ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Only a few weeks into their offseason program, the Denver Broncos already feel the power of knowledge.
With games still months away, it's nice to know who will start at quarterback. After signing Case Keenum in free agency, the Broncos believe they are set at the position.
"That’s good for everyone involved. That’s good for the players and that’s good for the coaches who are building a scheme around a player," coach Vance Joseph said. "Obviously, the last two years here it’s been a competition in training camp, and that takes away from what you want to do. If you have to do it, you do it, but if you don’t have to, you don’t want to."
The past two offseasons were consumed by the quarterback question. Trevor Siemian wasn't officially named the starter over Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch for 2016 until Aug. 29, when then-coach Gary Kubiak said "he’s earned the right to be our guy." Then last year, Siemian and Lynch competed for the job until Aug. 21, when Joseph finally declared Siemian the "clear-cut winner."
The 2017 season then dissolved into an almost constant offensive struggle as the Broncos cycled through Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Lynch (twice) at starting quarterback.
Keenum was the centerpiece of Denver's offseason work. He arrived with the stamp of approval from Joseph and president of football operations/general manager John Elway, who clarified "Case is our starter" when questions surfaced over whether the Broncos would use the No. 5 overall pick to draft a quarterback. Instead they drafted pass-rusher Bradley Chubb, and did not use any of their 10 picks on a quarterback.
"This is the first time in two or three years that I’m not … talking about a quarterback debate," wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. "I remember when I got out here, I went out to the team store and I saw Case Keenum jerseys. I was like, 'Thank God, I don’t have to deal with that again.' Case is our guy."
Keenum's arrival, and the Broncos' commitment to him, allows coordinator Bill Musgrave to design the offensive scheme around Keenum. Not only did the competition between Siemian and Lynch last season limit the Broncos' ability to do that, but there was a general feeling that what Mike McCoy was trying to do with the offense -- including simply too much volume on game days -- wasn’t in sync with their personnel in the post-Peyton Manning era.
As a result, and in the throes of what became an eight-game losing streak, McCoy was fired in November and Musgrave called plays for the final six games of the season. In the postseason review, Elway called the initial plan on offense "a bad fit."
“Last year, at the beginning of the season, we had Mike McCoy. I feel like it was a harder playbook [conceptually], and we had a lot of plays," Sanders said. "But I think that playbook could have been successful as well. … I think the biggest thing of it all is not even the playbook, it’s about us having a guy that is going to be consistent at quarterback play."
The Broncos are in the earliest stages of their offseason work -- the offense is working against air at this point -- but given that optimism in the NFL blooms quite nicely in April, the reports of Keenum's comfort level are already coming from his teammates.
"I like him," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "Everybody I’ve talked to, receivers, they’re excited about him. They say he throws an easy ball to catch. That’s what you want to hear, they haven’t said that too many times since Peyton was here. I think they’re pretty excited."
Keenum said he's trying to take full advantage of workouts to get to know his new teammates and show them that he’s ready to be the kind of quarterback the Broncos have waited for since Manning's final season in 2015.
"It feels good, it does," Keenum said. "I’m going to stay hungry; I’m going to stay consistent to the same mindset I’ve always had. That’s what’s gotten me here, and that’s who I am. Nothing has ever been handed to me. I’ve earned that right and I’m going to continue to earn that right."