By Trey Gregory, City Editor
The Denver Broncos beat the New England Patriots in an overtime thriller Sunday night. With the win quarterback Brock Osweiler won his second start in as many weeks and seems to have stepped into NFL folklore status.
Fans and commentators alike are already declaring him the next coming of John Elway. Osweiler is, after all, seemingly playing better than the great Peyton Manning was in the first nine games of the season.
Those people, however, would be wise to relax and let this play out longer before we determine exactly who Osweiler is.
It’s not too hard to play better than Manning was. Pro Football Focus ranked Manning dead last out of all quarterbacks who started since week one. Keep in mind Manning started the season 7-0 before getting benched for injury half way through the Broncos second loss of the season.
The aging and injured Manning led the Broncos to a 7-2 record before Osweiler relieved him as the starter. Theoretically that means there are at least 31 other quarterbacks who could have done just as well or better.
I don’t actually believe that of course. Manning’s cerebral ability shifted protections, made strategic audibles and placed the Broncos in the best position to mask his physical deficiencies. That doesn’t mean, however, that the team wasn’t winning despite Manning’s play.
The fact of the matter is that Denver currently possesses one of the NFL’s best defenses and receiver corps and, as we learned with Tim Tebow’s magical run, that can take bad quarterback a long way.
Osweiler did not actually play that great of a game in reality. He threw for 270 yards, one touchdown, one interception and completed only 54.8 percent of his passed for a quarterback rating of 72.5. Those stats aren’t bad, but they aren’t great; they’re closer to the definition of pedestrian.
If I were Kirk Cousins, Blaine Gabbert or Ryan Tannehill I would take issue with all they hype and praise Osweiler has received. They were forced to play games immediately or early in their careers. They were forced to make mistakes and grow while everyone watched on the national stage. Meanwhile, Osweiler did the same from the comfort of the practice field and against third string pre-season defenses.
As a Washington fan it has been great to see Cousins progress this season but frustrating that people still see him as the quarterback he used to be. He has been named NFC Player of the Week twice this year and the popular response has been “It’s a fluke, just wait for him to return to the guy we know him to be.”
It’s fine if you believe that, but then don’t crown Osweiler the next big thing after two starts, it’s absurd. Gabbert wasn’t considered the next big thing when he took the worst team in football and beat the Atlanta Falcons, who have a winning record. Remember this offseason when Tannehill was also considered the next big thing? Now people are calling last season a fluke.
In reality Cousins has played better football this year than Osweiler, albeit a small sample size for both. Cousins has thrown 2,787 yards, 16 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and completed 68.4 percent of his passes for a quarterback rating of 91.7.
Once again, these are not elite stats, but they’re not bad at all. They’re the stats of a young quarterback on the verge of proving he can be a franchise player. Yet Cousins is still infamous because of his past; something Osweiler doesn’t have.
To be clear, I do not think Osweiler is a bad player. I think it’s way too early to know one way or another. There have been countless NFL player who had one good year only to fall into irrelevancy a short time later. My point is that we need to sit back and let Osweiler prove what he truly is over a longer period of time before we decide.
The same goes for the other young players in the league. Football fans, analysts and commentators like to pretend like they know just how good or bad a player is based off one or two years, but we don’t. Ask Steve Young about that.
So before we go writing Peyton Manning off and decide to give Osweiler the keys to the Broncos for John Elway, let’s take a step back and keep perspective. A very good Bronchos team won two games while Osweiler just happened to be under center. It’s going to take a lot more to convince me he is the next big thing.