As Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph handed Brock the keys to the offense Tuesday night in a one-on-one meeting, Joseph passed along the single caveat that came with the job.
“I’m given this opportunity, and I’m being told, ‘Protect the football,’” Osweiler said almost as if he had passed the first test of knowing what his number one responsibility is. “You have to protect the football. The saying is, ‘ball security is job security.’ If you protect the football, you are going to stay out there on the field.”
“We’ve had games with multiple turnovers, which you can’t have,” Joseph said bluntly when explaining why the team made a switch at quarterback.
In the Broncos’ previous three games, in which they went 0-3, Denver turned the ball over 11 times, nearly averaging four turnovers a game. During that stretch, Siemian threw six interceptions, an average of two per game, and lost one fumble. After Monday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs—in which Denver turned the ball over five times, including three interceptions—Joseph had enough.
“We’ve out-gained our opponents in the four losses. Our numbers and stats from Monday night, it’s silly,” he said in disbelief with a small chuckle. “We won the yardage, we won third downs, we won the red zone. We lost one battle: that’s turnovers. That’s all about managing the game better and picking our moments better to make big plays versus making things bad to worse.”
In an effort to stop the turnovers from continuing to bleed, Joseph turned to his veteran backup that knows just how important not turning the ball over is to not only his success, but to his team’s success. When asked how much does having success start with avoiding turnovers, the 26-year-old said, “That’s absolutely where it starts.”
“In fact, every week in the National Football League, winning starts with protecting the football,” he said. “There’s a stat when you win the turnover margin and when you don’t turn the ball over at all, your chances of winning skyrocket.”
The Broncos chance of winning when they win the turnover battle has been 100 percent the last 31 times they've done it.
The last time Brock played for the Broncos, it was in the “same situation,” according to Joseph. In 2015—still on his rookie contract—Osweiler replaced an injured Peyton Manning for seven starts in the regular season.
Although the Broncos were 8-2 when Osweiler made his first start of the season—far better than the 3-4 they are now as he takes over for a second time—Denver’s offense was heavily turnover prone up until that point in the season, much like they are this year. In the 10 games before Osweiler had his first start, the team turned the ball over 19 times. In the seven that he started, he only turned the ball over six times.
“I hope this move can simply stabilize the offense so we can get into a fair game so we can win some football games,” Joseph pleaded. “Or, just simply see where we are at as a football team. We can’t see where we are at if we keep turning the football over. It’s impossible to win in this league with three to four turnovers a game.”
“Monday night, it’s a 20-13 game with three minutes to go in the third quarter, and we’ve got four turnovers. How about just two and see where we are. I’m anxious to see where we are if we don’t turn the ball over. And see how good we can be.”
In Osweiler’s seven starts in 2015, he only had one game in which he had more interceptions than touchdowns—and he was benched in favor of Manning mid-game.
Three of his other six starts were an even touchdown to interception ratio and the other three he had more touchdowns than interceptions. Siemian’s past three games, on the other hand, have all had more interceptions than touchdowns.
Brock’s job couldn’t be more straight-forward: don’t turn the ball over.
“It’s simple, right? If Brock plays well, he’ll play next week. That’s just simple,” Joseph said. “That won’t be hard to determine after Sunday’s game.”
All we’ll need to do is look at the touchdown to interception ratio. If it’s positive, he’s the guy for another week. If it’s minus, we’re in for more turmoil at the team’s most important position.