DENVER (CBS4) – The Broncos currently have a quarterback backing up Peyton Manning who appears to have lots of potential. In his second season, Brock Osweiler has shown both in training camp and the preseason he has strong passing skills and intelligence, and his coaches say he’s improving.
But he hasn’t really had much experience in a regular season game. If he’s forced into the huddle in a pressure situation, there’s no telling what’s going to happen.
With backups, teams never know quite what’s going to happen if they have to take over the offense in the middle of a game when the starter gets hurt. In the past 20 years, Broncos have shown confidence in the following backups.
1. Gary Kubiak. The backup to John Elway for his entire NFL career rarely played. In nine seasons, Kubiak took snaps in 119 games, which seems like a lot. But he played sparsely, throwing only 298 passes — an average of two-and-a-half attempts a game. He started five games, throwing 14 touchdowns and 16 picks for a passer rating of 70.6.
One of his most notable starts in Elway’s place was against Washington in 1989 in a rematch of the Super Bowl. A sick-to-his-stomach Elway couldn’t play, so Kubiak stepped in, tossing two touchdowns and throwing for 123 yards.
After being drafted in the eighth round of the NFL Draft in 1983 from Texas A&M, he spent the rest of that decade, plus the first two seasons in the ’90s, with the Orange and Blue.
2. Bubby Brister. While he performed admirably and stepped in when John Elway missed some games in the Broncos’ dominant Super Bowl-winning 1998 season, Brister was passed over as starter after Elway retired. (Brian Griese won that role.)
Legend has it that Broncos coach Mike Shanahan benched Brister in 1999 because he had trouble learning the offense’s playbook. The Broncos released him after the season.
What Brister lacked, apparently, in memorization, he made up for in longevity. He played 14 years in the NFL, seven of them in Pittsburgh, with five teams. Brister started 75 games, threw 81 touchdowns and 78 interceptions, tallying 14,445 yards.
His best stretch in a Broncos uniform was when he started four games in 1998 and threw 10 touchdowns for a 99 passer rating — his best over a season.
3. Tim Tebow. There was never a more polarizing quarterback in Broncos history — perhaps in NFL annals — than Tebow. Drafted in the first round by the Broncos in 2010, the Heisman winner played as a backup to Kyle Orton for most of his first season. Tebow was once again a backup to Orton in 2011, despite an outcry from his legions of fans — who even paid for a billboard near the Broncos’ stadium demanding Tebow start.
He was eventually named as the starter in Week 6 that season and started the rest of the games he played in as a Bronco.
Tebow fans said all he did was win football games. Detractors said he couldn’t even play quarterback. That seeming contradiction filled many football shows on local and national TV and dominated sports talk radio for months.
He was traded to the Jets in 2012 after the team signed Peyton Manning. The Jets later cut him, and New England picked him up. They cut him, too.
Tebow started 35 games in his three-year career, throwing 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His career passer rating is a respectable 75.3. But his inability to make even the simplest throws consistently led to his dismissal from three teams. In the end, he probably proved the detractors correct.
Tebow said he wants to play in the NFL again but that it would have to be at the quarterback position.
4. Steve Beuerlein. The journeyman quarterback played for the Broncos in 2002 and 2003 and backed up both Griese and Jake Plummer. Beuerlein had played for six different teams before arriving in Denver, and his career ended in 2003 when he suffered a hand injury in a game.
Beuerlein played 14 seasons, throwing for 24,046 yards and 147 touchdowns. He started two full seasons with Carolina before joining the Broncos.
5. Brock Osweiler. The Broncos picked Osweiler in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and since then he appears to have gotten progressively better. Were Manning to get injured, Osweiler, clearly the No. 2 behind the legendary quarterback, would bring to the game a solid understanding of the Broncos offensive schemes. Very minimal experience in regular season games would hurt, however.
Osweiler has played in nine games in two seasons and is 13-of-20 on passes. He’s thrown no touchdowns or interceptions.
6. Brady Quinn. The Notre Dame star never started a game for the Broncos. He played behind both Orton and Tebow in 2010 and 2011. In the 2012 season he wound up with the Kansas City Chiefs and saw playing time as a starter there like he had when he was in Cleveland before arriving in Denver. Despite never playing in a regular season game for the Broncos, Quinn approached his role as a backup with dignity.
Quinn played for two teams in 2013 — the Jets and the Rams — and is back to a backup role. He’s started 20 of the 24 games he’s played in his career, but has thrown 12 touchdowns to 17 interceptions, leading to a pedestrian 64.4 career passer rating.
Honorable Mention: Bradlee Van Pelt. The Broncos drafted quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt, a former star at Colorado State University, in 2004 and released him in 2006. He saw very little playing time in the regular season. Like Tebow, he was feared for his tough-nosed running ability. He scored one rushing touchdown with the Broncos.