Sean Payton should simplify QB competition by removing Stidham

May 28, 2024, 4:00 AM

The Denver Broncos don’t need a three-man QB competition at training camp this summer, and the simplest solution is removing veteran Jarrett Stidham from the mix.

Stidham can stick around for a few more months, but let’s drop this notion he has any chance of being the Broncos’ starter Week 1 in Seattle.

Stidham was billed as a “spark” last year when Payton benched Russell Wilson. The real truth? Payton just didn’t like Wilson, and Stidham was the next man up.

In his two starts against the Chargers and Raiders, Stidham was pedestrian. He threw for fewer than 500 total yards, had two touchdowns and one interception. Denver scored 30 points, or 15 per game. One of Stidham’s two TDs was created by a phenomenal catch and run from Lil’Jordan Humphrey. That spark didn’t create any fire.

It’s nothing personal, but Payton really has two options against the Seahawks.

Either use former No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson as a bridge to rookie Bo Nix, or just cross that sucker in July and August and hand the keys to Nix.

The former Oregon and Auburn star wasn’t taken at No. 12 overall in the NFL Draft to sit for long. This isn’t Green Bay, where Jordan Love was behind Aaron Rodgers and Rodgers waited because of Brett Favre. This is Stidham and Wilson we’re talking about.

“I think some of it is a byproduct of what you have in the building. If you have a starter in the building, then that’s the path you go. Then sometimes you don’t have that luxury, and then that’s the path you go. A lot of it is dependent on the quarterback, his mental makeup. So I think it just varies,” Payton said of a rookie QB sitting after OTAs last week.

Translation? We don’t have a proven starter in the building, so it’s best if Nix seizes the job.

Wilson is an interesting reclamation project. You don’t go as high as he did in a draft without amazing raw talent. And he showed that off at BYU, then the Jets failed to develop him and another young QB failed in New York.

It’s worth giving Wilson a real look, perhaps even a few starts, but likely nothing beyond that unless he shockingly lights it up and becomes the talk of the NFL.

For Stidham, we’ve seen it. He wasn’t the guy in New England, nor in Las Vegas, and now he’s a career backup / practice squad QB. That’s totally fine, he’ll still make a nice living, but the charade he could be Denver’s starter this season should be dropped.

Last week, Payton gave each QB a day with the No. 1 offense. Frankly, that was wasting a valuable practice on Stidham. As the Broncos return to the Centura Health Training center later today, 50 percent of those reps should go to Wilson and the other half to Nix.

With Stidham finishing up the second season of a two-year, $10 million deal with Denver, perhaps he’s a tradable asset for a team looking for a backup quarterback. When the Broncos acquired Wilson and drafted Nix in the same week, the writing was on the wall Stidham wouldn’t have a meaningful role with the team moving forward.

Competition is healthy for Nix. It’s not like he was a No. 1 overall pick and should be handed the job. But rather than the ruse of a three-man battle, it should be cut to two.

Wilson still has some upside left to explore. Nix is the future in this town for hopefully a decade.

Payton should stop delaying the inevitable and narrow things down sooner rather than later.


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