Broncos starting a rookie QB in Week 1 is quite rare in team history

The Denver Broncos used the No. 12 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft to select Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and many fans and analysts have already anointed him as the team’s QB1. Some, like NFL Network’s Marc Ross, see it as a foregone conclusion that Nix will open the season as the Broncos’ starter.

If that turns out to be the case, it would be only the third time in team history that the Broncos have started the season with a rookie quarterback and the first time in 41 years. The only other quarterbacks to start the season as the Broncos’ starting QB during their rookie year were John Elway in 1983 and Mickey Slaughter in 1963.

Both quarterbacks also had rough starts to their careers.

Slaughter, a seventh-round pick in the 1963 draft out of Louisiana Tech, started that season as the team’s starter during their AFL days. He struggled, going 1-5-1 as a starter and setting a Broncos rookie record that still stands to this day by throwing five interceptions in one game.

He lasted only four years in the league, finishing his career with a 2-15-2 win-loss record.

Elway did great things, of course, but his rookie career got off to a bad start after being named the Week 1 starter in 1983. In Week 1 of that season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was just 1 of 8 and passed for 14 yards. with an interception. The following week against the Baltimore Colts, the team he rejected in the draft, he was 9 of 21 for 106 yards.

In both games, Steve DeBerg came on to replace Elway and helped the Broncos win both games. As a rookie, Elway completed just 47.5 percent of his throws for 1,663 with seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The team made the playoffs that season, but that was mainly despite the rookie passer.

The Broncos haven’t started a rookie quarterback in Week 1 since.

In 2006, the Broncos took Jay Cutler with the No. 11 overall pick in the draft, a surprise to many at the time since they had Jake Plummer. But Cutler wouldn’t start a game until December of that season.

In 2019, the Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the second round, but a thumb injury suffered in the preseason left Joe Flacco set to open the season as the starter. Lock made his first start in November of that year.

Nix could very well be the team’s starter in Week 1 of this season. All he has to do is beat Zach Wilson and Jarrett Stidham. But that will be a tall order for a team that has missed the playoffs every season since 2015.

While Nix may be the most accomplished college quarterback of all time and fits seamlessly into Sean Payton’s offense, he still has a lot of issues and a lot of history to overcome.