On Monday morning, the Cleveland Browns announced Brock Osweiler would start the team's first preseason game on Thursday night. By Monday afternoon, the Brockmobile was on the Autobahn, moving at speeds upwards of 100 mph.
"He's only 26...and at one point, the Denver Broncos thought (Osweiler) could be their franchise quarterback," said radio host Beau Bishop during a segment on 92.3 The Fan's "Bull & Fox" show late Monday afternoon. "He has just as good of a chance at becoming a franchise quarterback as DeShone Kizer."
This isn't meant to isolate Bishop, who I enjoy, for criticism. But his comments reflect a shifting narrative surrounding the Browns current QB 1, a shift that is part hopefulness and part hyperbole. The team's Twitter account hit send on this affront to God, if you were wondering where we're at with the once embattled signal caller.
Osweiler has been the very definition of "fine" through two weeks of Browns training camp. He played fairly well in the team's scrimmage at First Energy Stadium on Friday night, in that he completed some passes, and had a productive day at camp on Monday. Combine that with DeShone Kizer's rookie status and Cody Kessler's regression to something far below the mean, and the Browns actually need Osweiler right now. That's a strange sentence to write, what with Osweiler's name being relegated to the cliffnotes section of the initial press release the Browns sent out regarding his acquisition in April, but here we are.
But one scrimmage and a few decent days of practice can't erase a season and a half of abysmal tape from the former Arizona State product, despite the effort of some to sweep it under a very large rug. As Osweiler begins to take his first reps with the no. 1 offense, some of the qualifiers being thrown around to rationalize his past and attempt to sunny up his future feel more forced than Chris Christie's tucked-in polos.
Did the Houston Texans commit a boatload of money to lure Osweiler away from Denver? Yes. But teams desperate for signal callers are wont to overpay. That's the nature of being desperate. When it comes to quarterbacks, money paid doesn't always equal value provided. And yes, he's still young, but Osweiler is far from green. He sat behind one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever do it for three seasons and still qualified as the 32nd worst quarterback out of 34 in an offense that boasted Lamar Miller and Deandre Hopkins last season.
What Osweiler is not is a solution to the Browns' omnipresent quarterback conundrum. He's passable when given time to throw, as all able-bodied passers should be, though Pro Football Focus points out that five QBs had better passer ratings under pressure than Osweiler's 83.1 from a clean pocket last season. But when pressure does come, Osweiler morphs into one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL by a wide margin.
In the face of pressure in 2016, Osweiler completed less than 50 percent of his passes, threw four times as many interceptions as touchdowns and posted a tragic passer rating of 47.3, per Pro Football Focus. But here's the more damning stat, from Football Outsiders. When Osweiler was pressured in 2016, which occurred on almost 30 percent of his dropbacks, the Texans offense posted a DVOA of -100.6%. That means (*takes deep breath*) that the Texans offense was 100 PERCENT WORSE than the average NFL offense when under pressure. Only units helmed by Ryan Tannehill, Case Keenum and Jared Goff (lol Rams) faired worse.
Here's Brock Osweiler attempting to do things under pressure.
He gets skittish. He locks on to a receiver and ignores the rest of his progressions. He doesn't reset his feet before he throws, or he simply steps in the wrong direction mid-pass. It's natural for a quarterback's play to drop off when pressured. It shouldn't have this averse of an effect.
Without pressure, Osweiler is probably a decent backup quarterback. As Derrik Klassen pointed out in a 2016 piece entitled "Brock Osweiler is a Fraud," the giant of a quarterback has good velocity on his passes, allowing him to excel at intermediate routes over the middle of the field, like crossers. Watch his Wild Card weekend performance against the Oakland Raiders last season, and many of his completed passes went to his tight end running, you guessed it, a crossing route over the middle. He can throw a nice deep ball now and again. When his first read is open, he usually finds him.
Unfortunately, even with a spectacular offensive line, pressure exists. And it is incredibly difficult to change how a QB operates in the face of it at this stage of his career. If pressure immediately disables all the mechanics that make you a good quarterback, and it happens time and time again, chances are that's just the QB you are. Hue Jackson is good at what he does, and perhaps some marginal improvement from Osweiler can be expected, but that won't be enough to make Brock a viable starter in this league.
So, yes, it was odd to hear such reverence for Osweiler in Cleveland today despite plenty of evidence not to get our hopes up. And some of that's understandable. This is what we do when a new quarterback appears in town. We think there's not a rind on him. Robert Griffin just needed to get out of Washington. Johnny Manziel just needed to play. Jake Delhomme was the veteran presence the team needed. I'm guilty to contributing to more than one of these narratives myself. The honeymoon period is real for any city with a new toy under center, and doubly so in Cleveland.
But the tape is out there on Osweiler, for everyone to see. Barring some sort of large scale change in how he processes the game, he will probably be exactly what he was in Denver and Houston in Cleveland, no matter how many qualifiers you throw in front of his resume. And how telling it is that one of Osweiler's "best" throws from his debut with the 1s on Monday was an underthrown deep ball that is picked off 9 out of 10 times.
Brock N Roll, indeed.