At the NFL meetings in Boca Raton today, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak addressed the team’s very fluid quarterback situation, which right now consists of Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian, and a big ol’ question mark. Kubiak said Denver’s hope is to find “the next Brock Osweiler,” which is a slightly weird thing to say, because they just had the last Brock Osweiler. Until: you know.
Kubiak’s statement is funny in a vacuum, but he’s actually getting at two major points of quarterback philosophy and roster management. The first is the idea that young quarterbacks are rarely properly prepared for the NFL, and he’s not the first to raise that notion. They’re generally thrown right into the fire, which can be disastrous for their progression, but in the absence of a developmental league, is really the only option for getting a QB actual competitive game action.
The alternative, espoused by Kubiak here, is landing a young, promising, cheap quarterback and stashing him for a while. Osweiler sat behind Peyton Manning for most of his four years in NFL, and the idea is that he learned and improved by osmosis. Does this theory hold? Teams around the league seem to buy it, but there’s not a ton of evidence that you can properly evaluate a QB who has barely played. Matt Flynn was a bust. Matt Cassel showed mixed results. Tyrod Taylor seems promising. Really, every single NFL team is trying to find their own Aaron Rodgers—and there’s only one Aaron Rodgers. Maybe don’t wish for another Brock Osweiler until you know what the first Brock Osweiler actually is.
Kubiak’s also hinting at a philosophy that periodically gains currency around the NFL: the idea that you don’t need a great quarterback to win a Super Bowl. The Broncos certainly proved it’s plausible, winning a Lombardi Trophy behind Peyton Manning’s corpse on the strength of a historically excellent defense. Can they do it again with, say, Mark Sanchez? History isn’t promising. Though the league’s strength regularly swings back and forth from offense to defense, the last team to win a Super Bowl with a truly mediocre QB had been the 2000-01 Ravens. That was a long time ago. Just as with the theory on sitting young quarterbacks, there are success stories but a generally poor track record.
If Kubiak, John Elway, and the Broncos buy into these two philosophies, it might be because they don’t have much choice. They know the QB market is thin.
“We know who the guys are out there that are still free, as far as free agents go, there’s no secret there, there’s not many of those. The draft this year has some good quarterbacks in it,” Kubiak said Wednesday morning at the AFC coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meetings. “So it’s a day-to-day process and something that we continue to work through. I can’t speak for John [Elway], but I know through our conversations we’re trying to have patience here and make sure we do this the right way and make sure we feel good about whoever we bring in from a competitive standpoint. We’ll continue to do that and keep our patience there and get the right guy.”
When the best-case scenario is going into a season with an elite defense and either Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III running the offense, you’d better be able to believe that defense wins championships.