Monday August 29th, 2016

The Broncos’ long search for a successor to Peyton Manning at quarterback came to an end on Monday when the team announced Trevor Siemian would take over the job.

The second-year signalcaller beat out veteran Mark Sanchez for the job just a few months after Brock Osweiler, Manning’s backup, left town to join the Houston Texans. It was an improbable result for an inexperienced player from a school not known for producing quarterbacks.

Here’s everything you need to know about the league’s freshest starter under center.

Quick facts:

Birthday: Dec. 26, 1991 (24 years old)

Birthplace: Danbury, Conn.

Hometown: Windermere, Fla.

High School: Orlando (Fla.) Olympia

College: Northwestern

NFL Draft: Seventh-round selection in 2015 (No. 250 overall)

Height: 6'4"

Weight: 220 lbs.

How did he win the job?

The Broncos’ third preseason game, a win over the Rams, was the nail in the coffin for Sanchez, who didn’t even see the field. Siemian started, and completed 10 of 17 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown, with an interception. That helped him secure the job for good.

Through three games, Siemian completed 62.8% of his passes for 285 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. He posted a 70.4 passer rating, and drew praise from head coach Gary Kubiak all summer who came away “impressed” after his performance against Los Angeles. Kubiak was particularly pleased with his hold on the playbook and his football IQ.

It also helped that Sanchez didn’t exactly light it up in August; in his first two games, he turned the ball over three times.

How did he play in college?

Siemian didn’t blow anyone away at Northwestern, and even he didn't really expect to land an NFL gig. As a fifth-year senior, he was prepared to take an office job after school, with a slim chance of latching on in the league.

He was the 11th-ranked quarterback in the Big Ten his senior year, falling behind Michigan’s Devin Gardner, who threw 15 interceptions. Those who defend his lackluster stats that season—a 58.2% completion percentage with seven passing touchdowns and 11 interceptions—will point to the fact that he was a bit hobbled due to various lower body injuries and had a poor offensive line. In his career, he played in 44 games, starting 14, and completed 58.9% of his passes for 5,931 yards with 27 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. He shared time with Kain Colter in a two-quarterback system prior to taking over as the team’s full-time starter.

He did come through in a big win over Notre Dame in 2014, right before tearing his ACL, which was a nice way to cap off his time with the Wildcats. But, that came a week after he slipped and fell going for two points and a win on the final play against Michigan, so take it with a grain of salt. That’s how his college career ultimately went. There was good, and there was bad.

What makes this so surprising?

Where to begin. Well, for one, Siemian wasn’t even guaranteed a roster spot last off-season coming off an ACL injury. In September, Kubiak and the Broncos made the decision to keep him around as the team’s third-string quarterback behind Manning and Osweiler, cutting 2013 seventh-round pick Zac Dysert. Kubiak spoke highly of Siemian’s ability to throw downfield.

“There’s no doubt about the arm,” Kubiak said then. “When you watch him throw the ball at Northwestern, some of the wind and trees are going sideways and he’s out there making throws all over the field. You knew that he had that ability.”

As a rookie last season, Siemian played exactly one snap, taking a knee entering halftime against the Steelers in Week 15. 

His ascendancy is also remarkable because of his alma mater. Siemian is the first Week 1 starter at quarterback from Northwestern since Otto Graham, and he wasn’t even a historically great quarterback in school. 

In a broader sense, this is shocking given where Denver was a year ago. Osweiler was supposed to take over for Manning when the legend retired, so the only thing Siemian was viewed as was a long-term project. No one expected him to start at age 24.

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