ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As he made the climb from seventh-round draft pick to starting quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champions, Trevor Siemian sneaked up on a lot of people along the way.
Go ahead and count Monday Night Football's Jon Gruden among them. Gruden saw Siemian up close and in person this week and said he now understands why the Denver Broncos put the second-year player behind center.
“I’m really impressed with the guy," Gruden said. "Handling the pressure of not only succeeding Peyton Manning, but taking the keys to the world champions, that’s tough. And he’s really done it without a running game. They haven’t got the running game going, they’ve had no success on first down like Gary Kubiak and his team normally have."
And after he watched Siemian on the practice field this week in preparation for the Broncos' Monday night game against the Houston Texans and sat down face-to-face with the quarterback, Gruden had the same reaction as many others who have crossed paths with the 24-year-old quarterback.
"I like Siemian, he’s a lot bigger than I thought," Gruden said. “Watching him on the practice field, he throws the ball a lot better than I thought when I met him. He’s a lot more mature and smarter than I ever thought. He’s got a lot going for him."
Gruden won a Super Bowl in 2003 as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers behind a dominant defense and a former ninth-round draft pick at quarterback in Brad Johnson. Gruden said he sees a familiar theme in the current Broncos.
He also pointed to the willingness of Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway and coach Gary Kubiak to put Siemian in the lineup after watching how training camp and the preseason unfolded. The Broncos had traded for Mark Sanchez early in the offseason and selected Paxton Lynch in the first round of the draft.
"Happens a lot," Gruden said of Siemian’s career path. "Give credit to Elway and Kubiak for A) finding the guy, but B) having the guts to play the guy. Most people would have said, 'Let’s just go with Sanchez, we traded for him, let’s save face and give Sanchez a shot.' [Or] 'Let’s go with Paxton Lynch, he is our No. 1 pick.' [But saying] 'Let’s go with our seventh-round pick no one knows about,' that takes a lot of courage and I compliment them for that. They deserve credit for playing the best player."
Gruden said the Broncos are still in search of a run game. After they opened the season rushing for 148 yards in Week 1 and 134 yards in Week 2, the Broncos have not reached 90 yards rushing in any of the last four games, going 2-2 during that span.
After watching the game video, Gruden said the Broncos haven’t gotten enough from the tight ends as blockers and that there has been “no continuity" in the offensive line with right tackle Donald Stephenson's injury. He added people won’t see the best of Siemian or the offense as a whole until the run game is more productive.
"[Siemian] has not been able to run the best of Gary Kubiak’s stuff yet," Gruden said. "The best of Gary Kubiak are these bootlegs and these play-action passes. ... They haven’t gotten those going yet. And until they do, they’ll continue to struggle."