My sister (il) commented a response to my last post over on Facebook and I think it needs a lengthier reply than Facilebook tends to be convenient for. Regarding Brock Osweiler leaving the Broncos, and more to the point Elway letting him go, she notes:
I know you're going to blast me for saying this but...I can't help but think some of this has to do with Elway's ego and preserving his place in Bronco history.
It's not like he didn't have seasons as a young QB when people questioned whether or not he should be there, before he became beloved in Denver's eyes.
That was most certainly true regarding the purge of Tim Tebow, or at least it appeared to be at the time. Tebow was remarkably well loved in Denver. I certainly didn't think he was a great quarterback, but 2011 was magical, one of the most fun seasons I've ever watched as a Broncos fan. The list of Denver quarterbacks who've racked 7 straight wins is awfully short, and Tebow is on it, along with a couple of other guys named Elway and Manning. Tebow actually holds a notable trivia record as a Bronco: He threw the first touchdown pass on the first play of postseason overtime under the NFLs new overtime rules. It definitely seemed personal when Elway went after Peyton Manning, drafted Osweiler and then traded Tebow to the Jets. I think history will show that to be a very shrewd business move. I admit that it was extremely jarring to the Broncos faithful.
To me, the Osweiler situation seems very different. The Broncos traded away their first round draft pick in 2012, mostly because that little sh#t McDaniels had left the team draft deficient to trade up for Tebow. The Broncos took Derek Wolfe early in round 2, a pick that has payed great dividends, and then Osweiler later in the round at the 57th pick. I remember clearly that even then, people were scratching their heads. The scouting reports on Brock had him going in round 2 or 3 to a team that needed a quarterback, and the Broncos had just scored a certain Hall of Famer at the position. Osweiler had the size and mobility that Elway was looking for, reminiscent of himself I imagine. But the Broncos had so many needs in that year that the draft pick earned a C grade from scout Bucky Brooks. Much was made of the fact that Osweiler was the friend of Elway's son, again inserting the argument of Elway's ego where it may actually be misplaced. Side note, the Broncos took Malik Jackson in round 5 of 2012 and it has been speculated that Denver will miss him on the D line more than Brock Osweiler under center. What makes that speculation important is this, the Broncos scraped the bottom of the league last year in offensive production, even with Osweiler starting 7 games. They were almost from week 1 the very top ranked defense, in part because of the fifth round pick at defensive tackle, Malik Jackson. Osweiler, very much like Tebow, won very important games, two of them in overtime. But an actual look at his stats shows a very pedestrian performance for a guy who had 3 years as under-study to one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Osweiler has amazing physical skills and a load of talent. Pairing him with Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins may prove that he can become elite in the league. Montana pride demands that I hope so. Professional football is still a business, and one has to ask if he's worth elite money. At this point, the answer would have to be "No.". At 15 million a year with incentives, the Broncos offered a fair deal to the man they had payed and Elway personally took a chance on. I don't think Elway's ego had anything to do with Osweiler's decisions. It was a money chase, and a smart one for the young QB. This is a tight market year for quarterbacks. The draft has only two top level QBs in Wentz and Goff. The free agent market is slim, with only backups and two experienced men young enough to be reclamation projects, RGIII and Colin Kaepernick. Quarterbacks are at a premium this year, and are cashing in on that fact.
Environment has (more than discussed) to do with that. Last year, two perennial backups became franchise saviors. Ryan Fitzpatrick damned near lead the Jets into the playoffs and Kirk Cousins was so important to the Washington Taterskins that they laid a franchise tag on him. Washington let go the number 2 draft pick of 2012, Robert Griffin the third, who earned offensive rookie of the year in that season. Too many teams are suffering from NoHasQB Simplex 1. Over 45 different men started games at quarterback last year; I lost true count about week 12. 32 teams in the league, and over half of them relied on a backup or backup to backup to get the win. 4 of the 6 AFC playoff teams had started multiple people under center. That fact is not lost on GMs or coaches. The league is QB scared and willing to pay for not being so again. Ball huckers are in high demand right now and there just aren't that many available in either draft or free agency. The consequence is clear. Middling quarterbacks are being payed near elite money. Drew Brees, a certain Hall of Famer who holds the only passing records not surpassed by Peyton Manning, makes about 19.5 million dollars a year. Brock Osweiler, who never started a full season in college and has only started 7 games in the NFL is now making 18 million a year. Sam Bradford, who has yet to make it through an NFL season uninjured is making 18 million a year. Kirk Cousins, a perennial backup, under the franchise tag is slated to make a whole lot more. Mid-level quarterbacks are having a banner year, and good on them for chasing the paycheck. Still, that drives the price up for every team, even those like the Broncos who have had success by paying defense. Elway was not egotistical in refusing to pay a middling QB elite money. He was smart. He still has to negotiate a long term contract with Von Miller, which will likely make Miller the highest payed defensive player in history. He still has to negotiate for a running back, with C.J. Anderson accepting tender from Miami. He still has to find a way to pay Demarcus Ware, or let him go. I don't think Elway's ego had anything to do with this. I think it was all business from the get go. Given the fact that Denver just won a Super Bowl on the power of its defense, it's hard to imagine that Elway would do anything other that shop the bargain bin for suport under center.
Which brings us, strangely, back to Tebow and Sanchez. One of the teams that Tebow beat in 2011 was the New York Jets. Sanchez was the established star in the game, having led the Jets to two straight AFC title games. Denver won in overtime. After the 2011 season it was very difficult to see Mark Sanchez as anything but a backup quarterback. That is, unless he had a stellar defense to carry the load and a quarterback whisperer in his ear. That's what he has in Denver. The game is still afoot. If Elway can extinguish the other fires, Anderson, Miller and Ware, then the QB situation can be addressed, either through trade or draft. I agree with this assessment, that it's time for Bronco Nation to just RELAX. This story isn't over just yet.