Great players come, and great players go because sooner or later time always wins. Peyton Manning has played 265 NFL games, that’s 3rd in the all time list for quarterbacks, he has 6120 completions that’s 2nd of all time, 71,871 passing yards and 539 passing touchdowns he ranks 1st in both of these categories. His five NFL MVPs are a league record and he has been named to 14 Pro Bowls a record for a QB and a tie for all time. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks the game has ever seen if not the greatest. He is also 39 years old. A healthy Peyton Manning can be unstoppable, an injured Peyton Manning throws 4 interceptions against the Chiefs. The problem with Peyton’s injuries is that at this stage in his career there is no quick fix. Enter Brock Osweiler.
So who exactly is Brock Osweiler? The 26 year old quarterback was drafted out of Arizona State by the Broncos with the 57th overall pick in the second round of the 2012 draft. After starting only 2 games combined in his freshman and sophomore years he went on to start all 13 games of the 2011 college football season, in this his junior year he finished with 4036 yards and 26 touchdowns and after a coaching change at the end of the season he elected to enter the draft sooner rather than later. As I’m sure you know by now (since it’s the announcers go to line whenever talking about Brock) Brock had actually committed to playing Basketball at Gonzaga University in 2006 his freshman year of high school before ultimately choosing football, he had offers from Stanford and Washington State before selecting Arizona State. According to the official NFL numbers he stands at 6’8” tall and weighs 240pounds, he has an powerful arm and is able to throw the ball deep with ease, over the past few season his throwing motion, footwork and touch has came on leaps and bounds. In recent weeks he has showcased his speed which is not becoming of a man of his size and the ability to break tackles of blitzing defenders, there are definite shades of big Ben Roethlisberger in his play.
So what’s the kid shown? Why should we keep a now healthy future hall of famer on the bench for this guy? Great question internet, let me quickly answer it for you. To understand why Brock should be the starter you need to understand Gary Kubiak’s offence, Kubiak bring a run first offence, he utilizes zone blocking scheme in the run and compliments this with a lot of play action and bootlegs in the passing game. The run game opens up the passing game and the passing game opens up the running game. With Manning in the game we would see a lot of stacked boxes as well as linebackers and defensive backs sitting on routes, they knew Peyton didn’t have the ability to roll out or throw the ball 20+ yards consistently or accurately, this was most evident in *that* Kansas City game.
These stacked boxes also make it incredibly difficult for our offensive line to create running lanes meaning the run game also suffers as a result, running the offence through the shotgun or the pistol also means the running back has a shorter field. He can’t build up momentum or read the gaps on the line of scrimmage as effectively as when the QB plays under center as is traditionally the case in a GK offence. It’s not just physical this year Manning who is well regarded as being one of the best at making pre snap reads, reading the whole field and diagnosing defences has made consistent mental errors. In the next image on his third INT of the game Manning simply fails to see the linebacker drop back into space a lofts a ball straight into his hands with no Denver player close enough to even contest the ball.
This was a freebie. Kansas City mixed up their coverages and looks at the line of scrimmage and it’s likely that Manning expected the blitz was coming, in the end KC only rush 5 and come away with a pick. Andy Reid’s defence toyed with Manning in this game and it was painful to watch.
Let’s look at Brock. This was Ronnie Hillman’s 9 yard run before his touchdown against New England, this was when the running game really got going on the day. Now With Brock under center Hillman has more space and time to read the gaps on the line of scrimmage and find a running, he is able to read the New England defence. The box is far less crowded and New England’s linebackers are much deeper on the field and respect the pass as oppose to when Manning is playing.
It’s fair to comment that field position is different than in the screen capture I used of Manning and that a defence would play differently accordingly but if you watch the tape this is consistent. As we saw last week against Cincinnati in the second half he can also play well in the shotgun in a hurry up style offence as we marched down the field (remind you of anyone?).
Look at the formation in the below photo, Osweiler has an empty back field and a four receiver set (in this case he is using the majority of the play clock) as the ball is snapped Owen Daniels (tight end) breaks off from the end of the formation giving Brock another offensive option, Osweiler gets the ball out his hands quickly avoiding the pass rush with a quick slant to who else Emmanuel Sanders who walks it in for a touchdown.
You don’t take out the hot hand and right now that is Osweiler. Osweiler is completing a higher percentage of his passes 61.7% as oppose to Manning 59.9%. He’s gaining more yards per attempt 6.9 v 6.8, his touchdown to interception ratio is 9:4 (with one of those interceptions coming in garbage time against KC), Manning’s ratio is 9:17. These turnovers make a massive difference in games and you can’t expect even a championship caliber defence like our own to constantly bail us out of bad situations game after game.
In the 7 games where Brock has been on the field we have totalled 803 rushing yards & 1735 passing yards, that’s 2538 all purpose yards. Those passing numbers aren’t spectacular but they can be good enough, with the exception of the KC and Oakland game we have rushed at least 100 yards and looked extremely dangerous in spurts. The defence continues to be exceptional and if we can continue to cut down penalties we’ll dominate. That’s how you win in January. There have been bad games mixed in take the second half of the San Diego, Oakland and Pittsburgh games as a prime example, we need more consistency, we need to close out games and if someone can tell me how the 6’8” Osweiler continues to have passes tipped at the line that’d be great because I’m not saying Brock is perfect but his performances against New England, Cincinnati and at least the first half of the Pitt game showed us he has the ability to turn it on. In recent weeks we’ve seen his clock management improve, his decision making improve and he’s now getting sacked less. He’s still developing but I believe he can be a quality option at quarterback into the playoffs and for years to come.