Brock Osweiler isn’t done (not yet anyway) but it is hard to see how the recent Browns trade is going to be good for his career, whether he stays in Cleveland or not.
In Spring 2016 he received a deserved Superbowl ring. He out – performed ‘Future Hall of Famer’ Peyton Manning when deputizing in for him in the Broncos march to the championship. Following that, Osweiler secured a bumper contract with a Texans team brimming with post – season potential. Fast forward a year, though, and the former Arizona State Quarter Back has become a pawn in a ‘cash for picks’ trade with the worst team in football. It is possible he won’t even take a snap for the Browns, as their policy of stockpiling draft picks was clearly the motivation for a deal with Houston, not the belief that Hue Jackson had finally found his starting QB. So who is Brock Osweiler? And how did he go from World Champ and darling of the NFL to surplus stock at the league’s bottom – ranked ball club?
Where it all began…
Brock Osweiler was raised in Montana, where he attended Flathead High School. Clearly a gifted athlete, he could very well have made the pros as a basketball player. His 6ft 8” frame certainly would have come in handy. He eventually chose football, though, turning down the chance to go to Stanford and Washington State in favour of the less fashionable Arizona State University. What was most telling about the young Brock Osweiler, was that whilst at High School, he turned down the chance to attend his homecoming dance. Despite being the the star quarterback of the school football team, he ditched the event in favour of spending the evening with a teammate who had broken his collar bone in a previous match.
His College career was successful, if unremarkable. In his true Freshman year in 2009 he played six times, with one start. He was the first freshman to start a game since Jake Plummer 26 years previously. He put up decent numbers doing it, too. The following year was much the same. In 2011 he took over as the starting QB for the Sun Devils and finished the year over 4,000 yards and 26 touchdown passes in 13 games.
Arizona, above and beyond…
Osweiler’s college career was good enough to earn him a spot in the big leagues. He joined the Denver Broncos after being selected 57th overall in the 2012 draft. The following three years saw next to no game time as he played back up to Peyton Manning- standard stuff for a young man learning his trade in the NFL.
Manning and Osweiler warming up at Mile High. Image from USA Today
The big shift came in 2015. He may not have been selected to start the Superbowl that year, but he certainly played his part in getting the Broncos to the big game. In November, Manning’s horrible season of personal performances culminated in a nightmare game against the Chiefs. He threw four interceptions that day. In fact, at half time in that game, the future hall of famer had a passer rating of zero. Nothing. Zilch. A beat- up Manning was benched and Osweiler was given his chance. BO offered some composed performances in his short stint in the side, beating the undefeated Patriots and playing good situational football to beat the Benegals in overtime. He finished that year with a 5-2 record and a Superbowl ring.
Houston, we have a problem…
Osweiler’s reputation after just one season in Texas was in tatters. His accuracy, decision – making and temperament were all called in to question. He didn’t last the season as a starter. He was benched for Tom Savage in week 15 after throwing back to back interceptions against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Osweiler ended that season with the unenviable all – time interceptions record for the Texans. 16 INT’s in just 15 games. He returned in the post season to throw three more picks in exchange for just one TD. The $72million contract Houston gave him before the start of the season clearly left the franchise in a regrettable situation. So regrettable in fact that Osweiler was traded to the Browns in unconventional fashion. Cleveland took on his sizeable salary, but also received a 2017 6th round pick and 2018 2nd round draft pick for their trouble. The sad state of things for the Quarter Back is that he might not play in Ohio as the Browns plan to trade him again or cut him before the season starts. Oseweiler still doesn’t have a photo on his player page on the Cleveland website.
So what went wrong in Texas?
Well, there are many factors that lead to this, the first of which is that Brock just isn’t that good! He had Hopkins to throw to and the best defence in football the other side of the ball. A defence that gave good field position and provided points on take aways. Just because you play back up well for a while, doesn’t make you a franchise quarterback. Just look at Matt Cassel as a case in point.
The contract he was offered in Houston was ridiculous, as was the resultant expectations. Remember Osweiler only played a handful of games for Denver. He also had a lot in his favour. Mile High Stadium is as good a home field advantage you can hope for. Denver at that time was the QB capital of the world, too. He had Peyton Manning and John Elway in his corner for guidance and good practice. There was a coach with him that realised it was all about both player and game management with a stand- in under center. As such, the play calling wasn’t hugely expansive and the playbook used, was much smaller than anything used in Houston. In Texan’s coach Bill O’Brien, Osweiler had a man that expects a lot of his stars and is known to work his quarterbacks hard. He benched former starter Brian Hoyer after just 3 quarters in the opening game of the season back in 2015. The pressure was clearly on from the outset.
Furthermore, with the expectation that Manning was going to return to the fold at some point, the buck never fully stopped with Brock. After his move, it was all on him.
General consensus is that the Browns won’t give Osweiler a shot to prove himself. The franchise seem determined to land Jimmy G from the Patriots, but is Garoppolo any more proven and ready than what they already have? Would another gamble on a QB in the draft really be a better option that Brock? Could Hue Jackson, the supposed QB whisperer, turn his expensive acquisition into an effective starter in the league? Are the Browns realistically going to find a taker for Osweiler in a trade given the other options in free agency right now?
There are more questions than answers, as you would expect. The Draft weekend will go a very long way to answering most of them.
‘ Hue Jackson with RGIII. Image from clevelandbrowns.com
So what have we learned from all this ?
Well, what is most notable is that Osweiler isn’t the long- term prospect we thought he would be. He was victim of rather special circumstances. He was hyped up far beyond his talent warranted because of Peyton Manning’s incomprehensibly awful form. It was a great talking point that garnered a lot of media attention because of Peyton’s profile and sad demise in output. Had Brock been backing up Mark Sanchez, this really wouldn’t have happened. The difference in completion percentage between 2015 in Denver and 2016 in Houston is less that 2%. His rating took a hit in Texas as a result of all those interceptions. A sizeable chunk of those picks were thrown by a man low on confidence, desperately trying to force the issue to relieve a bit of pressure on himself.
It is really hard to win football matches in the NFL. Period. It is not uncommon for players to have a decent start- in recent years Colin Kaepernick, RGIII and even Carson Wentz found the going good early on. But to be consistently good over a concerted period of time requires exceptional talent. Osweiler clearly has ability, but his numbers have never been spectacular. I think there is a place for him in the Pros. He would make a decent back- up for any side, but his contract makes him a no go, financially speaking. So, if he can’t get the starting job in Cleveland, a team in dire need of a QB with a winning record and the salary cap space to absorb his hefty wages, then it is difficult to see just where he goes from here.