Season of Hope marks the whimsical period between the start of OTAs and training camp when the pads are off, the air is fresh and seemingly every player and team has a chance. Let’s dream of the storylines that would completely shake up the league.
Quarterbacks that hit rock bottom are rarely resuscitated. Alex Smith, who endured seven offensive coordinators in eight mostly downtrodden years in San Francisco, is possibly the only current exception. But Smith could have company to the East.
Haven’t you heard? The lens of OTAs has basically turned Brock Osweiler into a taller version of Aaron Rodgers.
Yes, this guy.
You can stop laughing now. In OTA language, it’s true. In OTA language, Osweiler, with his improved attitude and mindblowing hip flexibility, is meshing well with his new Dawgs in Cleveland.
“Since he’s been here he’s been outstanding,” Browns head coach/quarterback guru Jackson said last week. “I don’t judge people by what everybody else says, I judge them by what I see…he’s not what we saw and heard”
Jackson even went on to defend Osweiler’s James Comey-esque height, noting that the 6’7”er is no statue and can get up and down the field. He’s not alone with the flattery.
Brock Osweiler has impressed. One Browns player privately predicted he “wouldn’t be surprised if Brock is QB1 heading into camp in July.”
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 7, 2017
As Browns starting QB battles go, this one is rather compelling. In one corner is previous frontrunner Cody Kessler who is still raw, in another is rookie DeShone Kizer who is even more raw. (Welcome to Cleveland!) And then there’s Osweiler whose resurrection would mark one of the strangest turnarounds in NFL quarterbacking history. To recap:
In 2105, then Denver’s backup, Osweiler filled in admirably for 700-year old Peyton Manning and his disintegrating neck, aiding the Broncos to a 5-2 record in that span . Manning returned (not at all with the help of any banned substance delivered to his wife), the Broncos won the Super Bowl and Manning rode off into the sunset. Osweiler seemed the obvious heir but Elway curiously let him walk in free agency. So the QB deficient Texans, in what would be last offseason’s splashiest move, gifted Osweiler a four-year $72 million contact despite his glaring lack of experience and no face-to-face meeting. That marked the pinnacle. As a Texan, Osweiler simply sucked. His productivity (or lack thereof) – 15 TDs, 16 INTs – was on par with the league’s bottom feeders. When he was finally benched for Tom Savage, the city of Houston cheered almost as zealously as they did when Apollo 13 landed safely on Earth. Add in Osweiler’s reportedly pompous attitude and the Texans had themselves a legitimate lemon with what seemed like 12 years left on his contract.
But those noted saviors from Cleveland swooped in this March, crafting a blockbuster trade with Houston that seemed a win-win for both sides. The Browns assumed Osweiler’s $16 million salary and got a second round pick in the process. Houston got a fourth-round pick, but more importantly got to shave $10 million in salary cap space (and the aforementioned bloated salary). Osweiler was simply there to solve a cap issue, the pundits said. He would either be pushing beer carts through the Browns offices on Fridays or be released, but no way would the NFL’s most popular punchline be the Browns starter.
As it turned out this was FAKE NEWS! In OTA language, Osweiler has a legitimate shot at the coveted title of Browns Week 1 starter. We know he’ll be a tall quarterback but what if he’s a remotely good tall quarterback? The Browns have certainly helped their hypothetical quarterback out this offseason. They revamped the offensive line, signing emerging free agents J.C. Tretter at center and Eric Zeitler at guard. Osweiler could have a field day in the pocket with this improved protection. Jackson is an ideal coach to lead the comeback.
This is the part where I’m supposed to chime with some x’s and o’s spiel about Osweiler’s improved mechanics or ability to see the field. Or how he really didn’t look like a deer in headlights for 80% of last season. That’s not possible.
But Cleveland, I implore you to time travel a bit. Despite some pocket issues in Denver, Osweiler strung together some impressive statistical outings, so much so that the Broncos took their sweet time with Manning’s return. Many of the same pundits who have left Osweiler for dead actually questioned Denver’s decision to start Manning over the strong-armed, mobile giant during their 2015 playoff run. Yes, Osweiler was a bust in Houston but his hellacious season in Houston was incredibly magnified by expectation. What remains is the potential for a heck of a comeback story – and no fan base deserves one more than the factory of sadness that is Cleveland.