurts to see an all-time great waste away on a crappy team. So, good for Lebron for getting the heck out of Cleveland.

Taylor: I care so little that I literally forgot to answer this question until I re-read the prompt. All it means is that someone else will face the Warriors in the next NBA Finals.

*Who you got, Paxton Lynch or Chad Kelly?*

Jeff: Until we see Kelly play a snap in pads, we have to assume Lynch is the guy. While he has underwhelmed given his 1st round status, he actually has some experience filling in an actual NFL game.

Taylor: Honestly, what I’ve got is a hard time caring. I’m over Lynch, and I’m skeptical of Kelly. Keenum will get 98% of my QB attention.

Joe M: I think Lynch is broken. His failure in games and his injuries have forever ruined him in Denver. That “emotional and phsyical” scarring that he went through is too much for him to overcome. Chad Kelly will win the backup job and Lynch will be shopped to Dallas for a late round pick. We’ll pick up some UDCFA QB as a camp arm who will land on the PS as the #3 QB

Sadarine: Chad Kelly only because I have no clue what he is. I’ll take a question mark over a steaming pile of offal every day of the week.

JoRo: Kyle Sloter. *ducks*

Ian: Why do I like Paxton Lynch so much? That would be an unpardonable breach of confidence for me to reveal. One of these days all eyes will be Lynch in the D and he’ll look up in the sky and see a neon P.

Chad Kelly will have to be an incredible quarterback for the media and the public to not remember that the last thing that he did of any significance was punch a cop.

Any early thoughts on the upcoming season that aren’t related to the Denver Broncos?

Jeff: I think the Patriots finally show signs of weakness, NFC South will field 3 playoff teams again, Baker Mayfield will take over in Cleveland by mid-season, and Patrick Mahomes will unfortunately live up to the hype.

Taylor: Gruden’s going to make the Raiders a joke, not a contender. The Panthers will finish <.500 (like they do every other season). If Luck can play, the AFC South will surprise everyone by being one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.

Sadarine: The LA Rams are going to make the Philadelphia Eagles of 2017 look pedestrian on both sides of the ball.

Joe M: The Faiders will implode and by on the verge of firing Chucky by the middle of the season. Their front office will realize that, like Joe Gibbs when he tried to make a comeback, the game has passed Gruden by. Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers and Tom Brady will all suffer from huge age-related drop-offs in their performance.

JoRo: Jay Gruden will wind up coaching the Oakland offense next year, Brady will show enough signs of age that it will be the suffocating storyline next spring and the Rams will disappoint because they lack edge rushers and depth beyond their stars.

Ian: It is getting more and more difficult for Tom Brady to stage his hero’s journey. The loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl almost certainly means that the Denver Broncos will get their shot at Brady in the playoffs this season and that spells incredibly well for the Broncos.

In the NFC, the Rams look like the Eagles ‘Dream Team’ of yesteryear, that has yet to work out... Except that it has, Brian Xanders is there now and people know that I love me a Xanders scouted player. Aaron Rodgers is in a contract season, I think that Odell Beckham Jr. may be the most important player in the NFL this season... Kirk Cousins will slam the Vikings back to earth, Case Keenum will give the Broncos offensive efficiency that they have lacked since 2013. Patrick Mahomes will have a rookie season, except he’s not a rookie...

What else? This has to be the season where two of the great quarterbacks go down... I won’t predict injury, but there are more than a few suspects.