Can you handle the truth?
The truth is John Elway didn’t want Brock Osweiler back, and Brock Osweiler didn’t want to come back to the Broncos.
But, here they are, back together again – from grudge to grudgingly.
Contemplate this possibility: Trevor Siemian plays poorly, or gets hurt, as usual, and Brock becomes the starter again, and he plays well, and the Broncos get in the playoffs, and maybe win a wild card game.
Guess what? Osweiler will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and he might be a hot commodity once more, and the Broncos offer him, oh, $15 million a year, and the 49ers or somebody offers him $17 million.
There you go. And there he goes again.
Back, though, to how it all began.
Elway knew Osweiler better than any other quarterback in the 2012 draft – except one. One big one.
Luck had been the greatest quarterback at Stanford since, uh, Elway, and Elway wanted Luck like you want to win a $500 million Powerball. But, in 2011, Elway’s first season as executive vice president of football operations, the Broncos didn’t suck for Luck. They sort of started out that way until a guy named Tim Tebow took over at quarterback and managed to push the Broncos into the playoffs, and win a game. So the Broncos were near the bottom, not at the very top, of the draft’s first round. No chance for Luck.
And Peyton Manning fell into the Broncos’ lap.
So Elway needed to figure out who would succeed Manning, who might play a year or four.
And he knew this kid Osweiler, who was the roommate, teammate and best friend of Jack Elway, John’s son, at Arizona State. Osweiler had a powerful arm, and get this, was from Montana, where John had spent part of his youth with his father Jack Elway the coach.
Even though Osweiler only started for one year at Arizona State, Elway drafted him 57th overall and told him to study and learn under Manning, and be ready to take over when The Mann was gone.
I talked to Osweiler a few times one-on-one during his four seasons with the Broncos. He was a pleasant, humble, eager, willing kid, then he became a rather impatient young man when he didn’t ever get to play – and even showed his pent-up emotion on the sideline late in a blowout victory when he thought he should be on the field.
I asked Osweiler on a bench at Dove Valley before the 2015 season – his last before becoming a free agent – if he’d rather wait longer in Denver or become a starter on another team. He was honest about desiring to get his opportunity – somewhere and soon.
His chance came that season when Manning struggled adjusting to a new Gary Kubiak system that didn’t fit him and with a foot injury. But still, Osweiler sat as the Broncos’ defense propelled the Broncos seven straight victories before losing at Indianapolis to the Colts and, yes, Andrew Luck.
Then, Manning, hurting and laboring more, was removed at halftime of the home game against the Chiefs, and Osweiler took over.
With Osweiler, the Broncos won the next three, even beating the Patriots and Tom Brady and the Chargers and Philip Rivers. They lose a couple, but beat Cincinnati in overtime and need a home victory over the Chargers to win the division and finish 12-4.
Osweiler was removed at halftime for Manning, and didn’t start or play again in the run to the Super Bowl 50 championship.
The situation was odd. Elway didn’t know if Manning was coming back, but really wanted Manning to retire. Elway didn’t know totally if Osweiler was a permanent-like solution and wasn’t about to commit gigantic numbers to him. And Osweiler was upset. He didn’t know if Manning was returning or if Elway would give him big money or how lucrative the open market would be.
Manning retired; Osweiler stopped returning calls, and the Broncos made an offer that Brock wasn’t keen to. Along came the Texans, and Osweiler bought himself a ten-gallon hat with his four-year, $72 million deal ($37 guaranteed).
Elway said good-bye and good riddance.
It was over.
But, as a baseball manager once uttered, it’s never over until it’s over.
It’s not over.
Elway had wanted Paxton Lynch to be the new, improved you quarterback with a tall body and a strong arm.
But Lynch hasn’t been a bucking Bronco; he’s been more a busted Bronco – and, now, injured.
The Broncos needed a veteran quarterback behind the oft-injured, somewhat average Siemian. Brock need a new home after the Texans, then the Browns gave up on him. There was nobody so good out there for Elway, and there was nobody out there interested in Osweiler.
Thus, like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the two gritted their teeth and reunited. Taylor and Burton, who had married for 10 years and divorced, remarried 10 years later.
The relationship lasted a year the second time around.
Could happen exactly that way with Elway and Osweiler.
Or Elway and Osweiler can co-exist, win games and titles, and lived happily ever after, at least for several seasons.
The truth of the matter is that Elway-Osweiler Reunion, like a wobbly, deflected pass, is up in the air, and could wind up anywhere.