Brock Osweiler: Player Analysis


Hello all. Hope all is well and your week is going well.

I just got done with my Politics of Coaching piece a couple of days ago but then opted out after how much I thought it would bite me in the rear if one of the coaches at my program saw it. Even though it’s highly unlikely that any of them know about this site (no disrespect to you, Nick) and will never see the article, I didn’t want to take any chances with it. It’s sitting in my hard drive if I want to post it but for now, I will hold onto it until I’m sure I want to dispense it.

Today, I will be analyzing Brock Osweiler of the Denver Broncos. Although, I will analyze him by myself, I wanted to get creative with it a little bit.

I will be analyzing him through John Elway’s, Kevin Gilbride’s, and my own lens. Each person mentioned in this piece has their own perspective about what a QB should look like. I think one way, Kevin thinks another, and John thinks another way. I think I have a clear view of what each person thinks of Brock and what his ceiling is which will hopefully be captured through the writing of this article.

Without further ado, let’s get to it.

John Elway’s QB Evaluation Method:

Believe it or not, John Elway gave his evaluation of the QB position on a silver platter in front of an ESPN reporter.

The reporter, Ben Goessling, asked him how he evaluates quarterbacking talent at the NFL level and what he looks for. John Elway, then a second year GM going into his third, proceeded to tell him the following:

“I think you have to see the potential. You have to have the raw potential of the arm strength and the ability to move around and to process information. Those are the three things you try to find in a quarterback. It’s up to us in that point to coach them and see if they can mature and become the player you want in that position.”

John’s words are really telling. The three main traits he looks for is arm talent, football intelligence, and mobility, not unlike how John played as a player. John was known for having tremendous strength when throwing the football. He threw across his body and put the ball on the numbers of the receiver unlike anything ever seen before. His skill at throwing strong on the most awkward platform ever even gave name to a drill called “The Elway drill”, where QB’s practice throwing to the backside of the field while running to the frontside. Elway was also very mobile for someone who threw the ball so well and was extremely cerebral in high-pressure situations where others would engage into flight mode and forget what they ate for lunch.

If there was any doubt about whether John Elway believes he was the best at his position, consider it resolved. The question that we have to answer now is whether Brock is truly good according to Elway’s eyes, or if he chose him simply as an escape option to Manning’s neck injury.


Arm Strength

Before we delve into this topic any further, I have to clear up a common misconception. Most people outside the football world believe that arm strength originates from the throwing arm.  I am here to tell you that the “arm strength” that a QB has doesn’t come from a QB’s throwing arm much at all. (If you already know the concept, feel free to skip past the videos and go to the bolded word: Brock. For those of you who want to learn more, please keep reading).

The power of the throw comes from the rotational force of the the QB when he is throwing. Which means the hips, opposite arm, shoulders, forward leg, and the fixed point of the plant leg have more effect on the speed of the ball than the actual throwing arm itself. The flick of the wrist to create the spiral is also tremendous in creating speed because it’s the only thing a QB can do to decrease the wind resistance applied to the ball after its thrown.  

Now consider this: Unlike a pitcher on the mound, the space to throw decreases as the pocket gets smaller and smaller. Therefore, each QB must learn to throw with the same speed without stepping forward into the pocket. If the QB steps forward into the pocket when he begins his throw, his foot will go into the lineman that is in front of him and he risks injuring his ankle or, he will step into the penetrating 3 technique and this will generate a sack.

This is why QB’s that play out of systems where the base formation is out of shotgun struggle when they finally play in the NFL. All the space that they were used to in college suddenly decreases and forces them to compact their movement. This is not an easy transition to make. It takes good mechanics and a strong rotation to generate leverage for throwing power.

In order to demonstrate my point, I will put on the tape of the one and only John Elway.

This is your queue to look at the first one.

John goes back in a play-action setup. He goes to his first read immediately and throws off his hitch step. He places his front foot a little bit away from his throwing arm so that his body can rotate more. Then, he drops his off hand quick and then uses that leverage to drive his shoulders and hips and drives the ball to the intended target. He throws it and you see that the motion happens very quickly. It maybe takes less than a half a second to release the ball from the origin of the throw.

