The Broncos’ quarterback contest looked more a light-sabre duel between Jar Jar Binks and General Grievous.
Two quarters resulted in three turnovers.
Two quarterbacks couldn’t decide a thing.
The Broncos still are without a starter.
But Trevor Siemian has been named the starting quarter for the third exhibition, which means that Sanchez could be the backup, or could be gone. His was his job to lose it, and he did with two fumbles inside the Red Zone in the waning moments of the first half.
In any survey of Broncos’ loyalists, Sanchez wold finish last behind Paxton Lynch, Siemian, Manning and even Tim Tebow.
Just when everyone was thinking Siemian had established himself as a real contender to be No. 1, he threw a foolish interception that became a San Francisco 49ers touchdown.
Just when everyone was believing that Sanchez had assured himself of the regular-season starting job, he fumbled the ball away.
Moments later, Sanchez committed another blundering fumbling.
On the other sideline, Colin Kaepernick must have been thinking: “”Why didn’t I take a pay cut and come to Denver? I could have been the man.’’
On the Broncos’ sideline, rookie Paxton Lynch must have been thinking: “”Hey, maybe I got a shot here to be the starting quarterback. If not now, when?’’
It was not Star Wars for the Broncos at quarterback.
The Broncos don’t have a name for their stadium and a name for the starting quarterback.
Does the tie go to the veteran, or has Sanchez lost his way . . . and lost the starting job?
Coach Gary Kubiak has declared all along that it’s an open competition. Certainly, nothing was closed in that excuse for an exhibition Saturday night.
Thing is, the 49ers are about 24 1/2ers once more. Yet, they were up through three quarters 17-10.
Here’s what can be said about Siemian after the first start of any kind in the NFL:
Even if Trevor isn’t the Broncos’ starter for the regular-season opener, he might must be the best bargain backup quarterback in the NFL.
This season the Broncos’ second-year QB will receive $525,000 in salary.
And $13,196 in bonus money.
Most quarterbacks tip valet parkers more than $14,000 a year. A half mil is what some wide receivers will spend on cars in 2016.
Andrew Luck gets $24.6 million this season. Brock Osweiler, Siemian’s locker mate in ’15, signed a four-year contract with Houston that could be worth $72 million. Colin Kaepernick, who was idle during the Broncos-49ers game Saturday night, is guaranteed $11.9 million this year if he doesn’t play a down.
So, when Siemian finished the first quarter Saturday with 10 completions on 11 passes for 75 yards, and had led the Broncos to a 7-0 lead without a smudge or a splotch, he looked a million dollars.
The Broncos offense after the kickoff was as smooth, sparkly and spangled as a Jamaican 4-by-100 relay team performance. Denver bolted 86 yards in 10 plays and 5 minutes, 14 seconds for a touchdown. San Franciso’s defense was Rice-A-Roni against Trevor, who began with a perfect throw. Siemian-to-Sanders for 11. Emmanuel is back. Siemian’s second attempt, just over the middle, was knocked down.
But he didn’t miss again in the quarter. It was almost too easy.
Kubiak, though, was not ready at the end of one quarter to declare a winner.
Or even after the game. But, on Monday, Kubiak named Siemian, even with a sore shoulder (he hurt trying to make a tackle on the interception), as the starter against the Rams in the final “”real” tuneup for the regular-season opener (against Carolina). Kubiak didn’t say when Sanchez or Lynch would play in the last home exhibition. Sanchez might go from starter to being cut.
Early in the second quarter Siemian sent a Western Union telegram. The 49ers’ free safety Eric William read Siemian, intercepted at the Broncos’ 42 and ran free for a touchdown.
That was a serious blemish on Siemian’s effort. He was 10 of 14 for 75 yards, no touchdowns thrown, one interception thrown
Soon Sanchez would take over, several minutes before his scheduled time.
And guess what he did.
The veteran in his first year with the Broncos was 10 of 12 passing for 120 yards. Take that, kid.
And guess what he did then.
Yep, Sanchez was trying to scramble out of trouble deep in San Francisco’s territory when the ball was punched away and recovered by the 49ers.
San Francisco immediately fumbled the ball back to the Broncos at the 15 with time running down in the second quarter.
This is when a Peyton Manning would stick it to the opposition and go all-in for six. Sanchez tried, throwing at the side of the end zone to second-year receiver Jordan Taylor, who made the catch, but obviously was out of bounds. Sanchez returned to Taylor on the other side on the next play, but this, too, was incomplete.
And guess what Sanchez did then?
He fumbled again.
Who’s the starting quarterback now, Coach?
Siemian was in position to stake a real claim on the position. Then he threw haphazardly and put himself behind. Sanchez came on and had every chance to take control. But he couldn’t
Nobody won the quarterback duel Saturday night. But Trevor didn’t lose it.
And there’s Paxton, who threw two for two touchdowns before he was intercepted on a heave late.
Is Sanchez the third man on a match, and the odd man out? He even sort of admitted it after the game.
He brought a flashlight to a sabre-light fight.
(This column originally appeared in The Gazette, and has been updated.)