John Elway once again showed he’s one of the top executives in football, in refusing to get into a bidding war over Brock Osweiler. Elway let the Houston Texans give an insane $72 million contract over four years to a quarterback who mostly rode a defense to a handful of wins before getting benched in time to let Peyton Manning save the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs in the season finale. It was the smart long-term move for the franchise, but now the question turns to what Denver does in the short-term.
The answer has to be for Denver to sign Robert Griffin III, newly released from the Redskins. RG3 comes physically recharged, hungry for redemption and a perfect fit for the Denver offense.
It may turn out that spending the entire year in deep freeze on the Redskins’ bench was the best thing that could have happened for RG3. After enduring two serious leg injuries—the torn ACL to close his rookie year and the dislocated ankle of his third year, he likely needed serious recovery time. Now he’s had it and if he’s not able to be 100 percent physically at this point, it’s fair to say he never will.
Griffin enjoyed his rookie-year success on an offense built around play-action, the system designed by Kyle Shanahan. Gary Kubiak and Elway have installed a similar power-oriented system in Denver and there’s nothing like a mobile quarterback to keep the interior of the line loosened up and the play-action game with some read option mixed is tailor-made for RG3.
We have to also assume that RG3 is hungry to prove himself all over again. He comes to an organization that has another rifle-armed quarterback that ran a lot on his youth and gradually, over time, stabilized into a more traditional pocket passer as he got older. Elway was able to use his own personal experience, of winning a Super Bowl(s) at the end of his career to benefit Manning. Now the Denver president can use the experience of his earlier career to benefit Griffin.
This would be a move steeped in some irony. Griffin grew up rooting for Elway and the Denver Broncos. That means RG3 also was rooting for Mike Shanahan. The young quarterback later said that his falling out with Shanahan “broke my heart.” As we saw Griffin decline not only physically, but mentally in recent years, I wondered if he hadn’t been broken to a certain extent by his ruthless former coach who stopped at nothing to smear the quarterback who saved his job in 2012.
But RG3 isn’t the only quarterback to have had problems with Mike Shanahan. John Elway had a public falling out with Shanahan. Who knows, maybe Elway can help the young quarterback get beyond that as well.
Upon word of Osweiler’s departure to Houston, RG3 and Colin Kaepernick have been rumored to be Denver targets. But those aren’t comparable choices. The Broncos would have to trade for Kaepernick and inherit his big contract. RG3 will come cheap, almost certainly less than a $1 million a year. It would be the equivalent of what Seattle had when Russell Wilson played on his cheap rookie contract—it means money to pay the defense.
It also means there’s nothing to lose for Elway. There’s no cost to signing RG3. There’s no realistic option that you’re walking away from. And the potential upside is a gold mine.