Just two days ago, everything was going according to plan. Joe Flacco was firmly entrenched as the Broncos starting quarterback, while rookie Drew Lock was gradually working his way up the depth chart.
In the Broncos third preseason game, they took the next step in moving toward this eventual 1-2 punch behind center, with Lock getting the second-team reps after Flacco’s night was done. While perhaps not official, it was clear that the rookie had jumped veteran Kevin Hogan for the No. 2 job, setting things up just as the Broncos were hoping.
Then, a wrench got thrown in the gears. While trying to avoid a sack in the third quarter, Lock fell on his right hand, spraining his thumb. His night was over earlier than expected, while his availability moving forward remains up in the air.
At this point, the Broncos haven’t put a timetable on Lock’s return. The sprain was deemed “significant,” with the organization only saying the quarterback would miss “some time.”
Most are speculating that Lock won’t be back until early in the regular season, setting up an interesting scenario for the Broncos in Week 1 and beyond. Who should be Flacco’s backup against the Raiders and for the first few games of the year?
The easy answer is Hogan. After all, he’s already on the roster, he knows the offense and he’s been positioned as the “veteran backup” in the QB room. But a closer examination of that situation makes that decision semi-questionable.
Since entering the NFL in 2016, Hogan has played sparingly, appearing in four games and starting one during two seasons in Cleveland. During those stints, the quarterback was largely ineffective, throwing four touchdowns to seven interceptions and posting a meager 61.5 rating. He hasn’t seen live action since Week 6 of the 2017 season, nearly two calendar years ago.
Does that suggest Hogan is a viable option to fill in for Flacco on a short-term basis? Could he complete a game if the starter gets dinged and can’t return? Can he win a game or two if Flacco is sidelined for two or three games?
Based on his previous game performances, the answer is no. And the Broncos know it; that’s why they were perfectly content to let Lock be the No. 2 quarterback in 2019.
As a short-term answer, Lock had just as good of chance for success as Hogan, as both would struggle. But at least the pains endured with the rookie on the field would pay dividends down the road; the QB of the future would be getting some valuable reps.
So now, the Broncos are in a pickle. Their backup quarterback isn’t good enough to be a reliable option in small doses, but he’s also not the long-term plan in Denver; so giving Hogan snaps makes no sense on either front.
Thus, Denver needs to go out and find a true veteran quarterback. They need to sign someone who can come off the bench in relief of Flacco and keep the train on the rails.
Fortunately, the perfect option is still out there. He’s available on the open market, just waiting for his phone to ring.
The Broncos need to give Brock Osweiler a call.
The idea will make some fans cringe. After all, this is the guy who pouted about getting benched for Peyton Manning late in the 2015 season and stormed off to Houston as a free agent instead of taking as the quarterback of the defending Super Bowl champs. That’s a pretty big bridge that he burned.
By all accounts, John Elway and the rest of the organization has gotten over getting left at the altar. They brought back Osweiler in 2017, throwing him into the mix during a disastrous seasons. The results weren’t good, as the quarterback went 0-4 during that lost season.
That said, one of the rare highlights of that year was a Thursday night win in Indianapolis. Osweiler didn’t start, but he came off the bench to complete 12 of 17 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns, posting a sparkling 147.7 rating en route to a dominant 25-13 win. It was as good as any quarterback played that season in Denver.
Last year, Osweiler also had some success in Miami, going 2-3 during a stint with the Dolphins. Again playing in a less-than-ideal situation, he threw six touchdowns and four interceptions, and posted an 86.0 rating. Those are certainly serviceable numbers.
And that’s exactly what the Broncos need.
If Flacco is lost for a short period of time, Vic Fangio and Company need someone who can keep things from spiraling out of control. Osweiler knows the system, having played for Gary Kubiak in 2015. He’s played in big games, having beaten New England and Cincinnati in crucial matchups during Denver’s stretch run en route to Super Bowl 50. And he’s not seen as the long-term answer, so there’s no chance of him derailing plans with Lock.
In addition, the move wouldn’t break the bank. Last year, Osweiler played for under $800,000 in Miami. That’s a really inexpensive insurance policy, at least according to NFL economics.
With Drew Lock no longer available as Joe Flacco’s backup, the Broncos need to find another option. Kevin Hogan has proven during his career, as well as during training camp and preseason, that he’s not the answer. But a guy familiar with the organization would be the perfect stopgap solution.
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