The Denver Broncos certainly know who their franchise quarterback is in the short term; they won the Peyton Manning Derby and gave the legendary signal-caller a five-year, $96 million contract for that sense of security. However, the opt-out portions of that deal point to Manning's age and injury history -- and the knowledge that even with The Sherriff on board, there are no sure things in football.
To that end, and to satisfy the longer-term view, the Broncos selected Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Osweiler once beat out John Elway's son, Jack, for the Sun Devils' starting position, and he's now in the box as the first quarterback drafted by Elway, the personnel executive. He'll also be learning the finer points of the position from Manning as he goes along. The opportunity to get the hang of the NFL game from two of the greatest ever to play is a rare gift, but Osweiler knows that he has to meet that challenge at least halfway. As a result, he'd been working on his odd, "pizza-delivery" throwing motion through the pre-draft process. The idea was to look like a different player when he showed up to his first rookie minicamp in Denver.
"I'll know more once I watch the film this afternoon," Osweiler said of the results after his first throwing session. "I haven't gotten a chance to see it yet. But, if Coach [John] Fox is happy, that's a good sign. Obviously, I have to go out there and keep improving. That was something that we worked very hard on. When I say we, Coach [Noel] Mazzone and myself over the past couple of months to improve my delivery, improve my footwork. For Coach [Fox] to notice it today, that's a good sign."
Coach Fox did indeed notice. "I think when we went there to Arizona State for the private workout, you could tell that he had worked on his delivery," Fox said. "Whether it is golfers with golf swings or players with motions and what not, it isn't radical—he has to use his height advantage a little bit better with that higher delivery. He's an accurate passer and I think he became more accurate."
The 6-foot-7, 242-pound Osweiler had a tendency in college to throw with a three-quarter delivery, negating his height advantage and leading to some inconsistent patches. And the multi-sport athlete has a few other challenges to overcome -- he had just 15 college starts, and he'll face many of the same NFL transitional issues common to college quarterbacks who played primarily in the shotgun. Still, Osweiler's stats were impressive in his limited experience. He didn't throw a single interception through six games in 2010, and when he got the starting job in 2011, he re-wrote many Arizona State passing records. Osweiler became the school's first quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards in a season, and set marks for completions (326) and attempts (516).
His 26 touchdowns were the fourth-most in school history for a single season, and he was also the first ASU quarterback to start a game as a freshman since Jake Plummer in 1993 -- yet another tie to his new team. Plummer, of course, played for the Broncos from 2003 through 2006. Plummer was replaced by Jay Cutler, whose jersey #6 Osweiler now wears.
Osweiler will face an interesting development process in Denver, but the Broncos are used to succeeding with athletic and unconventional quarterbacks who have odd deliveries. There was that Tim Tebow fellow, after all.
"I would say the main thing is getting my elbow raised up," Osweiler said, when asked how the mechanical fixes are going. "A lot of times in college, my elbow would drop below my shoulder, if you will. When you do that, you lose velocity, you lose accuracy [and] you're less consistent with your throws. We basically made a huge point to bring that elbow up to a more traditional throwing motion and get it above my shoulder. Coach [Mazzone] did a tremendous job. Now the biggest thing is to transition those training sessions out here to the practice field."
Mazzone was Arizona State's offensive coordinator during the Dennis Erickson era, and his departure in the wake of Erickson's forced exit was one of the reasons Osweiler left school early. Mazzone now runs UCLA's offense, and also worked with Tebow during the lockout last year. It all ties together very nicely.
Now, it's a different level of scrutiny -- drafted by perhaps the best quarterback ever to play the game, and tutored by another man of whom the same could be said. No pressure, right?
"I just look at where I'm at right now as obviously a tremendous opportunity," he said. "I thank everybody in the Broncos organization for bringing me here. But, really when I step back and I take that day-by-day approach, I'm just looking at it as I'm playing football. It's something I've done since first grade. You start off in flag football practice, you did you drill and you played football. [It was the] same thing freshman year in high school, same thing junior year at Arizona State. But, in saying that, I do understand who selected me. I treat that as a huge honor and like I told you guys when I first came here, I cannot be any more happy to be a Denver Bronco."
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