Sean Payton praises all three QBs competing for Broncos' job

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As the Denver Broncos closed out their first week of OTAs Thursday, coach Sean Payton was quick to praise all three of his quarterbacks in the competition for the team's starting job, including rookie Bo Nix.

Asked about Nix's progress since the team made him the sixth quarterback selected in the first round in last month's draft (No. 12 overall), Payton said: "Good, he's farther along than most would be. We're talking about a player who's played 61 games [in college]. He's extremely smart. He's picked it up very quickly.''

Payton has been clear Nix, Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson, who the Broncos acquired in a trade with the New York Jets in the days before the draft, are in a full-scale competition for the starting job. Payton was also quick to compliment the work of all three and just as quick to point out nothing should be read into Nix opening Thursday's practice with the team's offensive starters.

Payton said Stidham worked with the starters more in Tuesday's practice and Wilson worked with the starters in Wednesday's practice.

"We try to split up all the reps,'' Payton said. "There's going to be a time when you read into the reps, I don't think it's early in OTAs. It's kind of the orphan group, they're all orphan dogs. They've come from somewhere, but they're doing good. It's a good room.''

Payton also said: "We go by what we see. We try to get them as many reps as possible. We rotate. We're rotating all of them right now. They're all in a race to learn this system. Man, they're doing well.''

It is Payton's first, and only other, quarterback competition he has overseen as a head coach since 2021. That was Payton's final season as the New Orleans Saints' head coach and the first season after Drew Brees' retirement when Payton said Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill competed for the starting job.

Asked about his general philosophy about playing, and starting, a rookie quarterback like Nix, Payton said much depended on how much the rookie showed he was prepared to play by the time the season started.

Payton and general manager George Paton said Nix's experience and maturity -- given his 61 games in five college seasons at Auburn and Oregon -- were factors in his selection by the team. Nix was the first quarterback the Broncos selected in the first round since Paxton Lynch in 2016 and the Broncos' highest selection of a quarterback in the first round since Jay Cutler, at No. 11 overall, in 2006.

"I think some of it is a byproduct of what you have in the building. If you have a starter in the building then that's the path you go, and sometimes you don't have that luxury, then that's the path you go,'' Payton said. "A lot of it is dependent on the quarterback, his mental makeup.''