It is a tall task to follow any legend. And in a big way, it’s unfair to the next in line. Before they even get their feet wet, the comparisons start. That tale seems to loom largest in the NFL with quarterbacks. Perhaps there’s no story more challenging to succeed than that of Peyton Manning.
A couple follow-up acts have done quite well in the NFL. We’ve all witnessed the storyline of Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers. Both men stood tall against the constant and immediate evaluation to their predecessors. They’ve each made their own statement of greatness, and left big shoes for the next guy to try to fill.
That narrative is the exception though. All too often we’ve seen the next passer up fail to be great. Even if they delivered decent quarterback play, it just wasn’t the same.
That brings us to Trevor Siemian. He’s really the second guy left to follow the Peyton Manning act. Andrew Luck was the first, in Indianapolis, to attempt that feat. Luck has done a decent enough job, and is still in the beginning of his peak time as a quarterback. But he’s got a long way to go to supplant the legend.
If there’s any doubt about that, just look outside of the stadium at the shiny new Peyton Manning statue. If that doesn’t tell you about the reverence and love that community has for Manning, I’m not sure how else to convince you. But I digress…back to Siemian.
There’s no debate that Manning is a tough act to follow. So, what does Siemian bring to the table?
He has a good arm. I always find that odd to state about an NFL QB, as that’s basically the entire reason they’re in that position, however, it always needs to be said. What I really mean when I say that is he can obviously chuck a ball downfield at a top level, but it’s not an elite level. He does not possess a canon. But that’s alright, neither did Manning.
Trevor does a couple things better than Manning. He is certainly a better runner than Peyton. Trevor also throws a prettier pass. Manning still remains king of lame ducks that are tossed on a football field. Somehow, he managed to get them to the target, but a tight spiral is always preferred. Receivers have an easier time catching a spiral, and frankly, they just look 1,000 times better.
Trevor is much more cautious with the football, especially when comparing first seasons. He threw close to a third less picks than Manning first season out. (Manning – 28, Siemian – 10) That’s a very good thing for a freshman season, but I think it’s hurting Siemian a bit in this, his sophomore year. The Broncos have had a poor red zone showing this year.
I think Siemian is still in that cautious mindset that some younger quarterbacks have.
At some point, you’ve got to start putting some passes up and letting your receivers go get one. That is especially true in the red zone. I’m not advocating that he throws caution to the wind. But not every young QB starts out with targets like Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders who can go get a ball for you. That’s an area Trevor has some work to do.
Siemian also threw more yards per game the first year. (Manning – 233.7, Siemian – 242.9) That’s not a huge difference, but considering Siemian was in a hapless Kubiak pass offense his first year, that stat line is more impressive than it would otherwise look. In a Mike McCoy offense, look for that number to rise as Siemian and McCoy develop that relationship. That’s hard to judge after only 4 weeks.
There’s been some great games, and a couple duds. Could easily be simple growing pains of a new system and new play caller.
The most important tool Siemian brings to the table is his mind. He appears to be a cerebral QB – just like Manning!
Peyton was never an elite athlete. Even when you look at arm strength or passing accuracy, Manning was not elite in either category. He could certainly get the ball where it needed to go, but he did not have the pinpoint accuracy that we’ve seen from a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.
I’m well aware that Manning has a top 5 career completion percentage, but that also has a lot to do with who is catching the ball. It also has to do with Manning’s precision in preparation and communication to receivers on the exact steps of each route. I know Manning fans will get after me about that, but as good as his career completion percentage is, it does not mean he was able to throw bullets into crazy tight windows on a regular basis.
Manning was never going to beat you with his athletic talent, but with his mind, and with his insanely detailed and meticulous preparation. I believe Trevor has those tools in place. Anyone can put the time into preparation that Manning was known for. But Trevor was able to witness HOW #18 prepared for games; every painstaking detail for the majority of a whole season from beginning to championship.
In his very short career thus far, Trevor seems to be a cerebral quarterback. He has some good qualities on the physical side of the game, but I don’t believe that’s his shot to live up to the legend. He’s got a long way to go to reach Peyton’s mental quarterback play. I think Trevor has the potential. He also has some great pieces around him, just like Manning did early on.
The relationship between Peyton and his first offensive coordinator, Tom Moore, is well documented, and hugely impactful. The 2 of them fed of each other’s love for the game, and guys like Tom Moore tremendously helped in Peyton’s success. Trevor has a guy like that now in Mike McCoy.
The potential relationship of Siemian and McCoy can’t be understated in my opinion. McCoy has established himself as a brilliant offensive mind. He’s had some great experience as a coordinator and a head coach.
McCoy’s worked with some great quarterbacks, and had some not so great quarterbacks play well above their average.
I think a lot of the future successful development for Siemian hinges on that relationship and how long it continues. Both men have a lot to prove, but the pieces are in place to create another footnote on a potential historic career.
Siemian himself has a long and difficult road ahead for us to speak of him as we do a Steve Young or Aaron Rodgers.
But, I think he’s got the foundation laid, the tools to build on, and the mental capabilities to put it all together. And we get the pleasure of possibly seeing such a monumental task come to fruition.