Jimmy Garoppolo had to warm the bench for two full seasons before making his first NFL start, stuck on the New England Patriots’ depth chart behind a surefire Hall of Famer in Tom Brady.
Compared to the wait Brock Osweiler had to endure, that’s nothing.
A second-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2012, Osweiler sat for three-and-a-half seasons behind Peyton Manning before finally getting his chance to start in Week 11 of the 2015 campaign.
Osweiler started the Broncos’ final seven regular-season games, was shoved back to second string during the playoffs and then parlayed that limited experience into a four-year, $72 million contract with the Houston Texans.
As his Texans prepare to visit the Patriots on Thursday night, Osweiler related his experience backing up Manning to Garoppolo’s job as Brady’s understudy.
“I think really what it is, is 1) it obviously takes a lot of patience, and 2) I think it takes a lot of discipline,” Osweiler said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. “I do know what Jimmy is going through right now. I’ve been in those shoes. I was in those shoes for three-and-a-half years before I really got my opportunity. I say patience, because that’s a long time to sit and not play. But the discipline comes in — just because you’re not playing, that doesn’t mean that you can’t work hard. You can’t take a single day for granted in the National Football League. Every single day, you need to earn your spot on the roster.
“Just from the way Jimmy has been playing, I can tell that he hasn’t wasted a single day. I’m sure he approached it very similar to the way I did as far as, when I was the backup or when I was playing last year, I wanted to show up to the building and get better at something every single day. There was a coach that told me, ‘If you’re not getting better, you’re getting replaced.’ And I heard that very early in my career, so I really took that approach that I wanted to soak in as much as I could from being around Peyton, and then I wanted to make myself a better football player on a daily basis.”
Brady is halfway through his four-game Deflategate suspension, and Osweiler was pleased to see Garoppolo excel in his absence. The 24-year-old Patriots quarterback completed 70 percent of his passes and threw for four touchdowns in six quarters before going down with a shoulder injury midway through Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins.
Osweiler also refuted the notion that backup quarterback is the greatest job in sports.
“Absolutely (I’m happy for Garoppolo), because I know how difficult it is,” Osweiler said. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh, playing backup quarterback, that’s the best position in the world.’ Well, what they don’t understand is when we leave the building at 5 o’clock on Wednesday or Thursday when practice wraps up, we still need to go home and study and prepare just like you’re the starter. And usually you don’t get any reps on Sunday. But you consistently have to approach it as though you are going to be the starter.
“So to see someone like Jimmy who’s stayed patient, he’s kept his discipline, he’s constantly gotten better, absolutely you’re very happy to see somebody have success like that.”
Manning, like Brady, loathed relinquishing game reps for any reason, meaning Osweiler, like Garoppolo, rarely saw the field when he was a backup. The Texans signal-caller understood Manning’s hesitation, however, and said he harbors no ill will toward the two-time Super Bowl winner.
“Well, I think that’s almost every quarterback in the National Football League, and really it’s almost every position,” Osweiler said. “We all know the NFL is the best of the best, and there’s great competition across the board, so any time you’re hurt or something like that, and another guy gets his opportunity, he’s going to try to make the most of it.
“I completely understand why things transpired the way they did (in Denver), and I don’t hold any grudges or anything like that. It makes complete sense to me. No hard feelings or anything like that.”
Thumbnail photo via Erik Williams/USA TODAY Sports Images