First and foremost, Brock Osweiler is so inept that he could not even get the writing in his tattoo to be grammatically correct.
Spelling inability aside, Osweiler is a fraud. He has been somewhat of a fraud from the jump. He was selected in the 2nd round of the 2012 Draft, though he was certainly undeserving of that high of a pick. It was not as if Denver needed to reach for a quarterback, either. They had signed Peyton Manning just a month prior. Manning was a bit of an unknown coming off of his neck injury, but it is tough to imagine the Broncos would have benched Manning unless he had been a train wreck. Four years later, Manning finally collapsed and Osweiler was granted the starting job without much hesitation. For Osweiler to have been picked much higher than expected and for him to have been given the keys to the car shortly after Manning began to fall apart, there had to be have been an underlying factor. There was.
Osweiler was best friends with John Elway’s son at Arizona State. The two had dormed near each other and grew as friends throughout their final few years of college. It goes without saying that John himself would have gotten to know Osweiler, or at least become fond of him for his friendship with his son. Whether or not this was truly the reason Osweiler was picked so high and had a lot of faith put into his play is uncertain, but the evidence is there.
On top of all of this, Osweiler has been hyped up as Manning’s prodigy because he has been his high-profile backup quarterback for years. News flash: Manning doesn’t and never did give a rat’s ass about Osweiler. Manning’s job is and always was to win football games. Being the starting quarterback of a Super Bowl contending team was pressure enough for Manning. He had no time or interest in bringing up a quarterback meant to replace him. Alas, everyone ran with the story because it was something to talk about.
Now, the media gets to talk about how Osweiler’s time has finally come. The Broncos staff decided to pull Manning during their ninth game of the season, and allowed Osweiler to start the remainder of the season. Manning ended up having to finish the final game of the regular season for the Broncos, but let us not get ahead of ourselves.
Osweiler deserved to be pulled. Not necessarily for that game in particular, but for his performance in the six full starts prior. He is not a bad quarterback. That is not the point that needs to be made. Rather, it is that he is not worthy of starting quarterback money come this off-season and does not deserve an immediate starting job in Denver or elsewhere next year. His play has resembled that of a quality backup, not a quality starting quarterback. And that is okay. The league is desperate for good backup quarterbacks so that we no longer have to see Kellen Moore start professional football games.
More so than anything else, it is Osweiler’s mental aptitude and internal clock that restrict him from being a starting quality quarterback. Osweiler too often seems to operate a full second behind the play. This rears its ugly face most commonly in the face of pass rushers. When Osweiler’s predetermined throw is open and he feels comfortable throwing it, his aversion of pressure is impressive. Though, when that read is stripped from him and he is forced to find an alternative target, Osweiler can not juggle looking for a new receiver while also keeping himself out of harm’s way. This lead to an increased amount of sacks versus when Manning was behind center. In Manning’s 10 performances, he was sacked 16 times, while Osweiler was sacked 23 times in 8 performances. For the most part, this root’s in Osweiler having a middling internal clock and mental processing to quickly adapt to his first read being blanketed.
A lot of this issue is rooted in what Osweiler does- rather, does not do- prior to the snap. The Broncos final game of the year was a clear example of the difference between what Manning can bring mentally and what Osweiler can. Granted, Manning is one of the most intelligent men to play his position, but that does not excuse Osweiler’s ineptitude. Osweiler got himself into a fair amount of trouble by failing to identify blitz schemes in his six games as the starting quarterback. Take, for example, the play below versus the Chicago Bears.
In this still shot, it is clear that the Bears brought down a safety (#31) to the strong side of the formation. #99 is set wider than his edge counter-part #49, which is odd in and of itself, not to mention the wider player (#99) is on the strong side of the formation. If Chicago was not blitzing, that side of the formation would get busted right open because of the natural crease. Of course, Chicago was blitzing, and even the nose guard (#91) is angled a tad in preparation to fire off the ball to his right. Essentially, Chicago’s defensive line scrapes to their right and the left linebacker (#51) steps into the gap between the left defensive end and the wide edge rusher, and the safety behind him fills that space he vacated.
The Broncos play call was designed to move their entire offensive line to their left (the defense’s right), and that played perfectly into Chicago’s blitz. Osweiler failed to recognize what was going on and ran the bootleg in the back of his own end zone anyway, nearly allowing himself to be sacked for a safety. Here is how the play turned out.
Osweiler nearly cost his team two points and possession of the ball because he failed to identify a blitz. This is one of the more costly examples of this flaw, but it shows throughout his film and should be something he is more tuned to recognize four years into the league.
On a similar note, good quarterbacks understands where the second and third options are going to be at certain points in the play if their No.1 target is unavailable. Osweiler does not have that aptitude. In fact, his conceptual understanding of plays is troubling at times.
