Sage Rosenfels is a former 12-year NFL quarterback who writes, does radio, and podcasts about the NFL and college football.
I don’t recall a year when the start of free agency for quarterbacks was as exciting and surprising as what occurred last week, and it’s not over yet. Combine a mix of veterans with plenty left in the tank, some backups with upside, and a poor draft class, and the conversation about NFL quarterbacks is much more intriguing in March than it will be in May this year. The dominoes began to fall in Houston, yet we are far from knowing where everyone will land.
The Brock Osweiler trade was last week’s biggest story because it is something we don’t see in the NFL very often. He was signed to a terrible contract by Houston general manager Rick Smith, and the Texans are convinced they no longer want him around as a starter or backup. The situation had soured so badly that, in essence, they relinquished a second-round draft pick to get rid of him. This type of strategy happens in the NBA and MLB, but not in the NFL.
Amazingly, the Browns don’t seem to want him either. They just have enough cap space to eat his absurd guaranteed salary as they chase the quarterback of their dreams, Jimmy Garappolo. If Garappolo ends up in Cleveland, who is the real winner of this fiasco? The New England Patriots of course! Again, the Patriots somehow find a way to capitalize on the mistakes of one of their former coaches’ teams.
The Patriots won the Super Bowl and have already won the first week of free agency. A Garoppolo trade for a first-rounder or two would be thick icing on the cake. This Belichick guy seems to know what he is doing up in Foxboro.
I played for the Texans for three seasons and Smith was the GM for all of my time there. He came in from Denver, with Gary Kubiak’s blessings, as the youngest GM in the league. The Texans have had some success in Houston, but haven’t reached an AFC Championship Game in their 15-year history. The No. 1 reason is the quarterback position. This isn’t news for Texans fans. The Texans are so desperate for a top-flight starting quarterback that they’re taking extreme risks to get the right guy. While I love an aggressive GM, making a mistake at the quarterback position can dig you into a deep hole of mediocre offensive production.
Even after the Osweiler trade (one that cleared much-needed cap space to sign Tony Romo) nothing has been finalized with the Dallas Cowboys. At the time of the Texans-Browns swap, Houston fans imagined Romo would be introduced as their new quarterback within a few days. This hasn’t happened…yet. The question in Houston is: can the GM repair his mistake without creating an even larger one?
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Right now, the Texans have one of the best situations in the NFL for a quarterback to succeed. They have quality players at most positions on offense and one of the best defenses in the league. The Texans just need a quarterback to run the show. This is something Smith has failed to do in his 11 years as general manager.
If Rick would have called me before he chased Osweiler a year ago, I would have tried to convince him to chase Mike Glennon instead. While the overall win/loss record for a quarterback is an important piece to an evaluation, it can skew the reality of a quarterback’s play. The Denver Broncos of 2015 won the Super Bowl despite their quarterbacks, not because of them. Peyton had a mediocre year, and Osweiler did a nice job filling in. But this team was so loaded defensively that the job description of the QB was to not screw it up. Peyton and Osweiler excelled at not screwing it up in 2015, but that doesn’t mean the latter deserved a huge contract after the season.
On paper, making a run at Osweiler made a lot of sense for the Texans. Rarely does a young quarterback with potential enter the free-agent market. To land one of these unproven players takes an aggressive team willing to take a risk. But that risk shouldn’t control a team’s destiny for two seasons, which is where Smith made his mistake.
By comparison, Chicago just gave Mike Glennon a big contract despite not being a full-time NFL starter. I see these two players and their contracts very differently. First, the contract Glennon signed “only” guarantees the quarterback $18.5 million. Essentially, it’s a one-year deal. If they guess wrong, they move on. If they guess right, the Bears have found their future quarterback.
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On the field, I like Glennon much more than Osweiler. People love looking at stats, which can be spun in every direction, but I like to dive deeper.
Glennon completed a shade below 60 percent of his passes, and had an impressive 30 touchdowns and 15 interceptions during his 18 starts.
Osweiler completed a shade above 60 percent of his passes, but finished with 11 touchdowns and six INTs over 7 starts.
These are very similar numbers in a lot of ways. The biggest difference is their win-loss record, which is where Smith made too many assumptions. Glennon was only 5-13 while Osweiler was 5-2.
This is why I feel it’s so important to look beyond these initial statistics. While their numbers are very similar, Glennon has twice the career attempts as Osweiler. This means the Bears have more tape to analyze and make a more informed decision. Most importantly, Glennon put up his stats while playing for an awful football team. The 2013-14 Bucs were terrible. The team had drafted poorly and refused to upgrade its roster in free agency. This is why they had the “opportunity” to draft Jameis Winston with the first pick in 2015.
In 2013, somehow their rookie quarterback, who was a third-round draft pick, threw 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. If Glennon would have been on a better team – for example, the Patriots – everybody would have been touting him as a future starter in the NFL. I look at Glennon’s poor win-loss record as a good thing. To me, it means he found a way to compete against the rest of the NFL while being stuck on a bad team.
By contrast, Osweiler had one of the best defenses in NFL history as well as an extremely talented group of offensive weapons. Also, Glennon was a rookie and Osweiler had the advantage of waiting three-and-a-half seasons to marinate. I have told people for years that if I had to start as a rookie in the NFL, I wouldn’t have been on a roster by Year 2. The jump from college to the pros is a much longer leap for quarterbacks. Glennon shined as a rookie, and he did it on a bad team.
The Osweiler-Texans saga has yet to conclude. Nobody knows where he will end up, and the Texans have yet to find their starter. Hopefully Smith has learned a few lessons about finding a franchise quarterback. In sports, and in life, you learn a lot more from losses than you do wins. The Texans lost big time on the Osweiler signing. Whatever they do next at the quarterback position, they have to hit a home run. Otherwise, owner Bob McNair could be looking to make major changes in Houston in the near future.
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