ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- If a second-year quarterback with no regular-season passes to his name can be considered a "safe" choice, Trevor Siemian is it.
Rookie Paxton Lynch's promise is palpable, but his learning curve is steep, as evidenced by the fact that he is still working to master the scheme and making play calls in the huddle. Veteran Mark Sanchez had some bright moments in practice and preseason games, but continued to be plagued by giveaways, and his three turnovers in approximately two quarters of preseason play did nothing to show that his career issues would be any different in Denver.
Siemian wasn't flawless this summer; in fact, because of two interceptions, he had the lowest quarterback rating of Denver's three quarterbacks in preseason play. But he didn't take any sacks, bounced back from his second interception with a touchdown drive last Saturday against the Rams, and perhaps more important, earned plaudits from teammates and coaches for his composed demeanor in the huddle.
"I think he's earned the right to be our guy," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "When I go back and I look at the body of work throughout the course of the offseason -- I watch training camp and (watch) throughout the preseason, and how far he's come. I watch how much he's improved, in my opinion, the grasp that he has on what we're doing.
"To me, he's earned the right to be our starter. I'm very proud of him. It's not that the other guys didn't do something, it's really more about how far Trevor has come as a player."
Kubiak informed his three quarterbacks of his decision Monday morning. Shortly thereafter, he informed the team at its meeting to begin the final week of the preseason.
The decision met with the approval of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who had high praise for Siemian.
"He's very poised. Even when he comes into the huddle, he's always the same guy," Sanders said. "I remember when he first came in, I said, 'You remind me of Aaron Rodgers,' in the way that he goes about his business."
That's lofty praise, but it's easy to see why Sanders holds Siemian in high esteem. Sanders was a frequent target of Siemian's during first-team work in training-camp practices, and the two combined for 69 yards on six receptions during just over three quarters of preseason work together when Siemian was on the first team.
"I remember seeing him last year, when I first started seeing him throw, and 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.' It's just all about opportunity in this league and he made the most of his opportunity, even last year."
And it's an opportunity unlike any other ever seen. Siemian will become the first quarterback in NFL history to open a team's Super Bowl title defense as a starter despite having never thrown a regular-season pass.
A single end-of-first-half kneel-down at Pittsburgh last Dec. 20 is Siemian's only regular-season snap. A year before that, he was recovering from a torn ACL and nursing the wounds of a senior season at Northwestern in which he had more interceptions (11) than touchdown passes (seven). He was considering a career in real estate.
Then the Broncos examined him closely. Kubiak and quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp saw some raw tools -- intelligence and a strong arm that could fire passes that knifed through the tricky Lake Michigan winds of Evanston, Ill. His footwork and ability to work under center and read defenses needed polish. From Knapp and Kubiak, he got it -- as well as a gentle reminder not to try to be Peyton Manning, the future Hall of Famer and predecessor who casts a shadow.
But Siemian has tried to step out of it by playing to his gifts.
"I just tried to stay within myself," he said, "be myself day-in and day-out, be the best teammate that I can be and learn as much I could."
Now he has the chance of a lifetime.