Brock Osweiler had just wrapped up an offseason practice Thursday afternoon when he was advised to return home quickly. Severe thunderstorms were moving through the Houston area and a flash flood watch had been issued. “Hopefully it doesn’t flood too bad this time like it did a couple weeks ago,” Osweiler said over the phone. “This is all new to me. Growing up in Montana, and going to school in Arizona, you don’t see too many rains and floods like this.” That’s just one of many new things the Texans’ new $18 million-per-year quarterback is getting used to these days—new city, new team, new offense. The 25-year-old pulled off one of the stunners of free agency when he decided to leave Denver, where he had been drafted in the second round in 2012 and started half of their 2015 Super Bowl season, to sign a four-year, $72 million contract with Houston. From Peyton Manning’s would-be successor to the Texans’ hopeful franchise quarterback, the past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind for Osweiler. And his work is just beginning.
VRENTAS: The Texans were out for one main thing this offseason: To get themselves a quarterback. How does it feel to be “the guy?”
OSWEILER: It feels really good. But I also think that’s something that needs to be earned on a daily basis. Just because the McNair family, and Coach [Bill] O’Brien, and [GM] Rick Smith went out and made me “their quarterback,” I need to go out there and earn that in the weight room, in the film room, on the practice field and everything else that goes along with that position. I have obviously been given that title, but that title is something that’s earned, and I need to continue to earn it.
VRENTAS: How has your life changed since the end of last season?
OSWEILER: There are definitely the obvious things. It has changed dramatically in certain areas. Moving to Houston from Colorado. Getting adjusted to life in Texas. Learning a new offensive system. Getting to know new teammates. But there are also a lot of similarities. It’s just football, and I believe you have success on the football field by working hard off it. That’s in the weight room. That’s in the classroom. That’s studying film. That’s studying your playbook. That’s throwing with receivers offsite when you are not allowed to throw at your facility. With all of the major adjustments and changes that have taken place in my life the last couple months, there have also been some constants.
VRENTAS: Your body of work in the NFL is still a small sample size, just seven games as a starting quarterback. Why do you think those seven starts were enough for Houston to invest in you?
OSWEILER: That would be a better question for Rick Smith or Coach O’Brien. But obviously they saw something on film that made them excited enough to extend a contract offer and get me to Houston. Last year I went out on a week-to-week basis, and tried to do my job to the best of my abilities to help my team win football games. Some weeks it was better than others. There were some good games in there, and there were definitely some games where I learned a lot and didn’t play so well. But that was the constant theme I put on tape.
VRENTAS: You’re getting to do something you have never done before in the NFL, spending the offseason preparing as the designated starter. What difference does that make?
OSWEILER: I’ve always approached the game, going back to when I got drafted in 2012 to Denver, like I was going to be the starter. That’s how you have to prepare, whether you are first string, second string or third string, because you never know when something is going to happen to the guy in front of you. Maybe the only difference now is I have more of a voice as far as specifically how we want to run a route. When you are having conversations with receivers, and you are talking about specifics and details of route concepts and things like that, your opinion carries out farther, whereas when you are the backup you listen to what the starter is saying and just try to play within those rules to the best of your ability.
I have tremendous respect for both John Elway and Peyton Manning as people and as quarterbacks, but I was not concerned one bit with playing in their shadow. That didn’t weigh into my decision whatsoever.
VRENTAS: With the rules of free agency, Bill O’Brien admitted he didn’t meet you in person before the Texans offered you a contract that included $37 million in guaranteed money. Was it a leap of faith for both of you?
OSWEILER: Without question. It was a huge leap of faith on their behalf. I’m sure they did their research somehow, some way, on finding out really who I was as a person and who I was as a quarterback, and how I conducted my business on a daily basis. I’m sure they had a roundabout way of doing that. And it was the same thing for me, talking to other players who had played in this system, and who had been a Houston Texan. I played with some of those guys, Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen. But it was certainly a leap of faith on both ends, and it was one that I am really glad I took.
VRENTAS: You said in your introductory press conference that you had done hours and hours of research before free agency and had taken lots of notes. How did you research the Texans?
OSWEILER: There was a lot that went into it. A lot of conversations with my agents. Jimmy Sexton, Jim Denton and R.J. Gonser, those guys have a lot of contacts around the NFL, so that’s where it started. It was everything from me doing my own research looking up things on the internet, having conversations with players who currently are here in Houston, players who have been in Houston, looking and doing my best to compare the two offenses from watching some film. I really don’t want to go into too many specifics on that, but there were certainly a lot of things that go into it.
VRENTAS: You mention comparing the Broncos and Texans offenses. Did you prefer Bill O’Brien’s offense, and did you think that it would give you more flexibility and room to grow?
OSWEILER: Yes, absolutely. I had been fortunate to see two different schools of thought in my four years in Denver. From 2012 to 2014, we ran a system that was very similar to the system we are running here in Houston. Whereas in 2015, there were a lot of differences. I was fortunate to be able to spend three years in it, and then get a taste of something else for a year, and then going into free agency really be able to sit back and say, well, this is what I liked about Denver and Gary Kubiak’s system last year; this is what I didn’t like. Here is what I liked from 2012 to 2014; here is what I didn’t like. Where do you want to take your career looking forward? And truly, what place gives you the best opportunity for that? All of that certainly went into it. And again, it went back to a little bit of a leap of faith, because I wasn’t able to talk specifics with anybody down here in Houston.
