Balzer on the NFL: Osweiler deal a head scratcher

Howard Balzer

March 11, 2016 at 1:31 pm.

Dec 6, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) throws a pass during the first quarter of the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 6, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) throws a pass during the first quarter of the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Seven starts. Yes, seven starts.

That’s how many starts Brock Osweiler has on his resume as he departs Denver for Houston with a heap of expectations brought on by a four-year $72 million contract that includes $37 million in guaranteed money. For seven starts.

And look at it this way: How much money would be in Osweiler’s contract had Peyton Manning not suffered an injured foot that landed him on the bench during the just-completed 2015 season? If Manning had played the entire season, very little would be known about Osweiler, and with Manning retired, he would have been fortunate to land a two-year deal worth $10 million with a bunch of incentives depending on how well he played.

Plus, the Broncos likely would have brought in another veteran, you know, just in case. That’s the amazing thing about timing in the NFL. Some guys ride the pines and never get their chance, while it could be argued Manning’s injury (and, of course, Osweiler’s solid play) put $60 million more in his contract.

Now, Osweiler heads to a team that has won nine games the last two seasons with a constantly changing group of quarterbacks. But, oh, those expectations. The Texans didn’t sign him so they would win nine games again.

Owner Bob McNair had been vocal since the end of the season that finding a top quarterback was their priority and he insisted that Osweiler “was the one we wanted.” Of course, who else was there?

Of general manager Rick Smith, McNair said, “Rick said he was going to get him, and he did. I’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He did a heck of a job.”

Really? Opening the checkbook is hard? Doesn’t take a master’s degree in Football 101 to do that.

What does he expect. McNair said, “I’m excited. I think these moves give us a chance to go a long way in the playoffs.”

That’s certainly Osweiler’s goal, now having escaped from the long shadow of Manning.

He said that goal is “ultimately a world championship. I believe that comes from a lot of hard work. I promise you that I will come in this building every single day, rain or shine, and I will give it everything I have. Nobody will outwork me and nobody will outprepare me.”

Certainly that he learned that from Manning, while adding, “This organization is on the cusp of doing something great, and I want to be part of it. Coming to Houston was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

He also said all the right things about his new head coach, Bill O’Brien, and his fiery nature. “I love it,” Osweiler said. “In fact that’s one of the reasons that I came here. One of the notes I made about coach O’Brien was passion and fire.”

He had better hope though that some wins come quickly. Otherwise, there will be a lot of fires to put out.

Meanwhile, in Denver, the Broncos are acting like it’s no big deal to lose their top two quarterbacks from a Super Bowl champion.

Rather nonchalantly, general manager John Elway said, “We’ve stayed true to our philosophy of building a team with players who want to be Denver Broncos and want to be here. That’s been a successful approach for us. While we did offer a very competitive and fair long-term contract to Brock, we ultimately had to remain disciplined while continuing to assemble a roster that can compete for championships.”

So, another $2 million a year on a four-year deal and $7 million guaranteed was too far to go to keep the supposed heir apparent to Manning? Or was it a sense that Osweiler wanted Houston because Houston wanted him more?

Still, it begs the question of who will be quarterbacking the Broncos in September. Ryan Fitzpatrick? Colin Kaepernick? Tracy Siemian (the only signed quarterback currently on the roster)? The pickings are slim.

The non-plussed Elway added, “We’ll find the right player and person for our team.” Good luck with that.

Heck, even after signing a second-level tackle in free agency, Donald Stephenson was asked about going to a team without a starting quarterback. He said, “I put a little bit of thought into it. I feel like any time you’ve got a (general manager) like you do here that quarterbacks are going to come running. I’m not worried about it. I’m pretty sure they’re going to find a guy that can play.”

Surely they will do that. The question is whether that “guy” will play well. That Thursday night season opener in Denver will certainly be must-see TV.

Dysfunction in Cleveland

How bad are things with the Browns? This bad: After signing as a free agent with Jacksonville, safety Tashaun Gipson actually said, “In this league, when you start getting to certain amounts of money, you begin to look at this as life-changing money regardless. But I guess it comes into play that you want to start winning. It’s nothing against Cleveland. I have nothing but love and respect for that organization and love for the city. But I feel like this organization is going in the right direction.”

Maybe the Jaguars are, and at least it appears they have a quarterback, which the Browns haven’t had in way too long. But there are never guarantees. Since last having a winning record in 2007, the Jaguars have won a total of 39 games in the last eight seasons. In three seasons with Gus Bradley as head coach, they have won 12, but did improve to five wins in 2015.

Gipson sees that as a major step up from where he left. New head coach Hue Jackson and Browns fans deserve better. But Jackson might be powerless to lead to improvement, especially after the losses the Browns experienced on the first day of the league year.

He said, “It’s honestly just as confusing to me as it is to the fans of the city of Cleveland, to everybody that’s on the outside looking in. How do you lose two Pro Bowlers and an up-and-coming right tackle and one of the best returners as well as an up-and-coming receiver in one free-agency class? I don’t know. But, for me, it’s not my job to know. I know when the opportunity came, Cleveland, they made their choice, and we had to move on from it.

“I’d be lying if I sat here and said after the 2014 season that I envisioned myself playing in another uniform other than Cleveland. But God has a funny way of showing things, and I feel like I’m meant to be where I need to be. To answer that question, it’s hard for me to say. I hope just because I have love for the city and love for the organization — they’re the only team that gave me a shot — I want them to do good.”

It’s an Emoji World

Bears offensive lineman was the good solider last season when he switched from right guard to right tackle. He still played well, but clearly prefers guard. It looks like he will get his wish after the Bears signed Arizona free agent Bobby Massie.

Long was so happy, he tweeted several lines of strange emojis. Just to make sure everyone knew what he was doing, he then tweeted, “Those emojis I posted after we signed Bobby were HALLELUJAH emojis.”

Well done.