Outside of maybe Ken Karcher starting three replacement games 33 years ago, the Broncos will have the most unlikely starting quarterback in team history when they face New Orleans.
Meet Kendall Hinton, starting quarterback.
No, for real.
All four Broncos quarterbacks are ineligible to play — third-teamer Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and starter Drew Lock, backup Brett Rypien and practice squad member Blake Bortles were benched Saturday after they were deemed to be high-risk close-contact cases.
Hinton, an undrafted rookie from Wake Forest, started his college career as a quarterback and moved to receiver in 2019. Signed by the Broncos in April, he was released after training camp and signed to the practice squad earlier this month.
Hinton is the first-non quarterback to start a game at the position since Baltimore Colts running back Tom Matte in 1965 when Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo were unable to play.
Matte was 0-of-2 passing and rushed 16 times for 99 yards. The Colts had 47 rushes and seven passes.
The Colts’ coach that day was Don Shula; the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach Sunday is Mike Shula (Don’s son).
Hinton was elevated from the practice squad this morning and the three quarterbacks were placed on the COVID-19/reserve list.
A look at the process the league is taking now with the Broncos:
Every team that has alleged COVID protocol violations gets reviewed. The NFLPA works with the league to control the spread of the virus, following a review of the facts and then the NFL office considers discipline for any violations.
The difference between the Broncos’ situation and the one in Baltimore: The findings by the league and union so far have led them to believe a Broncos’ spread is contained. Lock, Rypien and Bortles were found to be close contacts, which is why they were placed on the COVID-19/reserve list this morning. Baltimore had its game moved because the virus is not yet considered contained because positives were contracted outside the building.
The Broncos could be subject to league discipline. Coach Vic Fangio was fined $100,000 and the Broncos $500,000 in September because Fangio wasn’t continuously wearing his mask on the sideline in games against the Titans and Steelers.
If the league lumps the Fangio/Broncos fine with the quarterbacks’ situation, the next fine could be substantial and also include forfeiture of a draft pick.
Other pregame notes …
*Receiver Jerry Jeudy (ankle/Achilles), listed as questionable on the final injury report, is active.
*Today is the Broncos’ first home game with no fans at Mile High. Friends and family of players/coaches were allowed to attend the Week 1 Tennessee game and 5,700 fans were permitted for the Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Chargers and Miami games.
The Broncos were a six-point home underdog throughout the week but the spread had reached 16 points Sunday morning. If that holds, it will be the Broncos’ largest underdog margin in at least 30 years, eclipsing the 1994 game against San Francisco (15 1/2-point spread, lost 42-19 to a 49ers offense coordinated by Mike Shanahan).