Reveled in some old Bronco spirit? Good.

Now, look at this throw compared to the last one. John reads the man coverage coming across when the motion occurs. He takes his drop out of the gun and then lets it rip when he sees the window. He THROWS his opposite elbow away. He torques his hips and shoulders violently. Now take a look at where his front foot is at. It’s almost toward the sideline, a yard and a half farther than it normally is. This allows his body to have more range of rotational motion. He generates torque with that far foot position and then proceeds to throw the ball the hardest he has ever thrown.

This is why rotational force matters so much when we are talking about arm strength. It is the main determinant of how hard the ball is thrown. No exceptions.

Now lets look at Brock:

Keep in mind, these are screen passes. And he isn’t using all of his strength either.

If there is one thing that is hard to deny about Brock, he generates a lot of throwing power. His hips and shoulders are violently rotating and generating leverage for his throwing arm. The motion he uses is quick, the front foot isn’t stepping forward. And because the throwing mechanics are shortened up a little bit, he has a quick release. If the Broncos want to keep extending it out like they have been, he can generate more torque on the football because remember folks, he is 6’7″, incredible wingspan included.

Now look at 3:10 in the video. Then look at the first Elway video. Throw look familiar? It should.

Once again, he sets up after the play action movement. He sees his first read and then fires the ball off his hitch step. He steps a little away from his throwing shoulder to generate power on his throw, drives his off arm through, rotates his hips and shoulders, then drives the ball through while flicking his wrist. Not a perfect spiral, but it works. Ball gets to the receiver quickly, forcing him to catch it with his body, a common error among receivers of hard-throwing QB’s.

There should be no question that Brock has the arm strength to compete at the NFL level.


Although Brock is 6’7″, he is deceptively quick for a big guy.

The first two clips are what I want to focus on.

In the first one, Brock reads the backside end (read player) and sees him crashing to the RB. Brock keeps it and decides to work up-field for some yards. Although his 40 time is a 4.8, he explodes off his read step and forces the backers to widen at their depth before they can crash in on him. He probably won’t be able to rely on that at the NFL level, but it is serviceable straight line speed.

Moving to the second clip. This is what John Elway sees. Brock sees the pressure, side steps it and moves up the middle of the field picking up 7. That’s very unusual for someone who is as tall as he is. See how he makes his first step to the left and then redirects himself to go center with his shoulders. That not only indicates that he is mobile, but he can keep him balanced while being mobile. He has the potential to shed off tacklers while in the pocket.

Ben Roethlisberger made his career off having a good arm and shedding tacklers to make plays. Except Big Ben is strong, Brock is more nimble and slithery in his movement. He can make guys miss instead of having to endure it like Ben has. If I had to put my finger on it, Elway liked what he saw.

 Processing Information

When Brock is getting visual cues from the defense, he is extremely quick at processing information. Mainly through his team’s RPO package.

You can use any clip of him that you want. The UCLA clip is posted above for those wanting to get Brock against a more NFL like defense.

When he is in the RPO package, he reads his read  and pitch defender faster a lot of QB’s I have seen. Once he sees the read defender bite, he pulls it away and then analyzes the pitch defender to decide whether he should throw it or not.

Does he throw the screen when it’s a match up advantage to the outside? Check. Does he hand it off against a light box count? Check. Does he hand it off when the read defender stays home? Check. Does he keep it when the read defender crashes and the pitch read flashes to the pitch man? Check. Does he throw to the pitch man if the pitch read crashes in? Check. Everything is there.

In addition, he throws the basic deep crossing concepts really well. Something that is a staple in a Mike Shanahan built offense. X-Cross, Y-Deep, Z-Deep, H-Deep, and X-Deep, its all there as well. He’s not hitting receiver on the numbers all the time but, he does a really good job making a sound quick decision when he sees his read.

