Brock Oswieler and a tale of two cities
When 25-year-old Brock Alan Oswieler signed a four-year $72 million contract with the Houston Texans on March 9th 2016 the cities of Denver and Houston collectively cried out. Houston cheered (mostly), Denver cursed. Houston salivated over the possibilities of a functional 16 game starter. Denver committed every missed throw and interception to memory. While Bronco’s fans dubbed Oswieler as “trash” and “soft” overzealous Texans fans prepared for an impending Super Bowl run. In the mile high city John Elway has reached near demigod levels of adoration and rightfully so, through his playing career and tenure as Broncos GM he has brought home 3 Lombardi trophies, a league MVP and a slew of division titles. With and ironclad resume that obliterates anything Bill O’Brien or Rick Smith (or the Texans franchise) can bring to the table its hard to fault the Bronco’s decision makers for letting Oswieler walk if the didn’t think he was the future of the franchise. But what if they didn’t let him walk? What if the week 17 benching in favor of a (very) ineffective Peyton Manning weighed more heavily in Brock’s decision than the $2 million per year difference in salary? What if being left to twist in the wind while Peyton Manning completed his retirement tour was final slight for Brock. Athletes have a well rehearsed script when leaving the city that drafted them, the decision wasn’t about the money, the new city gives them the best shot at a title, they believe in what the highest bidder is building and other vaguely believable tired clichés. Brock has done a superb job of saying all the right things about Elway and the Broncos, handing compliments to the correct people and speaking glowingly about his former teammates. All of this is what you would expect from a face of the franchise player and part of the required pomp and circumstance of the modern NFL, but no amount of praise and thanks can silence the fact that Brock chose to leave the safer bet of Denver and put all of his chips on red and blue in Houston
The $18 million per year the Texans gave Oswieler ties him for 15th in the NFL with Dallas’s Tony Romo, with less guaranteed. In a world where a playoff win-less Andy Dalton commands a $16 million salary we are forced to re-evaluate the quarterback market. If the Texans can manage to milk out Joe Flacco/ Matt Stafford levels of effectiveness suddenly Oswieler’s contract becomes a downright bargain, doubly so when weighed against the price the Texans would have paid to move up in the draft to snag a possible starter. Many have pointed out the statistical similarities between Brian Hoyer and Oswieler last year, however Hoyer’s numbers were largely compiled in second halves of blowout losses and against the dumpster fire defenses of the Titans and Jaguars. Houston fields an elite defence anchored by all universe defensive end JJ Watt, a budding star in DeAndre Hopkins, a serviceable offensive line and a coach who is known for squeezing every ounce of potential from his signal callers. Is it unreasonable to believe that Brock’s decision was as motivated by football as finance?
The final stat line when the Texans take on the Bears to start the 2016 season will give us the first clues as to the winner and loser of this unprecedented free agency flip. For the mile high and bayou city, September can’t get here soon enough.