Broncos schedule provides a perfect place for Bo Nix’s first start

May 16, 2024, 2:45 PM | Updated: May 17, 2024, 1:15 pm

Heading into the 2024 season, there’s one giant question surrounding the Denver Broncos: When will Bo Nix become the team’s starting quarterback?

The rookie will be the eventual face of the franchise. It’s a matter of when, not if.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to first-year QBs. One camp suggests that they should play right away, with on-field experience providing the best lessons. The other argues that waiting is the better approach, learning the NFL game from the safety of the sidelines rather than in harm’s way.

There are plenty of examples of each approach working. And not working.

Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes didn’t play early in their careers. Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre, while Mahomes played apprentice to Alex Smith. They’re two of the best quarterbacks in the game.

Josh Allen played Week 1 for Buffalo in 2018; he started in Week 2. He’s 63-30 as the Bills starter, with his team being a perennial Super Bowl contender. C.J. Stroud started from the jump last year in Houston, however, and he turned the Texans into a playoff team during his rookie season.

Either way can work. That’s why somewhere in the middle is probably the safest bet.

The Broncos may choose that route. They could hedge their bets.

Nix is going to be the eventual starter. Given that Denver doesn’t have a future Hall of Fame QB ahead of him (Favre to Rodgers) or even someone that makes them legit playoff team (Smith to Mahomes), there’s no reason to sit him. At least not for long.

Sean Payton might want to pick the right spot, however. And given the team’s schedule, that might not be Week 1.

The Broncos open the season on Sept. 8 in Seattle. Lumen Field is notorious for being a loud, hostile environment. The stadium was rocking two years ago when Denver played there in Week 1, with Russell Wilson making his return to the Emerald City.

Week 2 is a home game, but maybe not the best situation. The Broncos host the Steelers on Sept. 15. That’ll be Wilson’s return to the Mile High City. If Nix is the starter, it’ll lead to inevitable comparisons between the quarterback the Payton ran out of town and his handpicked successor. That’s likely unfair at that point in the season.

The next two games see Denver back on the road. They’ll be at Tampa Bay on Sept. 22. The Buccaneers were a playoff team last season. And playing in Florida that early in the season is typically not good for the Broncos; they lost 70-20 on Sept. 24 last season in Miami. That trip is followed by a roadie in New York. The Jets have a very good defense and the crowd at MetLife Stadium will be all over any visiting quarterback, let alone a rookie.

That’s four weeks where it might not make sense to throw Nix into the mix. To some extent, the QB would be set up to fail.

Weeks 5 and 6 are home games. The Raiders come to Denver on Oct. 6, followed by the Chargers on Oct. 13. That’s a plausible place to make a switch.

But those games are followed by a short week. The Broncos head to New Orleans for a Thursday night game on Oct. 17. Not putting that quick turnaround on a rookie might make sense.

Thus, the optimal spot to make the switch is right after Payton’s homecoming. With 10 days between their Week 7 tilt against the Saints and their next game, Denver would be giving Nix a chance to get ready.

Plus, the opponent is optimal. The Broncos most-winnable game of the season is Week 8. That’s when the Panthers come to Denver. Carolina might be the only team in the league with lower expectations this season than Denver.

Making the switch at this point makes sense for a lot of reasons. It sets Nix up for success right out of the gate. It’s against a bad team, in Denver, with 10 days to prepare. Plus, it provides a 10-game stretch to fully learn on the job as a rookie. The Broncos aren’t going to the playoffs in 2024; they might as well have Nix endure his inevitable growing pains during a season that figures to be lost before it even starts.

Unless the Broncos surprise people early in the season, amassing a winning record through seven games, there’d be no reason not to make the change. And if they have a losing mark when the switch is made, any losses from then on wouldn’t be blamed on Nix, as Zach Wilson and/or Jarrett Stidham weren’t winning, either.

While there’s something to the sink-or-swim approach, throwing a young player into the deep end and making them figure it out, Denver might take a more calculated approach with Nix. If they do, they’ll be looking for the perfect spot to insert their rookie QB into the lineup.

That goal leaves one obvious answer. Bo Nix should make his Broncos debut on Oct. 27 at Empower Field.


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