The Browns have taken great pains to explain the decision to make Brock Osweiler the starting quarterback for the preseason opener. Taking a look at everything that has been said by coach Hue Jackson, it’s hard to believe that Osweiler would be starting if a game that counted was looming.
Let’s start with the statement issued by the Browns on Monday morning. Here’s the key passage: “A lot goes into our evaluation but it’s always going to be about efficiently and effectively running the offense. You want your starter to be able to do that despite any circumstance. Brock hasn’t really gotten any first team reps and this will give him that chance. We look forward to seeing what he can do with this opportunity throughout the week and against the Saints.”
In other words, Osweiler is being tested to see if he can do the main thing a backup is expected to do — prepare and play on short notice. If he can, maybe he keeps a roster spot behind whoever the starter will be. If he can’t, maybe the Browns will finally decide to eat Osweiler’s $16 million and move on.
Jackson met with reporters after Monday’s practice, shedding even more light on the decision to go with Osweiler.
“I talked to our executive team and I just felt like at this time, this was the best opportunity for us and the best thing for us for a couple reasons,” Jackson said. “For one, we have a veteran player who has played in games and knows how to win, and I need to give him an opportunity to demonstrate that. Number two, we still have some young quarterbacks that need to play a lot of football. If I stuck one of those other guys out as a starter, they weren’t going to play a lot of football because they probably would come out when the other veterans come out. When you sit down and think through it all, and you think what is best for our football team, it is best for me to trot Brock out there, see if he can go lead this offense and lead the team, and in the process, keep getting these young guys more reps of playing football. They just need to play. DeShone [Kizer] needs to play more. Cody [Kessler] needs to play more. Kevin [Hogan] needs to play more. I thought this was the way to do it.”
In other words, more reps may be available for the younger guys who aren’t starting. Which actually could make being the starter for the preseason opener a disadvantage — unless Osweiler manages during this week with the No. 1 offense to convince his teammates that he’s the No. 1 guy.
“I think that is his personality, and if I know Brock well, that is what he will try to do,” Jackson said regarding whether Osweiler will take control of the offense. “Like you said, it is not over yet, but I would love to see him go play well on Thursday night and lead the team and run our offense to the best of his ability.”
A key factor in all of this will be what the rest of the team thinks. The players are smart enough to see through the hot potato trade that resulted in the Browns getting a second-round pick for taking Osweiler off of Houston’s hands. They, like the rest of us, viewed Osweiler as an afterthought.
After the offseason and training camp, do they view him differently? After Thursday night, will they see him as a guy who can deliver wins in September and beyond?
The Browns wisely decided that, instead of discarding Osweiler, they should see what he can do. This is the week when they will.
And given the possibility that more quarterback injuries will happen, they’ll likely keep their views to themselves for as long as they possibly can.