DENVER — In the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, quarterback Paxton Lynch had already turned his attention toward the opportunity that could await him in 2017.
Following an up-and-down performance that saw Lynch turn the ball over three times but also lead the team to a late touchdown drive to tie the game, Lynch said he has no doubt about his ability or desire to be the franchise’s starting quarterback in 2018 and beyond.
“I want to be the quarterback of this organization,” Lynch said. “That’s what they brought me here for. That’s why they moved up in the first round to get me. That’s what I believe in my heart. That’s what I’m trying to do, and that’s what I’m working to do. The season is over so I can’t do anything about it now.
“The opportunity is over with in terms of games, so in the offseason, I just have to get to work and come back prepared and better than ever.”
In his second start of the season, the 2016 first-round pick certainly showed glimpses of why President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway drafted him out of Memphis.
Lynch finished 21-of-31 for 254 yards, two touchdowns, an 87.3 quarterback rating and a game-tying drive. He also showed plenty of room for improvement, as he threw a pair of interceptions — one of which came in the red zone — and was strip-sacked by Chris Jones.
The second-year player was sacked five times in all, but he seemed to do a “fine job” bouncing back from the turnovers, Head Coach Vance Joseph said.
Joseph has said repeatedly the Broncos must find answers at the quarterback position, and after Lynch’s performance Sunday, Denver’s head coach may be a bit more convinced that Lynch can be that answer.
“I thought Paxton played good football tonight,” Joseph said. “It wasn’t all perfect, but having a chance to finally play a full game, I thought Paxton made some strides tonight. Obviously, the one interception was a fourth-and-long, just taking a shot. He had a sack-fumble there and he had one pick down the middle, but I thought he got better tonight as a quarterback.”
Lynch addressed that needed ability to leave previous plays behind and move on — just as he did late in Sunday’s game.
“Football is like a roller coaster,” Lynch said. “It’s going up and down, up and down. You turn the ball over, you get the ball back and you score a touchdown. You turn the ball over and they go and score a touchdown. There are just so many things that happen. Being the quarterback, you just have to be that guy who after he makes a mistake, it’s just ‘next play, next play, next play.’ That’s how it has to be for everybody, and I think we did that tonight as a group, as an offense and as a defense, too.”
And that’s enough to give Lynch reason to be optimistic heading into the offseason. He said he also takes comfort in knowing there’s not just a single area of his game in which he can improve.
“I don’t think there is just one thing,” Lynch said. “I think there is just so much more I can get better at. That’s what I’m excited about. As a player, there is always something to grow [on], and this year obviously didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, but you have to move on from that. In the offseason, I know there will be things that will come up that I will specifically want to work on, but as an individual, there is just so much I can work on to try to get better as a player.”
It’s for that reason that Lynch won’t pay much heed to the quarterbacks the Broncos scout or court during the offseason. He’s focused solely on his own game and the future opportunity that, after Sunday’s game, seems just a bit more attainable.
“The only thing you can do now is put it behind you and get to work in the offseason,” Lynch said, “and I’m excited about that to put in the work in the offseason and come back and be the guy.”