ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Trevor Siemian won the Denver Broncos starting quarterback job through a mixture of steadiness and spunk.
He put in persistent work over the last six months while fans fretted, pundits pounced and the front office scoured the landscape in search of Peyton Manning’s successor.
It was one throw in particular, though, that confirmed the man for the job had been right under their noses all along.
And it was an interception, at that.
Early in the second quarter against Los Angeles on Saturday night, Siemian threw a ball to Cody Latimer in double coverage that traveled 43 yards in the air before bouncing off the receivers’ hands at the 5-yard line. The ball hit the ground but was still ruled an interception by Rams safety Cody Davis.
With Mark Sanchez not playing that night, Siemian knew all he had to do was avoid a pratfall and the job was his. Instead of taking the safe check-down on an underneath route, he put it all on the line with that deep pass: his standing, his future, his job.
“I want him to be aggressive,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s going to make mistakes. All players are going to make mistakes. He’s going to make some. What I really liked is how he came back after it.”
Siemian completed all four of his passes on Denver’s next drive, which ended with a 1-yard touchdown strike to tight end Virgil Green, Siemian’s first TD throw in the preseason.
“You’re not going to grow until you get put in those situations and have to do the right thing,” Kubiak said. “He’s aggressive. He believes in himself.”
That was obvious to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders even before Manning retired and Brock Osweiler bolted to Houston back in March.
“He was the guy that I was throwing with prior to games last year. I remember telling Demaryius (Thomas), ‘This dude has an arm. He can make every single throw,'” Sanders said. “It’s just all about opportunity in this league and he made the most of his opportunity, even last year.
“Nobody was really talking about it, but he was our backup quarterback for seven weeks. He definitely knows the system and he knows what Kubiak expects. I think that we can win. I think that we can win a lot of ball games.”
Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Mark Sanchez all had similar statistics in the preseason, but the notable number was Siemian’s zero sacks compared to three for Sanchez — two of which led to red zone fumbles — and six for Lynch.
“He’s one of those guys where in practice when we’re coming, we’re blitzing and he always makes the right decisions,” pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware said. “And what kind of poise do they have in the pocket, that awareness? Being a pass rusher, once you go against quarterbacks, it’s not about how fast they run. It’s being aware of where the guys are, where they’re rushing at, being elusive. Those are the guys that string those plays out and make those big plays and he’s able to do that.”
Kubiak plans to play Lynch the entire game Thursday night at Arizona but said Sanchez would be the emergency backup.
Sanchez said Tuesday he wants to stay in Denver but declined to say whether he’d restructure his contract to do so. The Broncos could save $3.5 million and a conditional seventh-round pick by cutting him, but that would leave them with two quarterbacks who have never thrown a pass in the NFL.
“I want to be here, I love being here. I’ve gotten to know these guys and embraced this community and I’ve had a great time here,” Sanchez said. “So, who knows about anything on the outside? I’m focused on getting ready for Carolina. I’ve been hit up a lot about contract stuff or trades, there is a business side to this thing. But I’m just focused on playing.”
Sanchez called the Broncos a first-class organization and said that’s one reason he wants to stay and help Siemian.
“If things don’t work out the way you want you can’t just act like a crybaby and cause a problem,” Sanchez said. “I just don’t think that’s the professional way to do it. So, I’ll help Trevor any way that I can and it’s a good thing he’s a likable guy. It could be worse.”
Notes: The Broncos released P Britton Colquitt, who would have counted $4 million against the cap, along with WR Bralon Addison and OT Kyle Roberts. They also placed TE Garrett Graham (shoulder) on IR.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton