If there’s one team that ought to know the importance of a dependable backup quarterback, it’s the Dolphins, which explains why free agent Brock Osweiler is visiting Davie.
The Dolphins are bringing back David Fales, potentially to back up Ryan Tannehill, and also have practice squad player Brandon Doughty, but they’re testing Osweiler to see if the ex-Bronco could raise the level of confidence in the team’s tenuous position.
Osweiler gets his foot in the door because of his connection to coach Adam Gase, from Gase’s time as Denver’s offensive coordinator and QB coach.
Osweiler is expendable in John Elway’s eyes because the Broncos landed Case Keenum as starter, but there’s more to it.
Osweiler’s stock peaked in 2015 on the strength of eight quality games with the Broncos, which landed him a four-year, $72 million contract with the Houston Texans. Which is about where this story takes a major turn, raising questions that should make the Dolphins take a hard look before offering a contract.
‘Suffice to say, the Texans free-agency splurge for Brock Osweiler might go down as one of the worst in NFL history.’ — headline in The Houston Chronicle last March
“Suffice to say, the Texans free-agency splurge for Brock Osweiler might go down as one of the worst in NFL history.” That was the headline in The Houston Chronicle last March when he was about to be shipped to Cleveland largely for cap relief. The story went on to compare Osweiler to Albert Haynesworth among the great free-agent busts.
Things actually got worse. The Browns, it turned out, didn’t have any use for him, either, so he spent the 2017 season back in Denver, appearing in six games, completing just 55.8 percent with five touchdowns and five interceptions for a passer rating of 72.5.
Perspective on 72.5: He has to look up — way up — just to see Jay Cutler’s 80.8 last season.
More perspective on 72.5: It’s who he is. In 42 career games, Osweiler’s career rating is 76.5.
Would Osweiler represent an improvement to the QB corps? The Dolphins seem likely to move on from Matt Moore even though Moore had a better rating last season (75.6) and for his career (81.2). He’s more accurate, has a better TD-to-interception ratio and averages nearly a yard more per completion at 7.1.
But Moore is 33 years old, so it’s understandable if the Dolphins want to make a change at No. 2. What might have been more understandable is if they’d made that change last summer. Think about it: Last year we knew Tannehill’s knee was an iffy proposition, and the minute he went down in preseason, Gase was calling Cutler, which tells you he didn’t trust Moore with the keys to the team for an entire season.
That being so, why had everything been banked on Tannehill’s knee holding up? If the backup QB can’t be trusted to see extensive action, why have him as the backup QB?
The Cutler move cost the Dolphins $10 million in cap space that could have been carried over into this year. It may have been the best they could do in scrambling mode, but the return on the investment was 19 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and an 80.8 rating — Moore-like numbers.
Back in September 2016, there were smiles when Osweiler made his Texans debut, leading a 23-14 win over the Bears with 231 yards and two TD passes. It went downhill from there. He never had a 300-yard game with the Texans. Only four times did he walk off the field as a Texan without throwing an interception. Late that season, he was benched in favor of Tom Savage, only to reclaim the job when Savage suffered a concussion.
One Sunday night, NBC analyst Rodney Harrison said on air, “Every week we watch tape on the Texans and Brock Osweiler. I’m trying to find every reason not to say that he’s a terrible football player.”
OK, that’s harsh. He landed that monster contract by performing capably enough with the Broncos, so it made sense to return to his safe haven. Elway hoped to get him back on track, saying “a little football rehab” was required, and it would not have been a shock if it had worked.
Even after going 0-4 in limited starts in 2017, Osweiler said he hoped to finish his career in Denver. Now that it’s Keenum’s era, those plans are changing. And once again, Gase could reunite from someone from a previous stop, just as he has with assistants Dowell Loggains and Eric Studesville, plus Cutler and tight end Julius Thomas.
Maybe Osweiler will be signed, maybe not. But if he is, just remember there still are no guarantees regarding Tannehill’s knee, meaning a decision slightly under the radar in March could become anything but minor again this fall.
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