ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As a seventh-round draft pick from a school known more for their academics than their football program, quarterback Trevor Siemian was the ultimate underdog.
When Siemian was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2015, the then-23-year-old had an uphill battle to even make the team. He overcame the odds and beat out Zac Dysert for the team’s third, and final, quarterback position on the roster—behind Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler.
The next season, the unthinkable happened. After Denver failed to resign Osweiler in the offseason, the Broncos drafted quarterback Paxton Lynch in the first-round and all but gave journeyman Mark Sanchez the keys to the starting job for the 2016 season.
Trevor, however, had other plans and went from the third quarterback on the depth chart his rookie season to the starter just the following year. After a solid year for a first-year starter—3,401 passing yards with 18 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in 14 games—Siemian was thrown into a quarterback competition for a second straight year in 2017.
Much like he had up until this point in his NFL career, he beat the odds and again was named the starter over Lynch.
In his young NFL career—that was just beginning its third year—the signal caller had overcome every obstacle in his way even when the odds were never in his favor. So, why couldn’t he do more? Why couldn’t he continue to overcome the odds and perhaps go from a starter to being something special?
In the first two games of the season, it appeared he was taking a step in the right direction, tossing six touchdowns to only two interceptions. However, in the following five games, the wheels have come off as Siemian has thrown only three touchdowns to eight interceptions and the Denver Broncos have lost four of those games.
Siemian’s struggles over the past five games haven’t been simply because his abilities vanished overnight. According to his head coach, it’s because he’s been trying too hard to be great.
“I think Trevor has been pressing to be a special player for us,” Joseph said the day after Siemian threw a season-high three interceptions as the Broncos fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 29-19. “Trevor is a young quarterback that hasn't played a bunch of NFL football. It's a new system that he's inherited with Mike McCoy. I think his inconsistencies have come by him pressing and trying to make big plays.”
Minutes after the Broncos fell to the Chiefs on Monday Night Football, a defeated Siemian admitted what Joseph presumed. When he was asked if he was pressing—i.e. trying to do too much—he simply said, “At times, yeah. Yeah for sure. I can’t do that. Right.”
If the loss, coupled with his performance on the night, wasn’t hard enough on him already, just moments before he spoke to the media, his head coach strayed from his usual banter of “Trevor’s our quarterback” to a non-commital “I’m not sure,” sinking the quarterbacks confidence even further.
Early Tuesday afternoon, Joseph stood by his comments the night before, indicating that Siemian’s starting job is in fact in jeopardy.
“Right now, everything is being explored after losing three in a row,” Joseph said. “Yesterday, having five turnovers I think it’s fair to evaluate everything there. With our team working so hard, the guys putting in max effort yesterday and not having a chance to win the football game, I think it’s fair to evaluate the quarterback and all positions.”
The reason why this isn’t an easy decision for Joseph and his staff is because Trevor has shown starter-worthy play. But then he’s followed it up with “mind-boggling” turnovers, in the words of Joseph.
“When you watch Trevor, even last night, he made three horrible interceptions—I mean, horrific decisions with those three he threw last night,” the rookie head coach said, holding nothing back when evaluating the performance of his quarterback.
In all three, Siemian was pressing, desperately trying to make a big play for his team as every single one was an attempt at a big play. Even with “20 other plays that we’re really, really good,” according to his coach, his few terrible decisions—although they had big-play intent—could be what ends up costing him his starting job.
“When you watch your starting quarterback make 20 or 25 amazing throws, amazing checks, and three horrific interceptions, that’s when it becomes an issue,” Joseph said honestly. “In your heart you know he can play better because those three balls he threw, you just can’t throw. The 20-plus plays he made in the third and fourth quarter, it keeps you excited about the guy. That’s the issue.”
Up until this point in career, Siemian had overcome all of the odds he faced in his three years in the NFL. However, the next step of taking his game to another level and wanting to be “special” may have just been what ends up cost him his starting job.