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10 Mar 2016

Film Room: Brock Osweiler

by Cian Fahey

For the past 24 hours, it has been easy to picture Brock Osweiler standing on a stage next to Ryan Seacrest or some other forgettable face in a suit, celebrating his new contract from the Houston Texans. Maybe there is a single tear of joy sliding down his cheek as he receives overwhelming applause from his new fanbase. Maybe he drops to his knees and throws his hands in the air, unleashing all of the emotion that has been built up over the past few months.

It's not that Osweiler's Robert Pattinson-like facial features make him an ideal stage actor; it's that his career arc resembles that of someone who won X Factor, American Idol, or The Voice.

When Osweiler first tried to establish himself as an NFL quarterback, he was passed over by every team in the league. He wasn't taken in the first round of the 2012 draft. Fifty-six players and four other quarterbacks went off the board before the Denver Broncos chose him. When he landed in Denver, he was trapped behind Peyton Manning for three and a half years. Osweiler couldn't establish himself as a starting quarterback in the traditional way. He would be forced to wait before eventually seizing his opportunity in 2015.

Those TV shows typically don't span longer than a few months. Osweiler's time on the field during the 2015 season, and therefore his time on the field for his whole career, lasted roughly two months. During those two months, Osweiler didn't play particularly well. Using data from the Pre-Snap Reads Quarterback Catalogue, Osweiler threw an interceptable pass once every 21.2 attempts (27th among the quarterbacks in the catalogue) while throwing accurately on just 76.2 percent of his passes (22nd). But that's OK. In these TV shows you don't need to be great to be the winner. You can be benched for Peyton Manning and still be rewarded for your below-average ability.

Playing subpar football for two months landed Osweiler one big contract. His $72 million deal suggests he will be around for at least four years in Houston, but his actual skill set and play to this point suggests he's more likely to follow the majority of those who have taken the talent show path to fame.

The main issue with Osweiler is his lack of a standout trait. He doesn't have great arm talent like Derek Carr. He doesn't have exceptional intelligence and decision-making skills like Jameis Winston. If you're going to be a well-rounded quarterback in the NFL, you need to be closer to Marcus Mariota than Brian Hoyer. You need the majority of your traits to be above average rather than below. Even though Osweiler had his moments during his stretch of starts in Denver, he mostly proved to be a mediocre quarterback who made bad decisions in the pocket, lacked subtlety, and couldn't throw with precision. He could make some impressive moves in the pocket that highlighted his poise, but that was often negated by his awkward movement. Osweiler's size impacts his timing as a passer so even when he extends plays inside the pocket he is unlikely to hit receivers in stride through tight windows.

The Broncos continued to win with Osweiler as their starter and he had a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio, so Denver can justify drafting him. As Peyton Manning proved, the Broncos were going to win games regardless of who was their starter last year. As for Osweiler's touchdown-to-interception ratio, small sample sizes and some luck can craft a misleading line. Again from the Pre-Snap Reads Quarterback Catalogue, only 23.1 percent of Osweiler's interceptable passes turned into actual interceptions. This means that very few of his passes that should have been interceptions were caught by the defense. Only two quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer, were luckier than Osweiler last year.

via GIPHY

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This was one of Osweiler's worst plays from the 2015 season. With just 18 seconds left in the second quarter and the Broncos leading by 14 points, Osweiler's priority should be to take care of the football. Not only is he oblivious to his team's situation, he's also oblivious to how much time he has in the pocket and what kind of coverage the defense is playing. Osweiler stares down his post route, a post route that is running into the thickest part of the secondary's coverage. His pass arrives perfectly for Eric Weddle to break onto at speed. Weddle would have been running into space from a position that would have been relatively easy to score from, or at least set up a field goal before halftime.

Weddle dropped the ball so the interception never happened. The interception is less important than the action though.

One of the main issues with Osweiler is that he makes very bad decisions and struggles to read coverage. He is essentially a rookie even though he has been in the league for four years. As much as playing behind a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady is made into a talking point, there is no translatable value for a quarterback who sits behind either passer. Your success in the NFL will be determined on the field, not by the tips you received from a more experienced, more talented peer. Too many players have played behind Brady and Manning before proving to be inadequate on the field to suggest that it has enough of an impact to be meaningful.

