"Nothing has changed," Gary Kubiak said Monday when asked about the Broncos' quarterback situation. Yet, it feels like everything has changed.
Kubiak is right in that the Denver Broncos' starting quarterback hasn't changed. That will be Brock Osweiler, as it has been for four straight weeks, Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com confirmed.
But the circumstances surrounding Osweiler's fifth start have altered significantly.
First, there's Peyton Manning. After weeks of rest and rehab, the future Hall of Famer is ready to return - to practice.
"That's the next step is that he's coming back to practice," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said Monday. "If you're coming back to practice, then you're working toward getting back on the field and playing."
While the update Tuesday is that Manning isn't ready to play, I agree with Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who speculates that Manning could return to the starting quarterback role about two weeks from now. It makes sense related to Manning's recovery timeline, and it makes sense to get Manning some reps in the regular season before the Broncos enter the playoffs.
Next, there's Brock Osweiler himself. Osweiler seemed to have a solid grasp on the starting QB job after his comeback overtime win against the New England Patriots two weeks ago. Since then, he and the Broncos have only scored one touchdown, on their first drive against the San Diego Chargers. It's been seven quarters of offensive ineptitude since.
Following the loss to the Raiders, the clamor for improvement at the quarterback position has reached a fever pitch. Denver's offensive linemen and receivers have rarely done their quarterbacks any favors in 2015, but each signal-caller has still come under fire to varying degrees.
If Osweiler wants to keep his starting quarterback job, he needs to play better than he did against the Chargers and Raiders in back-to-back weeks. He needs to play, dare I say, Manning-esque. And I don't mean 2015 Manning.
In the meantime, Osweiler has shown promise and, at times, poise. Pittsburgh will give him another valuable opportunity to expand upon those performances and the Broncos a chance to further assess their potential quarterback of the future.