ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Two years ago, the Denver Broncos weren’t exactly on the hunt for a quarterback -- they had Peyton Manning and prospect Brock Osweiler -- but executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway was still intent on sticking with his plan to take a quarterback in any and all drafts if there was one the team liked on the board.
Elway was asked whether it’s more difficult for a quarterback to do the job on the field or to handle all that goes along with the job off the field. His answer goes to the heart of the matter: The toughest part of the job isn’t throwing the deep out or reading defenses. It’s grasping what the job is in the NFL and what it entails.
Those who can deal with the stress of being a starting quarterback in NFL -- whether it's criticism from the outside, criticism from within the team or the expectations -- are the ones who succeed. Those who can’t, don’t.
“That part right there takes more young quarterbacks down than the other part," Elway said at the time. “It’s not the physical part, usually. The physical part, as far as athletically, throwing the ball, moving around, that doesn’t get most young quarterbacks. It’s the task of the job, having the job, the pressure that comes with the job, the responsibility that goes along with the job. To me that’s the hardest part to overcome when you start out. To me, that’s the difference between the guys that become great and the guys that don’t."
There it is. And that’s where the Broncos are with Osweiler at the moment.
Osweiler is a coveted free agent in the open market, a player who has waited his turn for the potential payday that goes with a starting job. The Broncos want him back, but they may not be able to pay him what other teams can because of their available salary-cap room and other items on their to-do list, including a big deal for linebacker Von Miller.
But Osweiler got a little preview this week of what the fishbowl life can be as a frontline quarterback in waiting. TMZ posted a video of Osweiler and his wife exchanging words with other patrons outside a Scottsdale, Arizona, restaurant in the early morning hours Saturday.
In the video Osweiler pushes a woman away as he continues toward a car and a man then responds by shoving Osweiler from behind. Osweiler didn’t retaliate and appeared to then get in the waiting car. The Broncos said they had no comment on the video, but it is indicative of the kind of scrutiny that comes with the job.
Especially with the Broncos, who are not only the defending Super Bowl champions, but have won five consecutive division titles and 50 regular-season games over the past four seasons. The Broncos’ next quarterback, whether or not it is Osweiler, will be replacing a future Hall of Famer in Manning.
“I think Brock can handle the job," Miller said. “He’s got that way about him, like a quarterback who knows how to get it done."
It will be a change for Osweiler no matter where he lands because, save for seven starts this past season, he spent most of the first four years of his career on the bench.
The Broncos like how he handled himself in those seven starts, how he responded to questions after those games, how he rebounded from mistakes during the games and how he performed in the tightest moments, including overtime wins over Cincinnati and New England.
But Osweiler will soon be paid like a frontline starter, the fruits of good timing in free agency in a thin year at the position. And he's only 25 years old.
He will earn that next contract not just for what he can do on game day, but for what he will be required to handle the six days before game day as well.