By: Rajan Nanavati
Just two months ago, if someone told you that Brock Osweiler was not only the starting quarterback for an NFL team midway through the 2018 season, but the team for which he’s starting is actually happy with this performance, you probably would’ve thought that you were at an Osweiler family reunion.
But that’s why they say that sometimes the only thing stranger than fiction is the truth.
To be clear: Osweiler is the starting quarterback right now for the Miami Dolphins, but he’s far from guaranteed to hold onto the job, let alone make anyone suddenly forget about Dan Marino.
In fact, Osweiler is in line to start for the Dolphins this Sunday against the Houston Texans, who just so happen to be one of Osweiler’s former employers, but incumbent Ryan Tannehill looks like he’s set to take his first few throwing reps as part of his recovery from a right shoulder injury sustained in early October.
Yet, it’s hard to overlook the fact that in Osweiler’s first start, he threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns — albeit with two interceptions as well — in Miami’s upset win over the Chicago Bears. While he couldn’t make it two wins in a row, Osweiler still played well last Sunday against Detroit, throwing for 239 yards and two touchdowns as well.
It’s not a coincidence that, after effectively coming to Miami as something of an NFL refugee, Osweiler is playing well. For one, head coach Adam Gase made his reputation in the NFL by being a guy who could get the most out of his quarterbacks. What Gase did with Jay Cutler in 2015 was borderline miraculous, and even Tannehill had one of his best statistical seasons in the NFL in 2016 (Gase’s first year in Miami), posting career-highs in completion percentage (67.1%) and yards per attempt (7.7).
But more importantly, Osweiler’s familiarity in working with Gase might be the underlying x-factor in the former’s rebirth. Don’t forget that Gase was an irreplaceable part of Osweiler’s first three years in the NFL: as Osweiler’s quarterbacks coach in 2012, and then his offensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014, when both were members of the Denver Broncos.
It’s often said in the NFL that learning a new offensive scheme is like learning a new language. While there’s no such thing as a bad language, there are plenty of examples of bad offensive schemes. Osweiler left Denver for Houston after the 2015 season and struggled badly, but it’s not like anyone is going to confuse Bill O’Brien for Bill Walsh anytime soon. Osweiler had a cup of coffee with the Cleveland Browns — nothing more needs to be said there — before heading back to Denver, playing for the hilariously overmatched Vance Joseph and company.
So after three stops in less than two seasons, Osweiler did become something of a quarterback pariah. Gase and Osweiler were the butt of a lot of jokes in the offseason, when the former brought back the latter to compete for a backup role in Miami.
Considering Tannehill wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire prior to his injury (he finished with a passer rating of under 58 in the last two games he played this year), there might even be an outside chance that, with a win against his former team, Gase could decide to make the quarterback switch permanent.
Who could’ve seen that plot twist coming?