VRENTAS: We heard a lot last year about Peyton Manning, in his 18th season, trying to conform to the system Gary Kubiak brought to Denver. You played well in that system, but when you see more room to grow in O’Brien’s offense, in what way do you mean?
OSWEILER: I think you said it a little bit, there is more flexibility, and more control in the quarterback’s hands at the line of scrimmage. And again, I don’t want to really compare the two systems, because like you said, I did play well in Gary Kubiak’s system last year. And I really enjoyed playing in his system. But I also really enjoyed some things we did in Denver from 2012 to 2014. So it was kind of me really looking myself in the mirror and saying, “OK, what system do you want to play in, in the future?” They are both great in their own respects, but you have to pick one. And that’s the hard part of free agency, especially when one of those is a little bit of a leap of faith, while you kind of know what you have in Denver. Bottom line, I am here in Houston now and loving Coach [George] Godsey and Bill O’Brien’s system.
VRENTAS: Soon after you signed, Bob McNair told reporters at the NFL owners meetings that the shadows of Peyton and Elway were “quite large” in Denver, and in coming to Houston, you had a chance to be a “real hero” here. Did that matter to you, the opportunity to pave a new path in Houston?
OSWEILER: I have tremendous respect for both John Elway and Peyton Manning as people and as quarterbacks in the NFL, but I was not concerned one bit with playing in their shadow. That didn’t weigh into my decision whatsoever. Bottom line, I made my decision off where I felt like I could have the most success playing quarterback in the NFL and where I could go and win long term.
VRENTAS: People are fixated on you having a grudge against your old team. You have again and again insisted that you don’t. How do you handle those questions?
OSWEILER: I am really just speaking the truth. There is no grudge. I have tremendous respect for coach Gary Kubiak. I love that guy. In fact, I talked to him last weekend. He is a tremendous person, and he is a tremendous football coach. I have great respect for Greg Knapp, who was my quarterbacks coach in Denver for three years. He taught me so much about playing quarterback in the NFL and made me a better football player. John Elway, for giving me my opportunity for coming into the National Football League. I could probably stand up and have a press conference and thank 100 guys within that Denver organization, along with all those teammates I played with. So there is no grudge. I have nothing but love for my time I spent in Denver, and appreciation, and gratitude. But now we are beginning a new chapter, and I couldn’t be more excited to be here in Houston.
VRENTAS: What did you and Kubiak talk about last weekend?
OSWEILER: We were just texting back and forth. He heard I was out playing golf somewhere with a couple teammates he had coached before. It was just a fun text going back and forth. But that just shows the respect we both have for each other. I had a tremendous one season playing for Coach Kubiak, and I have nothing but great things to say about him as a person and a coach. I am not there anymore, and I am moving forward with the Houston Texans, and I love everything we are doing here.
VRENTAS: Did you leave Denver with anything to prove?
OSWEILER: Every quarterback feels like he has something to prove. Hopefully that leads to great success down the road. I don’t want to put a label or stamp saying, this is success; this is not success. But I can promise you every day I wake up, and I go to work, and I work hard, because I want to be the best player I can possibly be.
VRENTAS: Your former Broncos teammate, Emmanuel Sanders, recently joked that he wanted you to buy him a car after you signed your big contract. Has he collected?
OSWEILER: That was funny. And it goes right back to how I feel about everything in Denver. Emmanuel was having some fun in his interview, and as soon as that came out, I told him, fly on down, and I’ll go buy it for you. Obviously joking.
VRENTAS: It’s impossible to get through a broadcast of a game you’re starting without the commentators mentioning that you are 6-foot-8. Have people always had a fascination with you being tall?
OSWEILER: It has always been a focal point. I have always been the tallest guy in my class going back to first grade. Announcers have always had fun with it.
VRENTAS: How often do you get back to Montana?
OSWEILER: My wife and I, the past couple years, we have always found a weekend in the summer to go back to Kalispell. This summer I think we are going to spend more time where I was born, over in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, but Kalispell is only a two-hour drive from there, so I’m sure we'll find our way over there. It's stunning; it’s beautiful; Glacier National Park is outstanding. There is no place like Kalispell, Mont., in the summer.
VRENTAS: You recently spent some time at your alma mater, Arizona State, where you invited a bunch of your new teammates to train with you. What kinds of things did you pick out of the Texans playbook to work on while you were there?
OSWEILER: I wasn’t focused on too many specific concepts or routes. I more or less wanted to get to know who my teammates were; who my receivers were as people, who they were as athletes, how they run routes, getting to know their body language and how they come out of breaks on just some generic routes. And then we spent a little bit of time on specific routes that those guys ran a lot of last year. DeAndre [Hopkins] had some routes he really likes, so we threw more of those. And Cecil [Shorts], the same deal. Then Jaelen [Strong] had a few routes, and Keith [Mumphery] had a few routes.
VRENTAS: So, what is Hopkins’ favorite route?
OSWEILER: You’ll see that on Sunday coming up in the fall.
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