Trevor Siemian, who shared a bus with Brian Callahan during the Broncos' Super Bowl parade all those years ago, would like to take a similar ride with him in Cincinnati and that's one of the reasons he signed up Wednesday for the Joe Burrow back-up derby.
It's the first time in Burrow's four seasons he won't have Brandon Allen as his No. 2 and that's a spot that Callahan says is on the table for Siemian and Jake Browning to go after in training camp.
"I Iike how good the team is and I like how well-coached they are," says Siemian, the classic well-traveled NFL quarterback sage with 30 starts among four teams who once spoiled a Paycor Stadium opener. "I think any time you have a chance to play for a club that's winning a lot of games, that's a cool opportunity for any player and especially attractive for me."
And there's the bust-chops bond with Callahan, the Bengals offensive coordinator who was a Broncos offensive assistant and broke the rookie Siemian into that all-world 2015 Denver quarterbacks room featuring Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning, head coach Gary Kubiak and quarterbacks guru Greg Knapp.
"Everything was on the table," says Siemian of Callahan's welcome-to-the-NFL-needle. "I'm looking forward to some pretty good banter. Cali was my guy learning pro football, learning the game. I can't say enough about what he meant to me and my career."
Callahan got off the Super Bowl bus and went to Detroit as Matthew Stafford's quarterbacks coach, but he and Siemian weren't going to let good gags and football go to waste and they stayed in touch as well as they could as both traversed the NFL landscape.
"There's been a couple of times in free agency at various points where I always expressed an interest and it never worked out for a myriad of reasons," Callahan says. "Timing has a lot to do with it."
Siemian, 31, has had virtually no time since he lost the Broncos' starting job in 2017. Since then he's thrown 220 passes in six winless starts for the Jets, Saints, and Bears, but he has built trust among coaches with his knowledge of the league and game.
"He plays on time, he's accurate, really intelligent, good decision-maker, smart with the football," Callahan says. "He understands what it means to be a back-up quarterback. It's an important role, just like we did with Brandon. A guy that really understands that can be a valuable asset in the room and on the team.
"He's an easy communicator, but a direct communicator. As all backup quarterbacks, he's got a great feel for all different types of people. How to navigate different personalities and situations. He's very good at that and he's just a really good person on top of that."
He also feels like Siemian can still play. As recently as 2021 he came off the bench for head coach Sean Payton in New Orleans and threw 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in four starts. Callahan likes the different experiences Siemian brings to the room with giants like Manning and Payton. What he ran with the Saints and Broncos isn't all that different than the Bengals scheme.
"It's funny. I played early in my career, and I tell people I certainly haven't gotten worse since I was a starter in Denver," Siemian says. "I'm confident when I play, I can play at a high level. I expect to play well. The way I see it, 30, 31 is prime as a quarterback in this league where the physical marries up with the mental at the same time."
Once upon a time, Siemian, a 2015 seventh-rounder out of Northwestern, went 13-11 in 2016-17 for the Broncos while throwing 30 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. It doesn't take much to make you a career backup. A few injuries. A coaching change.
Along the way, he won his first road NFL start. The 2016 home opener around Paycor Stadium is also known as "The Trevor Siemian Game," acknowledging his four touchdown passes turned his third NFL start into Denver's 29-17 victory.
In the previous 28 Paycor games, the defenses of Mike Zimmer and Paul Guenther had held opposing quarterbacks to a 67.3 passer rating. Tom Brady (48.8), Aaron Rodgers (61.9), Joe Flacco (42.2), Matt Ryan (46.8) and Eli Manning (53.6) had been left for dead in losses. Callahan even saw Peyton float out a 61.8 in the streak. But Siemian was immense with a 132.
"That was a good defense. Great D-line. Geno (Atkins) was still great making plays," Siemian says. "They had a good team, we had a good team."
But like Siemian says, that's a long time ago. A lifetime really. He'll return to Paycor as not a villain but as Burrow's counselor.
"He's outstanding. I've been a fan of his since he came into the league," Siemian says. "Not many guys, obviously, can be a passer on the level he is. There is a small handful of guys you can give them the football and they can go win you a game and figure it out on their own.
"I want to help the team any way I can. I want to help Joe, I want to help Jake, I want to help the staff anyway I can," says Siemian as he goes from villain to valued vet. "My main priority is being the best teammate I can be."