With injured Peyton Manning being replaced as Denver Broncos starter and Brock Osweiler scheduled to make his first NFL start, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will have any number of insights to share.
But first Fangio will likely tell them a horror story.
When then-starter Drew Bledsoe was injured against the New York Jets in Week 2 of the 2001 season, the New England Patriots were forced to turn to a backup from the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft as a stop-gap. That was nothing short of a turning point in NFL history because the backup was Tom Brady, who’d never started a game to that point.
Fangio was defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots’ opponent that week, and had a painfully good vantage point from which to witness Brady’s Patriots trample his Indianapolis defense in a 44-13 rout. The Patriots rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns, and not even the Colts having Peyton Manning as their quarterback helped.
Some defensive coaches may relish the prospect of facing a first-time NFL starter – which Osweiler will be, after Manning’s poor health and performance from the loss to Kansas City last weekend.
Fangio knows better.
“I remember I coached against Brady in his first start,” Fangio said, managing a slight smile. “And you know how that turned out.”
The Bears also should know that quarterback starts are an imprecise indicator. And they do.
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“Imagine guys like Tom Brady,” said linebacker Sam Acho, hinting at what and about whom Fangio may have told his players. “When you get your first start you’re trying to go out there and prove something, so we want to make sure he’s not proving anything against us.”
Small sample sizes don’t matter a great deal with some quarterbacks. The Bears got past the Minnesota Vikings last year with a rally after rookie Teddy Bridgewater, in just his sixth start, had gotten the Vikings off to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. When the Bears saw Bridgewater the second time, Bridgewater threw for 209 yards in what was the final game of the Marc Trestman era. The third time they saw Bridgewater, he beat them again.
“I think at times that’s a little overrated,” Fangio said. “Obviously the veteran [quarterbacks] react to things better but [Osweiler] has played – I think this is his fourth year in the league – so he’s been around and he’s had the advantage of sitting with Peyton these last three years. You never know what’s going to happen with that.”