Back in the preseason, Trevor Siemian was hot stuff.
Broncos Country had Siemian Fever. They could not get enough of the 24-year-old rookie quarterback from Northwestern, who was chosen in the seventh round of the 2015 Draft.
The hyperbole was so thick you needed a fan. He was the next John Elway. Put him in over Brock Osweiler. He's perfect for the Denver Broncos and Gary Kubiak's offense.
Some dispute what they saw with the lazy argument "he didn't do it against top-notch talent."
Either you can play in the NFL or you can't. By that same argument, Terrell Davis shouldn't have been given his chance because the special teams play he made in Tokyo came against scrubs.
Players take advantage of the situation they're given to move up the depth chart. The great ones continue to shine under the pressure and remain consistent.
So is Siemian the answer at backup quarterback, or should the Broncos look for someone better?
There are still a lot of unknowns about Siemian. How well can he perform against better competition? Can he make the key throws, like a sideline completion on third-and-long? Can he consistently complete passes and make plays when he's called upon? Is he smart with the ball when no one is open and the pocket collapses?
7th rd pick Trevor Siemian had a productive career as a quarterback at Northwestern. He has raw talent and we think he will develop nicely.— John Elway (@johnelway) May 2, 2015
We can glean some information from his college career. Siemian finished his collegiate career ranked fourth all-time at Northwestern in career passing yardage (5,931), fourth in completions (550), sixth in total offense (5,908 yards) and seventh in passing touchdowns (27), despite only starting 14 games. That sounds an awful lot like Osweiler at Arizona State. Perhaps there's a pattern here with Elway and the quarterbacks he chooses.
What is not up for debate is the 6-foot-3 quarterback played well with the No. 3s in the preseason. He showed athleticism, mobility, a strong arm, accuracy and basic grasp of the offense. If this was an appetizer, you want the main course. You want more. You may even get a little excited.
That doesn't mean Elway and Kubiak anoint Siemian a future savior. That does mean Siemian should enter the offseason as the Broncos' backup. Whether he does so for Osweiler or someone else ... time will tell. It's safe to say the ideal scenario is Osweiler is the starter and Siemian is his backup for the next three-five years, if not longer.
Elway's handling of the Osweiler situation the last four years offers a preview of his plan for Siemian. As Osweiler did with Peyton Manning, Elway and Kubiak want Siemian to learn what the NFL is about and leverage that to play quarterback at a high level
When teams embrace the custom of having a "veteran" teach a young player with potential, the odds of consistent success shoot up in drastic fashion. If all goes well, you're never on the hunt for a quarterback like so many teams are in the NFL.
That's why Elway will always use a draft pick on a quarterback. The armchair GMs may throw a fit, but it is genius. Would you rather the Broncos turn into the Cleveland Browns? Or how about the Dallas Cowboys when Tony Romo retires?
It's a win-win for Elway and Kubiak.
There is no burden of expectation placed on the shoulders of the quarterback they draft (unless for some strange reason they trade up in the first round). The quarterback can grow and learn. When it's his "time to shine," the team will have a decent idea of what they have.
Of course it helps to have an all-time great defense that carries the load. That won't change in 2016. No doubt it would help to have an offense that is consistent and doesn't put so much pressure on the defense. But that lessens the pressure on the quarterback, whether Osweiler or someone else.
The last four years, and the seven games from last season, have given Elway and Kubiak a great idea of what they have in Osweiler.
Siemian is at the start of the same cycle.
He got off to a great start in the preseason games he played.
He forced the Broncos and the fanbase to want to see more. To see if it's real. So he gets that chance as the backup in the 2016 season.
That takes away the need for Elway and Kubiak to hunt for a veteran quarterback who eats up cap space and time from Siemian. If Osweiler isn't re-signed by the Broncos, then Elway pivots and brings in a new guy. Either way, Siemian is Denver's backup.
We will soon find out if Siemian Fever is incurable.