Of course you’re mad at Brock Osweiler.
Yes, he was greedy. He abandoned the Broncos when he embraced $37 million in guaranteed cash from the Houston Texans.
Sure, he was arrogant and clueless, always a bad combination. He believed he was ready to leap to elite status as an NFL quarterback. Instead, he’s in danger of being remembered in 25 years as one of the NFL’s all-time big money busts.
But let’s be real. Signing Osweiler for a mere $775,000 was a fantastic move by John Elway and the Broncos. Osweiler was a precious piece of the Broncos' run to Super Bowl supremacy a mere 19 months ago.
He showed flashes of immense potential as a Broncos starter. He’s still 6-foot-8 with a mighty arm. These are blessings that can’t be taught. His football mind has been a mess, but maybe he can, with Elway’s help, mend his psyche and his tattered career.
He’s worth the risk, and if he can return to the Brock of 2015, he will conquer Trevor Siemian and reign as Broncos starter.
Let’s travel back to two Sundays late in the 2015 season when Osweiler, thrown into the starting job by Peyton Manning’s failing body, led the Broncos to crucial victories over the Patriots and Bengals.
In the snow against the Patriots, he lofted a pass down the sideline to Emmanuel Sanders that seemed guided by radar. The pass remains one of the best thrown this decade by a Broncos QB. He outplayed Tom Brady while pushing the Broncos to 17 fourth-quarter points against a defense designed by Bill Belichick, one of the top minds in football history.
A month later, the Broncos were teetering against the Bengals, who boasted the AFC’s top scoring defense.
With 90 seconds left, Osweiler scanned the Bengals secondary and saw tight end Owen Daniels sprinting in a crowd. With pressure building in the pocket and the Broncos trailing, Osweiler had to make a play.
And he did, ripping a fastball into Daniels hands. Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur barely missed the pass, and slammed the ground in anger. The throw rescued the Broncos, who won in overtime.
That throw, and that win, turned out to be Osweiler’s final hurrah. Manning returned to the starting job and a miffed Osweiler soon departed.
He departed to a total disaster. He quickly became a bust in Houston, tossing interceptions, missing open receivers, squabbling with coach Bill O’Brien, alienating fans.
He was cut Friday by the Cleveland Browns. He could fall even farther, but that would be exceedingly difficult. The man has hit bottom. Hear that noise? It’s Brock, shouting from the bottom of a football well.
There are two possibilities.
NFL defensive coordinators might have found big flaws in Osweiler’s arm and mind. It happens. Quarterbacks look promising on their first few starts, but as opposing coordinators collect video the flaws are revealed.
In November 2015, Osweiler shredded Belichick’s brilliantly designed defense. Only 10 months later, Belichick was ready after studying Osweiler’s tendencies. Belichick, ever the genius, started Osweiler’s long fall.
On Sept. 22, 2016, while facing essentially the same Patriots defense, Osweiler badly lost his return chess match with Belichick. The Texans were shut out, and whispers began.
Was Brock worth all that money?
But there’s another possibility for his collapse. Maybe Osweiler can still make the throws of 2015 if he regains belief in his right arm. A quarterback requires ridiculous faith in his arm and his ability to make instant decisions. Once that faith is broken a quarterback has no chance against the snarling marauders who inhabit NFL defenses.
Maybe it’s a mind thing. Maybe Brock can recover his faith and his lost promise.
This, I realize, is a big if.
Let’s be clear: I’m surprised by Osweiler’s tumble. I believed he would trot off to Texas, where a superlative group of defensive teammates awaited him, and prove himself as one of the NFL’s top 15 quarterbacks.
I wasn’t alone in my belief.
Remember, Elway offered $30 million in guaranteed money to Osweiler. Elway had closely watched four seasons as the young quarterback matured. He believed in Brock, believed so much he was ready to hand him the future of the offense.
That seems a long time ago, even though it wasn’t. It’s been a short, strange trip, and it ends with a broken Brock returning to a state where many wish he had stayed away for, say, forever.
You’re mad at him. I get it.
But you won’t stay mad at him if he returns to being the Brock of 2015.