Bill O'Brien should know that. O'Brien had not one, but two quarterbacks who played behind Brady on his roster last year. He benched both at different times before Ryan Mallett played his best football for the Ravens and Brian Hoyer spectacularly imploded in the playoffs.

via GIPHY

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From the same game, just a few minutes of game time later in the third quarter, Osweiler made a similarly poor decision. Despite being in field goal range with that 14-point lead intact, Osweiler forced a pass to a covered Emmanuel Sanders down the left sideline. Forcing the ball to a covered receiver is something Osweiler did regularly for the Broncos. He relied on his receivers to adjust and force their way to the ball when it was in the air. While this is a method that will work with DeAndre Hopkins, it relies too much on the quality of the receiver to consistently make plays.

Osweiler's decision on this play was a bad one, but it was made worse by his accuracy. This was a recurring issue when Osweiler forced the ball to his receivers. Sanders has no chance of getting to this ball before Jason Verrett. He would have to have beaten the cornerback decisively to be that far infield. A good throw on this play would have arrived with more velocity, arced over the defensive back and leading Sanders towards the back pylon. Osweiler doesn't have that kind of precision throwing to any level of the field.

via GIPHY

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There is a consistent streak of panic in everything that Osweiler does. He isn't capable of holding the ball to throw from tight pockets, so instead he rushes to release the ball. When he does show off good movement in the pocket, it is more decisive than subtle to reset. Most concerning is how oblivious he is to what the defense is doing. Even when he tries to come off his first read and make throws to second options, he isn't seeing the field clearly. On this play from Week 14 against the Oakland Raiders, Osweiler expects to find space over the middle of the field because the underneath linebacker followed his eyes. He throws the ball blindly so it arrives perfectly for safety Charles Woodson, who had rotated down when the ball was snapped.

This throw came on third down, during the first quarter when the Broncos were in field goal range. Osweiler had plenty of time in the pocket. He didn't need to force this pass.

If you wanted to sell Osweiler's potential moving forward, you would point to these plays as rookie errors, errors that would disappear the more he played. That wasn't how Osweiler's season went though. Discounting his first game of the year because he entered as a backup, Osweiler's worst display of the year came against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15. He had been playing for more than a month by that point, yet the errors multiplied. Osweiler threw four interceptable passes in that game. All four came in the second half, even though the Broncos had entered halftime with a 14-point lead.

via GIPHY

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Early in the fourth quarter, with that 14-point lead intact, Osweiler faces a second-and-20 deep in Broncos territory. He is going to make a good decision on this play, but he is required to execute a timing route with Emmanuel Sanders. Osweiler needs to hit Sanders as soon as the receiver turns around at the top of his deep curl route. Sanders beats Ross Cockrell badly, so badly that the defensive back falls down as he tries to accelerate with him back towards the quarterback. If Sanders hadn't beaten him so badly, Cockrell likely would have been able to catch an easy interception. Osweiler's pass arrived way off target.

His timing wasn't actually that bad on this throw, but asking him to make that throw on time while pressure was closing in the pocket was too much for him. With his long arms and often elongated release, Osweiler is prone to making this type of throw. The ball will slip out of his hand aimlessly, rather than accurately delivered to his intended target. That is extremely problematic against NFL defensive backs.

via GIPHY

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On this play early in the fourth quarter, the Broncos and Steelers are tied. Osweiler is deep in his own territory, facing a crucial third-and-5. He needs to make a play here. He needs to stem the momentum of the Steelers and create a first down for his offense. The Steelers show a blitz at the snap but drop out of it immediately. Osweiler not only has time in the pocket, but he has space to move his feet and adjust his upper body. He tries to slide away from the right side of his offensive line, where there is some potential pressure arriving. While doing that he brings his eyes from the middle of the field to the right side of the offense.

This is disastrous.

As soon as Osweiler tries to move his feet and reset his eyes, his mechanics completely collapse. He doesn't have the subtlety in his feet to comfortably reset and deliver the ball. Instead he throws the ball with his heels in the ground, not fully stepping into the throw. Predictably, his pass floats off target. Robert Golden undercuts Andre Caldwell's route with ease. The pass is so slow that Golden has time to catch the ball in stride. He drops it, so the interception never happens. Had he caught it, Golden would have had a chance to walk in a touchdown.

via GIPHY

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Not to worry. Osweiler eventually threw the Steelers into the lead with an ill-advised decision deep in Broncos territory.

via GIPHY

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He had a chance to atone for that mistake. He couldn't, but he did give us another example of how well he can fit the ball into safeties in double-coverage over the middle of the field.

Peyton Manning threw 17 interceptions in nine games before being benched for Osweiler. When it came down to deciding who to start in the playoffs, it wasn't about Manning's resumé versus Osweiler's. It wasn't about his experience or the storylines that Gary Kubiak and John Elway would face with Manning on the bench. It was that Manning was the better option. For as much as the Broncos didn't want to admit it at the time, that was an indictment of Osweiler when they benched him in Week 17. He deserved to be benched, and he didn't deserve the huge contract he just signed in free agency.

