ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The way Trevor Siemian sees it, he’s proof of how difficult it can be to find an NFL quarterback.
A full-time starter in just one year of his college career, a former seventh-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos and in the span of 15 months he’s gone from battling for a spot on the roster to a neck-and-neck, nail-biter of a battle to become the starting quarterback of the defending Super Bowl champions.
“It’s tough to speak on, but I think a lot of people admit evaluating quarterbacks in college isn’t an exact science,’’ Siemian said. “I think I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a great situation with awesome guys last year, obviously with Peyton [Manning] and Brock [Osweiler], with great coaching, and that’s all I’ve been trying to do since I got here is take coaching and absorb as much as I can and grow. But I’ve definitely have come a long way.’’
When the Broncos closed their offseason program last week, coach Gary Kubiak made two things abundantly clear. One, he’s not made a decision about a starting quarterback.
And, the second had plenty of people firing up their favorite search engine. Because when Kubiak said Mark Sanchez and Siemian were tied in the pursuit of the job, Siemian was the unknown quantity.
With seven seasons in the NFL, 72 regular-season starts and six playoffs starts after he had been a first-round pick, folks had a good handle on Sanchez. And Siemian, despite having been on the QB depth chart during a Super Bowl run in which Manning was injured, was a player who brought mostly a reaction of disbelief.
Some believed there could be no way Siemian was in the mix. Except, he was before Kubiak put the official stamp on it, and still is after Kubiak’s declaration that it is a tie.
“I think my role had changed quite a bit, but I’m just trying to keep the same mindset and remind myself what got me to this point,’’ Siemian said. “Not trying to be somebody else, not trying to be Peyton, not trying to be Brock or anybody else. Just be myself, try to get comfortable in that leadership role. It’s been a quick turnaround for me.’’
In large part it’s because Siemian has what Kubiak calls “a pro arm,’’ and he also had a full season in the school of Manning, a full year in the team’s offense and just enough swagger to believe he can not only stay in the race for the job but actually win it.
“I think just doing what I’m doing, staying consistent, not trying to do too much, got a heck of a team, everybody knows we’re going to be play good defense, be physical, I’m not trying to be Peyton Manning. I’ll be all right if I just stay consistent and I’ll have a shot and things will work themselves out.’’
“I’ve said, we’re still looking for somebody to be that consistent guy,’’ Kubiak said. “ … And Trevor has been with us, we know what kind of player he is and why he’s certainly in the competition.’’
Siemian is an example of how a convergence of factors can keep a player under the radar. He was not the unquestioned starter at Northwestern until his senior season -- he started 14 games in his career -- and then he tore his ACL in the 11th game of his senior season.
That meant he went into the 2015 draft with a far shorter resume than plenty of quarterbacks who had less powerful arms, and he was still recovering from knee surgery. Broncos quarterback coach Greg Knapp put Siemian through a limited pre-draft workout, and Kubiak has repeatedly said that Siemian’s arm strength was clear even then.
Since he arrived in Denver, it’s Siemian’s level head under pressure and willingness to play hard in the limited moments he’s had in the preseason and in late-game scenarios during practice that his teammates notice the most.
“I keep telling people not to sleep on him,’’ said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. “We’ve seen what he can do, and he learned from one of the best to ever play the game.’’
Siemian said those around him have been quick to offer their support and predict he can win the job.
“I want to make sure, last year, that I didn’t take anything for granted,’’ Siemian said. “I know how hard some of the guys have worked, who have been in the league for so long and that was their first time there. So it was something I don’t take for granted. ... And I’m getting a lot of texts, lot of phone calls, it’s cool and I’m happy to share with everybody, my family, but at the same time I have to really just focus on what I’m doing, not to get too far ahead of myself. But I think it’s going to be fun when we get back [for training camp].’’