NFL

No Quarterback Controversy In Denver For The Broncos, For Now

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Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian was never supposed to be in the situation he’s currently in, being the quarterback of the defending Super Bowl champions.

Expected to go undrafted, the always prepared brainy Central Florida native and Northwestern graduate was angling for a commercial real estate job in Chicago.

Then on the afternoon of May 2nd, 2015, the phone rang and Siemian found out he was going to be drafted by the Broncos with the 250th overall selection and become a teammate, even if a temporary one of Peyton Manning.

Most expectations for seventh round quarterbacks are at best making the practice squad and if things break correctly and develop right, they will someday be groomed into being a backup.  That’s even more of a longshot when 249 other players were selected in front of you, just a handful selections away from “Mr. Irrelevant” honors.

Siemian was buried on the depth chart between the future Hall of Famer Manning, as well as the perceived future of the team, former second-round pick Brock Osweiler.

Instead of looking at the odds or resigning to the fact he would be lucky to continue collecting an NFL paycheck, Siemian simply reverted back to what made him a great student and took it all in.

“I was just sitting back, watching and seeing how they operated,” Siemian told Football Insiders.  “Two really good friends of mine, Peyton was really good and I learned a lot from both of them.  I am fortunate to have shared the room with them.”

Even spending a season with the most cerebral quarterback in the history of the league doesn’t prepare a seventh-round pick to be able to take over not only any NFL franchise but the defending Super Bowl champs who have different expectations than just about any other team.

“There’s a lot of pressure to perform,” Siemian said when asked about his situation.  “It’s a production business but it’s all about handling it the right way.”

The somewhat meteoric rise of Siemian was anything but expected, even from his own bosses.  It was understood to a certain extent that Osweiler, who played in eight games in 2015 would take over for Manning.  Sources say the former Arizona State standout was disenchanted by his benching last season and thus spurned John Elway’s $16 million per year offer to sign with the Houston Texans.

After Manning’s retirement, the Broncos were left with just the 250th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Siemian on their roster at the most important position in sports.

They believed in the Northwestern grad so much that they traded for journeyman veteran Mark Sanchez in the offseason.  That was expected, as the defending champs couldn’t realistically go into the season with a player who had one NFL snap of experience as their starter.  Then they took things a step further by trading up to select former Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in the April’s NFL Draft with the 26th overall pick.

From that point on, many believed that Sanchez would likely start the season until the former spread quarterback Lynch would be ready to take over.

Where did that leave Siemian?  The team had virtually no investment in him and he was more or less an afterthought.

“My mentality was to take it one day at a time and take the good coaching and see where it gets me,” the hard working Siemian said when asked how he approached the offseason knowing all of the changes that occurred. “I’ve learned a lot and it’s been fun the whole way through.”

With one weighted against him shot to make a name for himself, as well as extend his NFL career, Siemian persevered through some tough times in the preseason and won the Broncos starting quarterback job, sort of.  He hardly ran away with the job, as he had some turnovers prompting his head coach Gary Kubiak to make this statement.

“At the end of the day, it’s your job to protect the ball,” Kubiak said after a preseason game where both Siemian and Sanchez had multiple turnovers. “That’s the most important thing. That’s something that coming out of tonight wasn’t good enough.”

At best, Siemian was incrementally ahead of Sanchez after three preseason games and the Broncos decided to let the veteran go, which proved to be the smart move.

With low expectations, Siemian was a game manager for much of the beginning of the season while the team was winning games with its dominant defense.  In a Week 3 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, he displayed the talent that few thought he had as he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards and complete four touchdowns with no interceptions in his first career road start.  His 132.1 quarterback rating was the highest in the NFL that week.

Siemian hasn’t been perfect, but he seems to be getting better and the most important thing is that he has a “clutch gene” in big spots.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Siemian told Football Insiders when asked to describe his first season as a starter.  “Some ups, some downs but I’m learning and we’ve had a lot of fun and it’s a great group.”

The most impressive he’s looked was in the second half of the team’s Week 12 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.  Playing against a great defense which was whipping his offensive line, Siemian stood in the pocket strong and tough and threw three touchdowns with no interceptions on 20-of-34 passing for 368 yards.

With many still skeptical whether the Broncos made the right call in starting Siemian over Lynch, the way the second-year pro performed on a national television stage put a lot of those skeptics to rest.

A foot injury opened the door on Sunday again for Lynch, who started in a 20-10 victory over the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.  Although the Jags have a solid defense, the rookie didn’t look anything like an NFL starter, completing just 12 of 24 throws for just 104 yards passing.

“I thought he did some good things in the first half,” Kubiak said about Lynch after the game. “He got us in position for a field goal right at the end of the half. He did a good job at two-minute (offense) and didn’t turn the ball over, which we knew would be huge here. I’m not sure we helped him much in the second half. We got to do, I have to do, a better job for him.”

After the game, Siemian was not wearing a boot and was walking around the locker room fine.

“I’m making progress. It’s not what I need to see its what the doctors need to see,” he said when asked about his availability for next week.

Siemian has exceeded anyone’s expectations for him and the way he played against Kansas City showed that the Broncos are again a legitimate Super Bowl contender, with him at quarterback.

As usual, the modest quarterback deflected any and all praise to his teammates.

“I’m very lucky to be part of this team,” he said.  “Not just the wide receivers but the defense too.  It’s a great team.”

As for his future, it’s difficult to find a true comparison.  He looks like Tony Romo and has his mobility and willingness to make big throws.  He has a little Eli Manning to him as well.  Siemian didn’t want to share any personal comparisons.

“I don’t really like to compare,” he said.  “There’s a bunch of good players that I like to watch and try to learn from.”

It seems as if, after Sunday’s game with Lynch, Siemian is the unquestioned starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos.  As for his future, that’s certainly up in the air.  The team has the investment in Lynch and he will get his shot at some point.

Siemian is under contract with the Broncos for two more years, at $615,000 and $705,000 annually.  His starting job might or might not be in Denver next year or in two years, but it looks like he’s at the very least one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the NFL and at 24 years old right now he will get a shot somewhere.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.