Bill O'Brien likes players who look like quarterbacks. Tall guys with big arms or guys who are perceived as smart with winning resumés. He doesn't look for players who can play like quarterbacks. He wants the manufactured talent show winner, not a true artist at the position.

Posted by: Cian Fahey on 10 Mar 2016

31 comments, Last at 18 Dec 2016, 4:37am by Smartmiltoys

Comments

1
by BroncFan07 :: Thu, 03/10/2016 - 7:26pm

Personally, I'm more disappointed to lose Jackson and Trevathan than Osweiler.

17
by doktarr :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 3:40pm

Certainly Jackson. Trevathan is a solid player but there's plenty of depth at LB.

I'm also annoyed that they didn't put a bigger tender down for CJ. No way they match that contract, and now they lose him without getting any compensation. They could have retained him for cheaper than that contract, or gotten something in return, now they get neither.

Setting aside CJ, though, I can't fault Elway's decisions so far. Upgrade RT, and let guys who the market is probably overvaluing walk. It sucks to lose Jackson but that was just too much money.

Still, we need someone (other than Sanchez) to play QB.

2
by theslothook :: Thu, 03/10/2016 - 8:13pm

In fairness Cian, the broncos offense, outside of the wide receivers, is not very good. Their tight ends, o line, and slot receiver were all below average to bad. I maintained part of manning's awfulness(and its just a part of it, he should be retired) - the team around him was weak. In addition, those were brock's only 7 starts of his career. I simply don't think we can get a clear picture of what he is right now.(that, btw, might also justify lambasting the texans for overpaying for an unknown commodity).

4
by BroncosGuyAgain :: Thu, 03/10/2016 - 11:46pm

I agree that the Broncos offense had weaknesses beyond the quarterbacks. I might not be quite as down on the TEs as you, but the OL was really pretty bad, and even D. Thomas did not play to his ability. And you left out the running backs.

With that said, I think Cian demonstrates that we know exactly "what (Osweiler) is right now" -- he's not very good. I might be reading that phrase too literally; my apologies if that is the case. Perhaps you mean -- and if so, I would agree -- that we don't know what he's going to become. I think he has a lot of upside. Most quarterbacks have glaring weaknesses their first several starts. Then again, most quarterbacks don't become really good. I have no idea where Oz will end up, but I do believe the available evidence says that right now he's not good.

16
by Hanzo the Razor :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 2:38pm

He might end up being the GOAT, who the heck knows. But if you look at the history of QBs, the vast majority of them aren't great and finding one of those is very special and rare. The odds are that Osweiler will be one of the many who are average or worse at the position.

With that in mind, it comes down to how much you want to gamble that he'll go from playing like an unsure back-up to playing like a top-15 QB? Obviously, Denver didn't feel it was worth $37 million guaranteed. This article is a great read on why that was a smart move --

http://overthecap.com/qb-contract-decisions-facing-jets-broncos/

The important part:

"A team has to consider how they will allocate those [salary cap] resources they have to build a team. The Texans will likely be overpaying Osweiler by $5 million to $10 million a year over the next two seasons. $10 to $20 million over two buys you a few decent players, or one really good player and a pretty decent one. The Broncos made the decision that there is far too much risk in giving up that much of your budget to one player who you may be ready to pull the plug on in a few games. Better to use that money elsewhere. The Texans were willing to take on that risk of losing resources in hopes that he plays up to the contract because they were in a panic.

[...]John Elway has the foresight a few years ago to see where Peyton Manning was headed despite the gaudy statistics. He didn’t want to run the risk others did by backing himself into a corner and building a team strictly for Manning. They let key pieces walk away rather than being stuck on bad contracts that would carry even less value without Manning and ended up winning a Super Bowl without a quarterback . If he had kept the Decker’s and Thomas’ of the world the odds were probably against the Broncos doing what they did last season.

[...]its far better, in my opinion, to take that extra “hope for the best” money you give to one of those players and use it to build a team that should function independent of a specific quarterback. The odds are in the teams favor that they can get a close to equal performance at a fraction of the cost from someone else and maybe get a better overall team result by building a better team. The odds are basically equal that they will crash and burn with or without those quarterbacks. If I going to go 3-13 I would much rather do it evaluating a mid round draft pick than spending the year trying to understand why I made the decision to give $17 million to a journeyman quarterback."

18
by theslothook :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 4:35pm

I'm not quite sure I agree with the stance that Elway chose not to build around Manning. Yes they let Julius Thomas walk, but they brought in Emmanuel Sanders and paid Demaryius Thomas.

