For seven months during The Great Quarterback Competition, Trevor Siemian heard the same characterization.
Paxton Lynch was the mega-talent with the high upside. He was raw in his skills but with a little refinement, he would become the Broncos’ franchise quarterback.
Trevor was Trevor. Not bad, not great. Dependable, serviceable, experienced. He is what he is.
These dual descriptions really went back to 2016, when Siemian was the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback and everyone was waiting for Lynch to develop so he could move in and take the job.
“I think the world of Pax,’’ Siemian said in a sit-down interview with 9News this week. “Unbelievable player. He’s got a real bright future in this league.
“As far as on my end, I’ve only played a year. I hope I keep improving. I don’t want to speak on behalf of other guys but I don’t think Peyton Manning was Peyton Manning in year two. Or Drew Brees or Tom Brady. I think it took those guys a little while to get to where they’re at now. I kind of watch those guys and envision myself where I want to be this year, and next year, and the year after and hopefully I can keep continuing to grow and keep getting better.’’
Since he brought it up, let’s compare the statistics of his first year as an NFL starting quarterback to those three, eventual, first-ballot Hall of Famers.
QB ………. A .… C … PCT … Y … TD … I … RTG … W-L
Siemian . 486 . 289 . 59.5 . 3401 . 18 . 10 . 84.6 . 8-6
Brady ….. 413 . 264 . 63.9 . 2843 . 18 . 12 . 86.5 . 11-3
Manning . 575 . 326 . 56.7 . 3739 . 26 . 28 . 71.2 . 3-13
Brees … 526 . 320 . 60.8 . 3284 . 17 . 16 . 76.9 . 8-8
Note: Siemian, Brady and Brees didn’t become starters until their second season. Manning started as a rookie.
Note II: Brady led New England to the first of his five Super Bowl titles in his first year as starter. Siemian, Manning and Brees missed the playoffs.
Note III: The passing game has become more favorable in the 15-plus years since Manning, Brady and Brees began their careers. Pass interference and defensive holding are far more stringently called, and the offensive schemes have evolved into higher completion percentages.
Clearly, Siemian’s first-year stats compare favorably to the first-year numbers of these all-time greats.
Go ahead, rant and rave for daring to compare Siemian to Manning, Brady and Brees. But the point is, you, me, football executives, coaches – no one knows what kind of quarterback Siemian will become based on his first season. All comparing his first-year production to others means is he could become a better quarterback.
Doesn’t mean he will. But he could.
“We’re just scratching the surface,’’ Broncos quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave said in his first interview since he took the position in January. “We’re just getting started with our new system so I can’t tell you that I know Trevor really very well. We’ve been through two preseason games. I do like the way he’s accurate, he’s steady. He’s a good athlete. He works hard. He’s team oriented. Those are all really good qualities, so he’s got a bright future ahead of him.’’
Siemian did wind up beating out Lynch for a second consecutive season. And it may have been more decisive this year. Siemian through two preseason games is 14 of 18 for 144 yards, one touchdown and a 118.5 passer rating.
The preseason game tonight against the Green Bay Packers at eventually-renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High will be both Siemian’s first since he was anointed as the number one guy by head coach Vance Joseph, and the last tune-up for Broncos’ starters before they play the Los Angeles Chargers in the season opener September 11.
“We’re treating this week like a normal game week so we’re all in on the Green Bay Packers,’’ Siemian said.
A seventh-round draft pick in 2015, Siemian seemed in danger of losing his starting position to Lynch, a first-round draft choice in 2016, the moment Gary Kubiak had resigned as head coach for health reasons.
Kubiak was Siemian’s greatest ally. Kubiak was the reason why Siemian has an NFL career as it would never have happened had the coach not casually been watching a Northwestern football game at Notre Dame in 2014.
“It was disappointing losing coach Kube,’’ Siemian said. “Not just for me, the whole locker room. He had a ton of respect in there. But everything was pretty transparent on my end. I was going to get a chance to compete again to play quarterback for the Broncos. I was excited about that. I was really excited about the opportunity to grow as a player when I came to OTAs. Working with coach (Mike) McCoy, coach Musgrave, the new staff, so it’s been great the whole way through.’’
As it turned out, there could be a greater upside for Siemian with the offensive system McCoy and Musgrave have brought to Denver.
“In the passing game, there’s a lot of different looks that we throw at defenses, or we can,’’ Siemian said. “So we can very multiple with personnel, formations. That’s just difficult to defend. I don’t want to put labels on what we’re doing but we’re going to be able to throw a lot at defenses and attack them in a lot of different ways.’’
Now that he is the starting quarterback for a second consecutive season, Siemian is expected to become more assertive in leading his teammates. Problem is, it’s not his natural personality to stand in the middle of a room and utter in his best strong voice -- “All right guys, I’m in charge here. Listen up!’’
“I don’t know how much of a rah-rah guy I am,’’ he said. “I certainly embrace my role as the quarterback of the offense. Last year was a great experience for me growing and developing into more of a central role in the locker room but I’m going to be the same guy day-in and day-out. I’m going to work as hard as I can. I’m going to try and be the best teammate I can and hopefully earn the respect of the guys in the locker room.’’
He has already led through example. For he was given nothing. He earned every bit of the starting quarterback job for a second year in a row. Seventh rounder be danged.
Siemian exceeded expectations last season by first, starting; second, throwing for 18 touchdowns and 3,401 yards in his first year as a starter; and three demonstrating toughness by playing through a left shoulder injury that required surgery within a few days of the season. Yet that was all scrapped and he was back to zero when it came to The Great Quarterback Competition.
His teammates didn’t hear him complain or see him throw his dirty socks around after the new coach announced at his introductory press conference back in January that the quarterback position would be an open competition.
“No, because I don’t know if you want to call it my own compass but nobody’s harder on me than I am,’’ he said. “When I got done with last year, I was confident about some of the things that I had done, but I wanted to improve as a player and I thought if I take care of these things and keep working, and I’m a good teammate and keep getting better and get comfortable with that, we’ll see where I can go.’’