The play above should be a simple conversion on what was a third-and-medium situation. Osweiler complicated it and failed to convert. Demaryius Thomas (#88) is clearly running a pick for Cody Latimer (#14) running a drag underneath. Thomas executes the pick with perfection and holds the safety (#38) for more than enough time for Latimer to have had the room he needed for the first down. Instead of taking the easy, designed throw, Osweiler opts to throw to the tight end over the middle into a tight window. The throw Osweiler made still had a chance to convert, but the tight window forced the ball behind the receiver and resulted in a dropped pass.
Again, Osweiler has no idea where to go with the ball here, whereas Manning would have executed this play with ease. The Steelers are running a ‘Cover 6’ defense, which is ‘Cover 2’ on one side of the field (right side) and ‘Cover 4/Quarters’ coverage on the other side (left side). The lone receiver to the right side is running a ‘dig’, which is a deep in-breaking route. Against a ‘Cover 2’ shell like the Steelers had on that side of the field, a ‘dig’ route is lethal because it runs over the top of the underneath defender and under the safety playing over the top. Instead of masquerading his first read to the left side and then immediately firing right, Osweiler legitimately searches for an open man to the left side- the more heavily guarded side of the field. It takes Osweiler far too long to finally throw the ‘dig’, a timing based route, and it ultimately lead to an incompletion.
Other times, Osweiler just seems blind. He is oblivious to open receivers. Osweiler is so often hung on on throwing to a specific receiver on a given play, no matter the pre or post snap looks, that he simply does not see wide open receivers.
Once the linebacker blitzes and the defense shows zone coverage, Osweiler needs to understand that he has crossing routes on the right hash that are going to stress that linebacker and force him one way or another. He even finds room in a muddied pocket to make the throw to his tight end (#80) over the middle, but he instead continues to flow to the boundary and nearly throw an interception. Classic Brock.
Though, the real spectacle in watching Osweiler is that he has an absurd amount of his passes swatted at the line of scrimmage despite being 6’8″. A portion of the issue is that he has more of a 3/4 release instead of an over-head release. A 3/4 release is a bit lower and wider than a natural over-head release, and that makes Osweiler “shorter” than he is. The real problem is that Osweiler does a poor job of stepping into proper pass lanes before throwing the ball. Throwing a quick-out can easily become an incompletion when Osweiler fails to see the defender holding the edge right in his line of sight. A drag over the middle can become an incompletion when Osweiler does not wait to make the throw until the receiver is past the two defensive tackles clogging the middle of the line. These examples could go on and on, but the underlying issue is that Osweiler does not take the one or two quick steps, or even adjust his arm angle, to make a throw work. Much like in all the other areas of his game, Osweiler lacks nuance in adjusting to passing lanes.
Osweiler does not have wonderful footwork either. His feet move well enough to execute his drop steps in a timely manner and maneuver the pocket, but he has a recurring issue of opening his plant foot too wide when he goes to throw. In other words, his feet end up looking more horizontal then vertically pointed at the target, as they should be. Part of this is that Osweiler fails to consistently move into areas of a clean pocket in which he can more easily step vertically, but he also has the natural tendency to open wide. For example, when throwing quick outs and curls to his left, Osweiler steps his left foot out too far toward the boundary and it creates an unnatural rotation in his hips, increasing the instability of the throw. This may be correctable, but as is the case with most of his other issues, it is tough to rationalize him getting much better seeing as he has already been in the league for four seasons- with great offensive minds and quarterback coaches leading him, too.
In all fairness, Osweiler has some level of value. While he isn’t a smart quarterback, most of his poor decisions result in simply missing on an open receiver instead of forcing a turnover. That may be a bit of a stretch, but for a backup quarterback, that is a fine trait to have. The bulk of Osweiler’s value is rooted in his accuracy over the middle of the field. His quality ball placement most commonly comes from intermediate crossers and seam throws, where his responsibility on the play is to wait for the zone to open up and proceed to fire. There, Osweiler excels, partly because of his impressive velocity.
Above, Osweiler waits on the Patriot defenders to cross themselves up and then delivers a strike. The ball is placed rather well right in between a handful of defenders. This is a tough throw to make, even for a player with an arm like Osweiler has. He is good for a few of these quality throws per game. Though, as good as these throws are, they do not come often enough and they do not make up for his deficiencies.
Brock Osweiler is a fine backup quarterback. He can handle the offense well enough and minimize turnovers in a fashion that keeps an offense afloat, but will not elevate it in any way. This is certainly a valuable player, being that a good chunk of the league does not have a good insurance policy behind their starting quarterback. A large handful of teams do not have good starters either and that alone may earn Osweiler a starting job and starting quarterback money, but he needs to be approached with caution. He is not going to be much better, if better at all, than any other run-of-the-mill veteran quarterback, and he is certainly not going to make a team better on his own. Whether or not Osweiler does get a fat pay check is not up to me, but he is not deserving of it at this juncture in his career and it is tough to envision that he will be in the future.
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