Welcome to the start of a very strange year for football. When we last left off, Peyton Manning retired, Calvin Johnson also walked away, Tom Brady was set to sit out the first few games because Roger Goodell had to have his revenge on that pretty boy one way or another, and Colin Kaepernick became the big story of the preseason.
Up to date? Good. There’s actually football to be played, and that all starts tonight with the Super Bowl 50 rematch between the Carolina Panthers and defending champion Denver Broncos. You remember the Broncos, right? Von Miller and that suffocating defense that shut Cam Newton and his offense down? Yeah, that defense. They also had an offense, one that was supposedly powered by Manning for a few last games before he walked off into the sunset so he could sing to more chicken parm sandwiches, leaving the Broncos to look for a new guy who could run the offense. Some thought it could have been Mark Sanchez, but then it wasn’t, prompting Steven A. Smith to laugh a whole lot after that didn’t work out.
Nope. The Broncos, a team with John Elway, arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, running the show in the front office, went with Trevor Siemian. You know Trevor Siemian, right? He was the seventh round pick in 2015 whose only regular season NFL experience at this point is a kneel down in a December game against the Steelers, will be quarterback for the defending champions. Yeah, that guy.
And you should root for him to succeed.
In a year filled with weird quarterback stories, from RG3 possibly running the most interesting offense in Cleveland (Cleveland!), to Brady’s impact by being on the bench for four games and then when he returns, Cam Newton bouncing back from the Super Bowl loss and what the hell Eli is going to do now that he’s the last Manning standing, Siemian is in an insanely unique position. He’s basically a 12-year-old whose dad just gave him the keys to the Ferrari and said, “I have faith in you to drive this thing.” It’s a totally absurd situation, and maybe Siemian can handle the super fast and expensive car, but maybe it’s going to be a really rough ride that might end up in a fiery crash. Who the hell knows?
Then again, it might end up working. He might know just enough that he can run the offense (emphasis on run since he’s probably going to do a ton of that), and the defense can do the rest. Siemian can end up making this work. Will he be an All-Pro anytime soon? I’m guessing that’s not going to happen, but the few of us that actually watched him at Northwestern after he replaced fan favorite Mike Kafka (a fan favorite for those of us who really liked making Kafkaesque jokes whenever something went wrong – and something usually went wrong) know that Siemian is a smart and gutsy player who can make things happen. He’s the guy that led the Wildcats to end the second longest Northwestern sports drought behind the basketball’s team inability to be relevant for the first time since your grandpa returned from the Second World War, helping them capture a Bowl victory at the 2013 Gator Bowl, the first for the school in 63-years. Coincidentally that was nowhere near the longest sports drought in the Chicagoland area, but that’s a whole other story.
But that’s college, and now he’s in the NFL. Tonight Siemian gets the keys to the Ferrari, and things will get real interesting probably pretty quickly. The smart money is on the Panthers to go out there with a head full of bad memories and bodies filled to the brim with adrenaline, and just thinking about a guy like Newton in that condition makes you think that Carolina is going to put everything they’ve got into putting as many points on the scoreboard as possible. Yet Trevor Siemian, a guy who a year ago you’d say has no business being a starter in a game like tonight’s opener, is really the most interesting question mark of the entire evening and, if things go well for him, maybe the entire season.