It also raises a philosophical question. If you have an established qb, do you pay your receivers even when they are good? I think there's a temptation to see this broncos team and say emphatically no, but then I'm not sure that's the right take away. The packers showed what happens when you take an important cog out of a great passing attack; even when the o line is good. The steelers were damn scary when ben was healthy.

I tend to believe - you pay your good players up to a point and then you make hard choices, but I don't think that's the same as saying we de-prioritize certain positions for the sake of others.

5
by AtTheBreach :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 12:14am

Could not agree more emphatically.

6
by tuluse :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 3:13am

Yeah, I've seen plenty of QBs rattled from poor protection. It's certainly possible Osweiler improves quite a bit with just average protection.

I have no idea what the state of the Texans offensive line is.

10
by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 12:14pm

Not to mention WRs and TE, other than Hopkins.

28
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 03/15/2016 - 9:51am

TE: gigantic pit of suck, with no NFL-calibre players on the roster.

WR: Mediocre veteran journeymen (Washington, Shorts) plus Jaelen Strong, who started to look really quite impressive towards the end of the season.

27
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 03/15/2016 - 9:49am

A little better than average, I'd say. Maybe better than that, if Brown's issues last season were all injury-driven, and he is healthy next year, which is possible on both counts but certain on neither.

3
by gam14 :: Thu, 03/10/2016 - 8:27pm

As a Broncos fan, I am glad someone finally said no to the trend of paying below average to average QBs only to see the teams doing it going .500 or worse while crippling their rosters.

Osweieler's awarness is extremely poor, he was always running into sacks, forcing balls into coverage, being 6'8'' is usually seen as an advantage in a league that overrates height, until you see how awkward his motion is and how often he gets his passes batted down at the line (including his interception against NE).

Thanks for dispeling the #qbwinz-based narrative, Cian, also, you like to finish saying the pre-snap reads book is really great, onle of the best works about QBs.

7
by djanyreason :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 9:08am

"exceptional intelligence and decision-making skills like Jameis Winston"

I mean, I understand you mean 'football decision-making skills', but still: Guffaw!

8
by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 10:15am

I have to think the Broncos themselves were aligned with your findings, Cian.

Given their position, having seem all this in practice / film for three years, they could look beyond '5-2' and make what may be a smart decision and not overpay for what is still an unknown quantity.

Osweiler may be good in Houston, certainly he has some pieces around him (Nuk Hopkins, mostly), but that is still yet to be seen, and I thought both his pocket presence and decision making left a lot to be desired.

For being the starting QB in the wins against hte Patriots and Bengals - basically hte two biggest wins of the regular season - Osweiler will always be remembered for playing an integral part of their Super Bowl season, but that doesn't mean you over-commit to an unproven player.

14
by Hanzo the Razor :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 2:29pm

Houston's front office was probably in a desperate situation -- if they have a mediocre year, the HC and GM could get fired. Cap room is no good if you're not around to use it and with a weak draft for QBs, they made a move on what they felt was the best option available.

Meanwhile, the Broncos just won a Super Bowl and Elway is royalty in Denver, so they don't need to take any crazy "make or break" risks to keep their jobs.

9
by Hanzo the Razor :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 11:24am

I don't see a link on your site. Thanks!

19
by Vincent Verhei :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 5:42pm

This is the first year it was done.

11
by galactic_dev :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 12:44pm

Broncos were right to let Osweiler go, as they have to save their money for Von Miller's billion dollar contract. I wish they'd try to make RGIII their reclamation project instead of pursuing Kap (who has worse decision making and pocket presence than Osweiler).

12
by galactic_dev :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 12:56pm

And also-- great article! Great graphics!

13
by AtTheBreach :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 1:29pm

Kaep will require both a trade and a contract renegosh. Artoo Gee-threepio is free and clear, with no leverage. Not crazy about either here, but Griffin could be looking at 2 years, chump change in year 1, club option for remainder. Sig lower long term exposure.

15
by ChrisS :: Fri, 03/11/2016 - 2:34pm

In my limited viewing of Osweiler and in my limited ability to judge QB's I generally agree with this article. However Mike Tanier (whom I definitely like/respect) has a different opinion. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2623409-texans-37-million-gamble-on-b...

