The quarterback guru
GJ's Bill Musgrave returns to state as Broncos' QB coach
ENGLEWOOD — For the past two summers, one question has pestered the Denver Broncos and their fans: Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch?
In the middle of the quarterback battle this summer is Grand Junction native Bill Musgrave, who was hired as the new quarterbacks coach in January.
“We’re all about the team first,” Musgrave said after the final day of Broncos training camp on Aug. 12. “The quarterbacks want the team to win, that’s the bottom line. So however the roles are defined and when they’re defined, no one has control of that. We’ve just got to control our own technique and our own fundamentals, and get better each day.”
The past few months have been a sort-of homecoming for the 49-year-old Musgrave, who led Grand Junction High School to a state title-game berth in 1985 and was recognized with the Golden Helmet award by The Denver Post as the top scholar-athlete in football.
Musgrave’s hiring was part of a revamp of the Broncos’ coaching staff after Gary Kubiak’s retirement at the end of last season. The Broncos hired Vance Joseph as head coach, with Mike McCoy returning as offensive coordinator after four years in San Diego.
Musgrave, who spent the past two years as the offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders, turned down other play-calling positions in the offseason, instead deciding to return to his home state.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” Musgrave said. “I know how wonderful a state this is and (the Broncos are) a terrific franchise with a lot of great history.”
That history includes Musgrave himself.
After a record-setting career with the University of Oregon, Musgrave was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1991, but actually started his professional career in San Francisco. He later joined the Broncos for the 1995 and 1996 seasons as the backup to John Elway, who now is the general manager and vice president of football operations for the team.
Musgrave had the majority of his NFL playing time in those two seasons, logging time in 10 games, including one start in 1996.
“Twenty years ago, it was a blast to be backing up John,” he said. “I’m just as excited to be part of (the Broncos) 20 years later.”
Musgrave started his coaching career as the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 1997, and has since spent the past 20 years in high-profile coaching spots around the league. He’s been the offensive coordinator for the Vikings, Jacksonville and Carolina, and then returned to Oakland in 2015 as the offensive coordinator. Under his play calling, the Raiders improved from 7-9 in 2015 to 12-4 last year, which included the rise of quarterback Derek Carr and a trip to the playoffs.
“Obviously he’s called plays for a playoff team a year ago and he’s been great with young quarterbacks,” Joseph said after Musgrave’s hiring in January.
As a quarterback coach in the past, he’s helped groom budding stars like Carr and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan when he was drafted by the Falcons in 2008.
Although Musgrave won’t be the primary play-caller for the Broncos’ offense, he is expected to be a significant contributor to McCoy’s offensive gameplan. The two previously worked together in Carolina in 2000, when Musgrave helped McCoy get his first job as an NFL assistant.
“He kind of broke Mike into the business, so having that relationship between those two guys, it’s going to be awesome for us to have all those minds come into one gameplan each week. It’s going to be important,” Joseph said.
During training camp, it was clear that Musgrave still enjoys the game and coaching. As the Broncos worked on drills by position, Musgrave was an active participant, smiling as he ran across the field, throwing the ball back and forth with Siemian.
Whether or not Denver will be a long-term home for Musgrave, he won’t say.
“We’re just really focused right now on this season and getting better this preseason so that we can be ready to roll Sept. 11,” he said of the regular-season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Musgrave’s experience and background working with quarterbacks makes him an ideal fit in Denver. All four of the Broncos QBs are under 25 years old — including two rookies in Kyle Sloter and Chad Kelly. Lynch is in his second season and Siemian his third with the team.
With one week left in the preseason schedule, the question centered on the quarterback position has been answered.
Siemian was selected the starter after the San Francisco game.
Denver will now start getting prepared for the regular season.
Musgrave will continue to focus on developing the team’s four young quarterbacks.
“We’ve got a tremendous group of young guys that are very team oriented,” Musgrave said. “They support one another and compliment one another when they make a good throw. There’s a lot of synergy in our quarterback department.”