His ability to process information quickly is there.This with the accumulation of the other two traits John looks for when he is evaluating a QB all shine through in this particular prospect. It is because of the following that I am willing to bet John Elway had him #2 on his board right behind Andrew Luck.

Kevin Gilbride’s QB Evaluation Method

For those of you who don’t know, Kevin Gilbride is a former QB coach in the NFL and retained his position for over 20 years. He coached Warren Moon, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, and Mark Brunnell to successful careers. After serving as the QB for each of those team, he became the offensive coordinator for the Giants from 2006-2013 and helped coordinate them the two Superbowl championships.

In other words, he’s been around the league a long time and if you don’t listen to him, you will face the wrath of his mustache.

Joking aside, I got to hear Kevin Gilbride talk at a clinic in Denver back in March of this year. He talked about QB development at the NFL level and what coaches need to look for and develop in young quarterbacks. He had some insightful ideas about what skills a successful QB needs to have. He went over a list of traits that him and his staff look for. They agreed the the first four traits are the absolute minimum the QB must have and the rest were additional traits. They are as follows:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Leadership
  3. Accuracy
  4. Poise
  5. Athleticism
  6. Throwing Power
  7. Everything else

In an effort to avoid redundancy, I will break it down avoiding throwing power, athleticism, and intelligence.


See above.


He was known as a captain and a charismatic leader back at ASU. Scouts reporting on Osweiler noted that he took good command of the huddle and was a vocal leader in the locker room. Apparently, teammates gravitated toward him during practice and he is even gaining a leadership role on the scout team.


This is one concern that pops out immediately when considering Brock. I think he has the potential to be an accurate passer but I know Kevin Gilbride would not have. Brock can be erratic at times and while he throws lasers now and then, his placement is inconsistent. While he has shown the ability to both throw receivers open and lead them, he has trouble putting touch on the ball.


He has the ability to throw the ball while taking a hit. The process of throwing the ball stays the same regardless of whether he is getting hit or not. There is no doubt that he is tough.

The only concern here though is he takes his eyes off his read when he faces pressure. He has to reset his reading ability when he evades a tackle, which can be a killer for him if left untreated. There have been multiple times where I have watched him and he will miss the advantage principal after he evades the first rusher. A big no-no in the football circle.

The potential is there, it’s just something he needs to get fixed.


See above.

Throwing Power

See above.

Gilbride Final Evaluation

He has a lot of promising attributes. He is really intelligent with the ball in his hands, he has potential to make all of the throws. But, he doesn’t have the required accuracy to play his rookie year according to Gilbride’s process. In order for him to be a capable starter, he has to develop touch on the ball like he has with the short fade from time to time.

My Evaluation

All great players are quick. It is my firm belief that you cannot be a great player unless you are quick on the field. You don’t need to be fast, you just need to accelerate well. That’s a requirement, make no mistake about it.

Many people don’t realize Jerry Rice only ran a 4.71 40. Even back then, that speed was pretty slow for his size and position. He wasn’t a big guy either so that time looked pretty bad on him. And since you can’t develop straight-line speed with a simple tweak here and there, Jerry had to live with it for the duration of his career. But, if he became disciplined in his craft, he could develop a more threatening type of speed: quickness.

So he became disciplined in his route running and became pretty dang quick out of his routes. He always planted with his outside foot, he had quick first and second level releases, brought his hands up in the most efficient manner possible, started from a good stance with 80% of his weight on his front foot and 20% on his back foot. He had a plan of attack when he got up to the line each and every time, he looked at the ball to avoid false starts, and then ran five miles up a hill in Southern California during the off-season before departing for an physically tolling weight training period for the day. He was more prepared and paid attention to the little things in his craft to get every edge on the opponent. So he could think faster, play faster, act faster, and last longer playing faster than any opponent he would face.

I mean look at this:

Does everything right and blows the doors off defenses all with a 4.71 speed. Impressive.

Do I think Brock is there right now? No. But I do believe he is a quick decision maker, has a quick arm, and is disciplined enough to become a quicker athlete. He has the potential to become a great QB. But potential is a dangerous word when used in the dictionary of someone who doesn’t know what it means. And to tell you the truth, I may be one of those guys because my football knowledge is incredibly limited compared to the experts working at the NFL level.

