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Broncos make quarterback change, Jarrett Stidham to start vs. Chargers

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos have made a change at quarterback.

Jarrett Stidham will start the Broncos' regular-season home finale against the Chargers, Head Coach Sean Payton announced Wednesday. Russell Wilson will serve as the Broncos' backup quarterback for the matchup.

"I understand all the speculation and everything that surrounds a move like that," Payton said Wednesday. "I can tell you, look, we're desperately trying to win. Sure, in our game today, there are economics and all those other things, but the No. 1 push behind this — and it's a decision I'm making — is to get a spark offensively. Obviously, it's difficult and all of us feel like, 'Man, we didn't do well enough.'

"One of the things that we saw when we signed Stidham in the offseason was not only film from preseason games but regular-season games. He's a guy that I'm anxious to see play. If I didn't feel like he gave us the chance to win, we wouldn't be making that move."

Payton echoed his thoughts from earlier in the week that Denver's offense has not been effective enough, and he's hoping the change can help the offense find more success.

"When we were getting two or three turnovers, that's one thing," Payton said. "But ultimately, our job is to get the ball in the end zone, and we've got to be more efficient in doing that — all of us."

Stidham, who signed with the Broncos ahead of the season, will make his first start of the season. In two starts to end the 2022 season, Stidham completed 64.3 percent of his passes and threw for 584 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions for the Raiders. In a three-point loss to the eventual NFC finalist 49ers, Stidham threw for 365 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 108.1 quarterback rating.

"He's someone who's got real good poise, he's got real good feet," Payton said. "You see his arm strength, decision-making. Take a peek at the 49er game or take a peek at the Chief game or some of those things we saw. And then obviously we get a chance to see him every day against our defense."

A fourth-round pick by the Patriots in the 2019 NFL Draft, Stidham spent two years with the Patriots and appeared in eight games before being traded to the Raiders ahead of the 2022 season. After his lone season with the Raiders, Stidham signed with the Broncos in free agency.

"I'm hopeful it gives us a spark," Payton said. "I'm hopeful that we do some other things better. It's not just going to be on him. The o-line, the receivers, the running backs, those guys are going to have to play well. That'll be important."

In 15 games this season, Wilson completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 3,070 yards, 26 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 98.0 passer rating.

"I spent time with Russ this morning," Payton said. "He's been a pro. And [he's] obviously disappointed, but all the work that goes into doing what he does — or doing what they do at that position — it's difficult. It's difficult and challenging, and there's a part of you, certainly myself as a head coach, that feels like, 'Man, I needed to be better.'"

Payton said the Broncos' decision to start Stidham over Wilson is not an indication of any long-term plans at quarterback.

"We need a spark," Payton said. "We need something right now. We'll handle the long term when we get there, but we're not there. We're trying to find a way to get this eighth win, and then if we're able to do that, then obviously we've got another important game next weekend. That's where we're at right now."

Against the Chargers, Stidham will guide a Broncos team that still has faint playoff hopes. With a pair of wins and a handful of other results falling in their favor, the Broncos could earn a wild-card spot or even an AFC West title.

"I can just assure you one thing, and honestly, I've said this to [Owner & CEO] Greg Penner and [General Manager] George [Paton] a number of times: I'm just interested in winning," Payton said. "It doesn't matter how. When you do this for this long [of a] period of time, that's all you're interested in, because there's nothing like it. And then the other side of it, there's nothing like that either."

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