The Denver Broncos just took QB Paxton Lynch in the draft. And while we’re only into the very beginning of camps, he already appears to be connecting well with the guys in the locker room. And that is a very good sign.
Quarterback is unlike any other position. The QB has to connect with the guys around him or things just don’t gel. Guys can be talented, but you can still tell if it doesn’t click.
The Broncos have seen this before. When they drafted Brian Griese, he was accused of being too aloof in the locker room. He went to Michigan, he won a National Title, his dad played in the NFL. Back in 1999, Jim Mandich—a TE who played with Griese’s father, Bob—said this about him:
“It’s his personality; he’s confident, borderline-cocky, aloof and bright.”
Mandich meant it as a compliment, but it ended up being a problem. Griese has some bright points, but he ultimately failed to take over the team and help it contend on a consistent basis. It never clicked and he bounced around the league a bit after spending his first five years in Denver.
What you want is a guy who can connect with the other players. Being confident, even cocky, is fine as long as he is on the same page with those guys. As long as he’s relaxed and knows how to fit with the atmosphere in the locker room.
That’s especially important in Denver. A lot of the success they had last year was because of how close-knit this team was. When he retired, Peyton Manning said this about Demaryius Thomas:
“I’ll miss Demaryius Thomas telling me that he loved me and thanking me for coming to Denver after every touchdown I threw to him.”
The defense was and still is the same way. They constantly talk about being part of a defensive unit that strives to be the best, about being like a family. They hang out at Von Miller’s house on the weekends. You get the vibe that this is a group of guys who are more than teammates; they’re friends. And that helps them fight hard to win every Sunday.
In any case, Lynch seems to fit the mold. You can tell by the way the other players treat him, how they’re already joking around with him. They clearly feel at ease and they’re willing to have some fun. Emmanuel Sanders recently said that the first time he met Lynch, he introduced himself as Demaryius Thomas—laughing as he said it.
It’s a little thing, but don’t discount it. Both of the teams that got to the Super Bowl last year were teams that had that camaraderie. Does it trump talent? Of course not. But it brings out the best in every player and enhances that talent.
There was a chance this wouldn’t be an easy transition. The Broncos lost a legend at QB when Peyton Manning retired. The last time they had to replace a legend, as noted above, the team didn’t take to the new QB all that well. Would there be resentment from Thomas and Sanders about having to work with a rookie who is still learning the ropes? Would they be frustrated by his mistakes when Manning was the king of preparation, who knew the game better than anyone?
It is just camp. If Lynch plays and if he makes mistakes, those frustrations could still arise.
For now, though, it looks like they like him. They’re having fun with him, talking about how impressive he’s looked thus far. And Lynch himself has talked about how easy it’s been, saying:
“Once I got here and walked into the building, it felt like home…I felt good. I felt like I was wanted here. I know Demaryius Thomas texted me, Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian, C.J. [Anderson], a couple of those guys have texted me. I know Emmanuel [Sanders] reached out on Twitter. He texted me, as well. They were just congratulating me and letting me know that it’s time to get to work. I’m ready for it. Like I said, I’m ready to be a part of a team and ready to get back to work.”
The atmosphere in a locker room is something people sometimes overlook, but it’s very important if a team is going to compete for Super Bowls. Even through all of the turmoil of the offseason, the Broncos’ atmosphere seems to be intact with Lynch.