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Is Brock Osweiler Really the Denver Broncos' Heir Apparent to Peyton Manning?

Jon HeathContributor IAugust 11, 2013

If you asked the Denver Broncos, they'd tell you that Brock Osweiler is the future of the franchise.

One month after the Broncos signed quarterback Peyton Manning to a five-year, $96 million contract last summer during free agency, the team drafted Osweiler in the second round (57th overall) out of Arizona State, signing him to a four-year, $3.5 million deal.

Osweiler made an appearance in one blowout victory in Year One, going 2-of-4 for 12 yards in a Week 17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.  We haven't seen much of Osweiler to date, thanks to the superior play of superstar Peyton Manning, but the Broncos are confident that he is coming along just fine.

"I’m thrilled that Brock is the guy that we brought in and that’s going to hopefully, at some point in time, take over for Peyton because I really believe he’s got that makeup," team executive John Elway told DenverBroncos.com's Andrew Mason in June.

Per Mile High Report, Brock played well in his 2013 preseason debut on Thursday against the San Francisco 49ers, at times looking like a Pro Bowler.  Osweiler finished the night 13-of-18 with 105 passing yards.

The most we've seen of Osweiler over the past two years has been during the preseason, so it's hard to make a judgement on him yet.  But we can make projections.

So I asked Twitter: Is Brock Osweiler the heir apparent to Peyton Manning?

@JHSMDEN I think his relationship with the Elway family is an indicator that he will be given that chance. .....
— Colin Daniels (@southstands303) August 11, 2013
@JHSMDEN also I believe Manning plays this year and next then retires. Osweiler will have one year left on his deal if that's the case.
— Colin Daniels (@southstands303) August 11, 2013

Colin brings up a notable point.  In 2009, Jack Elway (yes, John's son) left the Arizona State football team because he was "tired of football," as USA Today reported.

Jack's situation was understandable.  Expectations for him must have been off the charts, and if you don't live and breathe football, chances are you are not going to be a superstar.  And if you're not a superstar that loves to play football, you're going to be miserable with such expectations held over your head.

Getting back on track, Elway's departure from the football team left the door open for then-freshman quarterback Brock Osweiler to move up the depth chart.  Coincidentally, Elway and Osweiler became "best friends" at school, according to Osweiler (via KDVR).

As a personal friend of the Elway family, Osweiler is going to get every chance to succeed.

@JHSMDEN I think so. He's shown a lot of improvement from yr 1 to yr 2. He can make all the throws. Needs to improve in several ways but
— MileHighGreco (@MileHighGreco) August 11, 2013
@JHSMDEN no one better to learn from than Manning. Getting rid of the ball quicker will come with time. Will help to have a good OL..
— MileHighGreco (@MileHighGreco) August 11, 2013

As Greco notes, Osweiler is in an ideal situation working under Manning.  But there are areas where Brock can improve.

On Thursday, Osweiler held the ball too long several times, often scrambling out of the pocket when his first read wasn't there.  But his offensive line didn't help the situation, as Osweiler was hung out to dry on several occasions.

Per CBS4's Vic Lombardi, Osweiler handled it well, all things considered, both on and off the field.

Very impressed with Brock Osweiler's postgame Chat. So selfless. He praised his o-line, even though they didn't give him much time at all.
— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) August 9, 2013

Another area where Osweiler can improve is his mental game—reading defenses, finding his reads, etc.

@JHSMDEN he's gonna be given a chance to be.. He has the talent and confidence to get it done but his mental game has 2 develop
— James Martinez (@JamesTIAmarcos) August 11, 2013

On Thursday, Osweiler did look improved mentally.  On more than one occasion, Osweiler checked out of a play call he didn't like, something the team was pleased to see.

On another occasion, Osweiler was unable to hear the play call in his helmet and chose his own play, offensive coordinator Adam Gase said after practice on Saturday.

"There was one time when I was a little quick on the trigger with Brock, and I’m saying the play and walking away, and he’s looking at me like, ‘I got nothing.’  And he called his own shot there," Gase said.

When asked about how the play resulted that Osweiler called on his own, Gase laughed and said, "not how he wanted."  But Osweiler is taking steps in the right direction, getting comfortable with calling his own shots when necessary.

"He makes the right checks.  That’s all we’re asking him to do—if I call a bad play, he gets us out of it and gets us to the right play—he’s done a great job of that," said Gase.

Back to the likelihood of Osweiler being the team's starter:

@JHSMDEN Unless Manning plays 3 more seasons. Then the #Broncos will lose Brock.
— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 11, 2013

Osweiler is showing progress, and if he continues improving, he could be a hot commodity when he becomes a free agent in 2016.  It seems unlikely that Manning will play that long, but he is under contract through 2016.

If Manning plays longer than we are all expecting, Osweiler's chances of staying in Denver will decrease.

It's Aaron Rodgers / Brett Favre all over again. Play Osweiler or lose him. RT @Shump9: @JHSMDEN not if they re sign him...
— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 11, 2013

The general consensus seems to be that many expect Manning to play this year and the next and then retire, with Brock taking over then.  If Manning does play two more seasons and retire prior to the 2015 season, Osweiler would presumably enter the final year of his contract as a starter.

Regardless of long Manning plays, Osweiler will ultimately decide his own fate based on how well he performs during his time in Denver.

@JHSMDEN From what we hear and see of him at training camp he will be, but he obviously has to prove it in games. Preseason included.
— Alex Erickson (@AErickson1018) August 11, 2013

With all of this said, Joe Morrone brings up a good point.  At the end of the day, nobody knows what the fate of Osweiler will be.

@JHSMDEN Anyone who tells you they know for sure one way or the other is just guessing. All I can say is I liked him at ASU & still do now.
— Joe Morrone (@jemorrone7) August 11, 2013

The Broncos will give Osweiler plenty of chances to prove himself in the meantime. 

“Right now our plan is we need to keep bringing Brock along.  He needs as many reps as possible," Gase said over the weekend.

Osweiler will get his reps.  How he performs between now and when Peyton hangs up his cleats will ultimately decide if he will become Manning's successor.

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