Welcome to Bad Quarterback Performance Of The Week, a recurring feature in which we celebrate the worst quarterback play the NFL has to offer.
Trevor Siemian threw for 200 yards, three interceptions, and no touchdowns while completing just 19 of his 41 pass attempts on Sunday. That on its own makes for a grim set of numbers, but speaking as a renowned football expert who Ate The Tape, I can tell you that Siemian did not actually play as poorly as his numbers indicate. Yes, he threw one very bad pick-six and plenty of aimless incompletions, but he was also hampered by shitty protection, dropped balls, and unfortunate deflections.
At this point you, a discerning reader, might be wondering why Trevor Siemian is our Bad Quarterback of the Week if he was as much a victim of circumstance as he was a malignant presence in the game. The answer goes beyond what Trevor Siemian did and did not do. The answer, friends, is that we’re here to appreciate Siemian and his teammates working together to create the quintessential Bad December Football Game.
There’s a thing that happens to bad teams, usually right around this time of year, when the hopelessness of their situation snaps into crystalline focus. At that moment, what was once a chaotic scramble to salvage the season, or at least discover some hope for the future, becomes a resigned zombie-walk towards Week 17. I think the Broncos hit this moment in Week 12, when Paxton Lynch got hurt during his first start of the year and the last possible objective of the team’s season—to prepare a young quarterback for the future—officially became unreachable.
The Broncos came into Sunday’s game against the Dolphins knowing everything they already needed to know. They knew that Siemian sucks and the playoffs are out of reach, and as such they had little reason to give it a full go. The resulting performance was a sad and stultifying one, in which the Broncos seemed somehow to be playing at a lower frame rate than their opponents. This column usually includes loads of GIFs depicting quarterbacks doing embarrassing things, but I think the most representative play from this game is one that was actually positive for the Broncos:
That’s about as good as it got for Denver in this game: a five-yard completion on 2nd and 14 that was never a threat to be anything more than a mechanism by which to move this particular anonymous drive and the broader desultory game along toward its inevitable end. It’s not that Siemian was especially or unusually bad. It’s just that he was so defiantly just there, harmlessly playing out the string.
Here he is going on a weird, unprovoked scramble on 2nd and 10, presumably because all of his downfield receivers were taking naps:
And here is a totally dispiriting pass to end the first half. I can’t tell if this is an aborted Hail Mary or just the physical embodiment of “ehhh, fuck this.” If he had just kept running onto the sideline, into the tunnel, out of the stadium, and into a nearby Applebees, it would have looked and felt about the same.
And here’s a carbon copy of that pass, which also functioned as a fitting last play of the game:
The Broncos had six three-and-outs in this game, gave up an embarrassing safety, and went 1-for-13 on third down conversions. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, the two best receivers on the team, were targeted a combined 17 times and only caught four passes for 38 yards. This game was a waste of everyone’s time. It might as well have never happened. So, yes: it was bad.