I think his arm can be one of the better arms in the league by the time he fully develops. During the film I have watched of him, I have seen him make two of the three types of throws an elite QB should make. He can throw a zip pass from A to B in a hurry (like we talked about in the Arm Strength section) and throw a receiver open. I have yet to see him make a touch throw over the top of a defender in the middle of the field. He can make a touch throw close to the sidelines but struggles when it requires him to throw into traffic in between the hashes. He definitely has the ability to be accurate, it all depends on what kind of coaching he gets though which will determine whether he can do it at the NFL level.

If I wanted to evaluate whether he could throw the touch pass, I would call him to my camp, hire a receiver, and then ask him to throw three routes: The Deep Out, the 15-12 Comeback, and the Skinny Post. The Deep Out will test his A to B throwing, the 15-12 Comeback will test his ability to throw receivers open. Both of those I know he will throw well. The Skinny Post though is what I would watch out for. Throwing this route specifically will tell me whether or not he can throw a touch pass over a defender. If he can make this throw, then I know there is potential he will do it in the future. If not, it’s time to either live with what you have or pick a new QB in the next year of the draft.

He is also very knowledgeable in the new RPO concepts that I think will be in spades around the NFL in a short time from now. Brock makes all of the correct decisions when he is in said RPOs which leads me to believe he can operate the same at the NFL level. He is great at reading visual cues, and makes quick decisions off said cues. This quickness when he is making decisions is encouraging to me.

His mobility is a big plus for me. And the fact that he throws so well on the move and in the pocket adds another dimension that most QBs don’t have. I think he has an Aaron Rodgers like ability to stand in the pocket and roll out and yet produce the same kind of throws. That’s something that is very rare to see for a young athlete such as himself and it shows up on film. I think very highly of his ability to side-step pressure and make plays when the situation calls for it.

The one thing that worries me with him is his ability to read the field after he faces said pressure. When Brock operates out of his RPOs and they rely on drop-back passing concepts, he is able to read from primary to secondary to tertiary and can identify when the advantage principal is open. That is ahead of the curve of most QBs playing in the NFL today. When he faces pressure however, he commonly loses sight of the advantage principal and doesn’t come back to his progression. This is an important ability to have and is enough to make or break you if you don’t have an adept offensive line.

The ability to come back to his progression is also telling that he hasn’t had a lot of experience in a drop-back based passing offense. If he was in such an offense, his reads would have relied a lot more on timing. Which is key to success passing the ball at the NFL level. I am not too worried about it though because he has some experience with drop-back based concepts and he has demonstrated that he understands timing concepts and can throw off them. He has executed before and I think with enough repetition he can execute even more.

With all of this said however, I believe that he can become a great player in this league. All of the tools are there and he has the arm talent to become a great product. Any intangibles you want out of a QB are there and he has the ability to become a quick athlete. I think, in the end, all that is keeping him from becoming great is himself.

And I don’t think the argument that Brock was just drafted as insurance for Peyton Manning is valid. You don’t trade up for a guy with all of the traits you look for as a QB just in case your elite QB doesn’t cut it. I think John was genuinely interested in what Brock had to offer as a QB and so he acted accordingly by trading up for him on Draft Night 2012. Then he confirmed it by telling the reporter the three traits he looks for when evaluating QB’s and it somehow coincidentally matches the three strongest traits of Brock Osweiler and the three strongest traits of the GM himself. Everything tells me this is a move for the future and I would be pretty surprised if John let Brock walk into FA without an extension.

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I am a former film coordinator for a FCS school. Currently serving in the Navy. I was glad to be around the game of football and had the chance to learn from a lot of great people. I wouldn't be where I am without the gracious support of my family, coaches, assistants, players, and friends. I also greatly appreciate you guys who take the time to read my stuff and show genuine appreciation. It means a ton! You guys are awesome! Twitter Handle: @FBDubs