Brock Osweiler’s time will come.
But it hasn’t arrived yet.
And nor should it. Despite a lackluster season from future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos are sitting pretty at 5-0. Both Gary Kubiak and history will tell you the same thing: Brock can wait.
On Monday, following a Sunday win in Oakland that won’t ever be compared to any of Manning’s many fine performances, the coach was asked if he would begin to consider the idea of rotating Manning and Osweiler. His response was short and sweet.
“No. Peyton’s doing just fine,” he said.
Kubiak has seen a lot of games in his 22 years as a coach in the National Football League – 134 of them as a head coach to be exact. He’s been a part of a lot of winning organizations; he’s got three Super Bowl rings to prove it. But it was one game in 2006, a game that Kubiak didn’t coach, nor witness in person, that provides even better justification for his terse stance on the Broncos’ quarterback situation.
It was Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006. The 7-3 Denver Broncos were in Kansas City, taking on a 6-4 Chiefs team. The season before, the Broncos made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game, riding the play of an excellent defense and a gunslinging quarterback named Jake Plummer. Up until that night in K.C., Plummer had amassed a record of 39-14 as the Broncos starter.
But somehow – before the Chiefs game – word got out that Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan was planning on making a change at quarterback. The Sunday before, the Broncos lost at home to the Chargers. In that game, Plummer wasn’t great, going 13-of-28 for 183 passing yards, one interception and zero touchdowns. Still, the Chargers put up 35 points on a Broncos defense that had only surrendered more than 20 once that season (ironically, that game was against Manning’s Colts, who pasted 34 points on Denver in Week 8). Shanahan had a rookie, franchise quarterback named Jay Cutler waiting in the wings, but still, considering the Broncos record, a change seemed premature, and perhaps unnecessary all together.
Oddly, and despite the secret getting out, Plummer still started against the Chiefs. He proceeded to throw for 216 yards, completing 25 of his 39 attempts. That Broncos – a team that ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards the season before, and ultimately eighth when the 2006 season was in the books – only rushed for 63 yards that night at Arrowhead.
To the surprise of no one, Plummer was benched the next week. The job of starting quarterback went to Cutler. And the Broncos finished the season at 9-7. With a playoff spot on the line against the 7-8 49ers, a home game on the last day of the season, Cutler failed to lead his team to a win. The Broncos lost in overtime and missed out on the playoffs.
It would be five years before the Broncos returned to the postseason. Their next trip, in 2010, required a miracle courtesy of Tim Tebow.
“No. Peyton’s doing just fine.”
This is not the time to rock the boat. Sure, this Peyton Manning does not look like The Great Peyton Manning. His arm is aging and his current statistics are anything but gaudy. Yet, he sits at 5-0, the only stat that has ever truly mattered.
Like Plummer in 2005 and ’06, Manning is backed by a defense that’s more than capable of shouldering the load. Denver’s D has been a force and should be credited for a large percentage of each of Denver’s five wins.
Unlike Plummer, Manning has an inexperienced and ineffective offensive line; as a result, the running game in Denver has been paltry at best. Opposing defenses aren’t afraid of Denver’s ground attack, making things even tougher on an old quarterback.
Furthermore, and with all due respect to Brock Osweiler, he’s not Jay Cutler. Giving praise to Cutler in Denver, Colo. isn’t exactly popular, but nobody can argue that Cutler doesn’t possess “the goods” – one can fairly question his head and his heart, but his arm and athleticism were rare in 2006 and still are in 2015. This season marks the fourth that Osweiler has been holding the clipboard in Denver; his abilities have never once tempted the Broncos coaching staff.
That’s probably not fair to say of Osweiler, given that Manning has always been in front of him. Still, there’s never been a game, preseason or other, when Osweiler has shown true signs of greatness. He is not Aaron Rodgers waiting to fill the shoes of Brett Favre.
In 2007, Rodgers’ final year as a backup, the Packers began the season 4-1. In the fifth game, against a very mediocre Redskins team, Favre threw for a measly 188 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions (sound familiar?). Still, the Packers won (ugly) 17-14. Behind Favre, the Packers went 13-3 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game, narrowly losing to the Giants, the eventual Super Bowl Champions.
No thanks. Not now. Brock can wait.