20
by gormleymp :: Sat, 03/12/2016 - 8:15am

I haven't seen an official description if the contract but the word is that the gauranteed money is frontloaded to the first two yearsgiving the texans an option to get out if its not working. With this in mind, the Texans paid Osweiler a starting qb salary for two years on the bet that they can get starting qb production. Based on the production OBrien has gotten from Fitzpatrick and Hoyer the last two years I'd say that he should be able to get better than expected production from Osweiler. No one knows what Osweiler is right now. Personally, if you are taking a risk on the unknown I'd rather draft a player with a friendlier contract. But at 22 I am guessing the Texans didn't like thier options in the draft at qb. I don't know how people percieve the qbs in the draft relative to Brock but it seems reasonable to say the Texans got the best option available at qb and they got him for two years of a starting qb salary. Certainly thats not the unmitigated disaster Cian suggests it is.

21
by theslothook :: Sat, 03/12/2016 - 2:31pm

It is if Cian's right and brock is a below avg starter rather than solid or better.

Thats the whole point here. We just dont know and that means the texans took a massive gamble. Personally, i'm not sure how to feel about this. Is it really worth it to commit so much when the value is so uncertain?

25
by gormleymp :: Mon, 03/14/2016 - 10:09pm

What is a bigger gamble going into a season with brian hoyer and ryan mallett as starters or taking a chance on a free agent with a higer ceiling for two years? The Eagles just paid the same salary to Sam Bradford. I'm sure Eagles fans would rather take a gamble at this point than overpay a known commodity.

22
by dank067 :: Sun, 03/13/2016 - 3:15pm

You're right that they can get out of the contract without too much pain after two seasons, but yeeesh, I would not want to be on the hook for a $19 million cap hit in 2017 for a guy who is a total unknown coming into '16. They haven't exactly been patient with their quarterbacks the past two seasons, either.

If Osweiler flops out of the gate but they're only two games back in a competitive AFC south halfway through the season, the outside pressure and pressure within the building to make a change are going to be suffocating. This move could ultimately turn out to be fine-to-meh, but I think the disaster potential is high.

26
by gormleymp :: Mon, 03/14/2016 - 10:16pm

Texans weren't going to luck into an elite quarterback. They took a chance for two years. I imagine they will stick withOsweiler over that time period precisely because of the investment they made. After last year, I imagine they would sacrifice an afc south crown and ignonimous playoff exit for some qb development.

I don't mean to suggest Brock is a hall of famer in waiting or that this makes Texans super bowl contenders. Just that Brock signing was a risk but not as large of a risk as Cian made it out to be and less of a risk than drafting a qb at 22 or trading capital to move up to take one of the top qbs in the draft.

23
by dank067 :: Sun, 03/13/2016 - 3:18pm

Also, to the point about starting QB salary. Though the figures are huge, Osweiler is the rare young QB who hit the open market completely free of any option years or rookie salary scale years that gave teams leverage (to varying extents) when extending Kaepernick, Wilson, Newton, Dalton, etc. But to me that's all the more reason why making this move was a bad idea for Houston.

24
by blarneyforbreakfast :: Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:32pm

The danger with "Film Rooms" for rookie QBs is that there are always some bad decisions and some good throws. If Osweiler maintains his current level he will not be worth the contract for a starting QB. If he shows improvement and is managed properly, he could be solid QB.

My read on Brock is that he is a solid short passer who shows some issues with decision-making on deep throws. He hasn't shown an ability to create wins for his team, but quarterbacks have bounced back after much worse rookie campaigns.

29
by Roo435 :: Fri, 03/18/2016 - 5:05am

At first I'm thinking this is such a catastrophe for Broncos, a shame to let a great team be obliterated by not being aggressive enough. They had the cap room after Manning rode off into the sunset. Cian did a phenomenal job here stating what nobody else is stating, using film to show us why Houston is reaching like hell to keep their jobs and start winning playoff games, or else. Brock isn't worth the money, he's as good as any rookie QB. "He MAY Develop", is the best you can say, but you can say the same about Carson Wentz or Goff or any of the other guys about to be drafted. For WAY WAY much less money, especially guaranteed money. Mark Sanchez, Kaepernich and RG3 'May Develop' too. Notice that 2/3 of the time, 'May Develop' QBs never do.
There's normally alot of good film articles about the QBs who make it and only wishful thinking articles about those who don't, lately at least.

Cian, I really wish all your Bleacher report stuff all season long had this much .gifs. We're rooting for you, we know how shitty the pay is for Film analyst writers like you who prove their points with film. 99% of NFL Journalism is complete crap, we're on FO to hide from it. Hell we can't even discuss NFL with most of our friends cause we're up against 'conventional wisdom' and all that's being reported is "Does Brock Osweiller have what it takes to win?" Right below "Is Joe Flacco Elite??"

- Roo

30
by logan35 :: Fri, 07/01/2016 - 3:40pm
31
by Smartmiltoys :: Sun, 12/18/2016 - 4:37am

Really good match!