DENVER (AP) – Brock Osweiler wanted to follow Peyton Manning’s path, not live in his shadow.
And that, he said, was the reason for his remark that drew so much ire back in Denver last spring.
Osweiler swears he meant no disrespect to Denver when he said at his introductory news conference in Houston that he chose the Texans over the Broncos in free agency because they gave him the “best opportunity to be successful.”
With his homecoming on tap Monday night, a game pitting two flawed 4-2 division leaders, Osweiler acknowledged it might not have been the wisest choice of words. But he’s not apologizing for saying it, just expressing regret that it came off wrong in some quarters.
After spending four seasons as Peyton Manning’s backup and presumed successor, Osweiler shockingly left the Super Bowl champs for a four-year, $72 million offer from Houston 48 hours after Manning’s tearful retirement.
His “best opportunity to be successful” comment was seen as one last jab at the team that had benched him for the playoff run. A dash of salt in the wound of uncertainty he’d left behind in Denver, the team was suddenly jolted with an unexpected search for a new quarterback.
“I don’t know what he was thinking,” Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said this week. “We’ve won a lot of games here, so I would think we’d give him the best place to win.”
Osweiler explained that while he felt he fit in very nicely with Gary Kubiak’s West Coast offense in Denver, where he went 5-2 as the starter last season, he felt his skills were better suited for Bill O’Brien’s more traditional downfield passing scheme.
“It seemed like a phenomenal opportunity as a quarterback to play in a system like this,” Osweiler said. “I was able to see Peyton play in similar systems in 2012, ’13 and ’14. And I don’t think any of us can deny what he was able to accomplish in those systems. So, as a quarterback, as a competitor, as someone striving to do great things in this league, it just seemed like a great opportunity to be able to play in a system that was similar to that.”
Osweiler also drew the ire of Broncos fans for skipping the team’s White House visit and ring ceremony . He explained he was too busy learning a new playbook with a new team in a new city to relive Super Bowl 50, although Von Miller and Emmanuel Sanders did Facetime him from the ring ceremony in June.
After a six-month search, the Broncos settled on Trevor Siemian as Manning’s successor.
“I think Trevor’s done a phenomenal job, I really do,” Osweiler said. “I really couldn’t be happier for Trevor.”
Osweiler is coming off his best game as a Texan, leading Houston back from a 14-point deficit for a 26-23 win in overtime against the Colts last week.
Siemian is coming off his first loss, 21-13 at San Diego, where he was still compromised by a sprained left shoulder that had sidelined him the week before.
“You know what, I’m really impressed with the guy,” said ESPN color analyst Jon Gruden, who watched the Broncos practice over the weekend. “No. 1, winning your first four starts in the NFL is hard to do, I don’t care what kind of team you’re on. Handling the pressure of not only succeeding Peyton Manning but taking the keys to the world champions, that’s tough.”
Gruden said he expects Siemian to do even better when the Broncos’ ground game gets going and Kubiak’s patented bootlegs and play-actions come into play more.
The only bigger shocker than Osweiler leaving Denver this year was Siemian winning the job he’d left behind.
“I think the credit goes to John Elway and Kubiak for a) finding the guy, but b) having the guts to play the guy,” Gruden said. “Most people would have said, ‘Hey, let’s just go with (Mark) Sanchez. We traded for him. Let’s save face and give Sanchez a shot.’ Or, ‘Let’s go with Paxton Lynch. He was our No. 1 pick.’ Let’s go with our seventh round pick who no one knows about? That takes a lot of courage. I think they deserve credit for playing the best player.”
– By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Sports Writer
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