ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Denver Broncos became the first full team in the league to report for training camp Wednesday, president of football operations/general manager John Elway made it clear just how much he hopes Joe Flacco can break the team’s disappointing run at quarterback.
The Broncos have used four different starting quarterbacks over the last two seasons — Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler and Case Keenum — and have finished with back-to-back seasons of double-digit losses for the first time since the 1966 and 1967 seasons. And none of those four quarterbacks are on the current roster as the Broncos haven’t finished above 19th in the league passing yardage in any of the last three seasons.
Their last top 10 finish, in fact, was in 2014, which was the last season Peyton Manning started more than nine games — he missed seven starts in 2015 with a foot injury when the Broncos were 14th in passing yardage.
“It’s a hard position to fill,” Elway said Wednesday as Broncos players reported to training camp. “We tried to shake all these trees around here the last four years and the quarterbacks didn’t fall out. So, it’s difficult. We’ve taken a lot of shots, we’ve tried a lot of different situations … Hopefully with Joe we’ve got it solidified with Drew working under him.”
Enter Flacco, who the Broncos acquired from the Baltimore Ravens in a pre-draft trade, a 34-year-old who has made it clear he believes he has plenty of football left in him.
Elway and coach Vic Fangio reaffirmed the Broncos have no question about the starting quarterback — it’s Flacco — and as the Broncos roll into their first on-field practice of training camp Thursday, Flacco carries the expectation he can break the Broncos’ current run of tough luck behind center since Manning retired after the 2015 season.
“It’s been a battle, but this league’s a battle,” Elway said. “It’s been a tough situation, especially at that position … I’m excited for that position.”
The Broncos may practice, at least initially, without rookie quarterback Drew Lock in uniform. Lock, who was the second of the team’s two second-round picks in the April draft (41st overall) is the Broncos’ only unsigned rookie.
Lock and his representatives are looking for a slightly different structure of his rookie deal in case he becomes the team’s starting quarterback over the next four seasons.
Wednesday, Elway was asked if a deal would be done in time for Lock to be on the field Thursday morning and he said simply: “We’ll see. I’m not going to make a prediction one way or the other.”
When the Broncos exited their offseason workouts after their June minicamp, Fangio said Lock was still competing for the backup job behind Flacco. Kevin Hogan, who was the Broncos’ backup last season, and Brett Rypien are the other quarterbacks on the roster.
But, in the end, the team’s hopes and expectations at the position reside squarely on Flacco’s shoulders.
“Any football team when you get back to that position I think, when the football team has confidence with the guy at that position it makes your football team better,” Elway said. “Joe proved, he showed everybody on our football team he’s that guy. Our team responded to him well … he’s ready to take that spot over.”