ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- At the top of the Denver Broncos' depth chart at quarterback is Peyton Manning, a future Hall of Famer with four MVP awards, 12 Pro Bowl selections, and 12 4,000-yard seasons as the ultimate thinking man's franchise passer.
Then there is Brock Osweiler, in his second season with no NFL starts to go with two rookies -- Zac Dysert, a seventh-round pick in last April's draft, and Ryan Katz. Talk about the disappearing middle class.
And while Manning is a walking, talking, throwing search engine when it comes to all things behind center, the quarterbacks’ meeting room is still a one-room schoolhouse where the new kids have to keep up with the Ph.D. If the young passers can't accept that, they will be left behind.
"The volume of the playbook is going to stay with the starter and everyone else has to keep up,'' said Broncos quarterback coach Greg Knapp. "With Peyton's knowledge of the game, we're not going to slow him down for the sake of a backup QB.''
Which means wherever Knapp is on the practice field, Osweiler, Dysert and Katz are almost tethered to him. And Knapp peppers them with questions after each snap. What did you see here? Where should the ball go? Where's the trouble to be found?
It’s a key part of constructing a Plan B behind Manning. The Broncos have discarded the idea of a veteran backup in favor of preparing Osweiler for whenever the post-Manning era arrives.
The rookie quarterbacks get another meeting with Knapp to review the practice video each day and Osweiler meets with Knapp separately as well, because when the quarterbacks meet together, "that's really kind of Peyton's time, so the others have to put in the extra time to keep up. We're not waiting for them.''
It's part of what Knapp calls his "five-step'' program for a quarterback to follow. You eliminate some of the many choices a quarterback has as he approaches the line of scrimmage. It's a plan Knapp began to develop as a 31-year-old 49ers assistant with a Hall of Famer at quarterback in Steve Young.
"Cut the fat, I try to delete decisions in their minds before the snap,'' Knapp said. "When a guy looks at his options and he can delete some immediately because of what he sees, if I can get their brains moving in that direction, they can make decisions when the ball is snapped and they can play faster. And young quarterbacks always have to play faster.
"It was really Steve saying 'I'm glad you know that, but I don't need to know that.' And he said 'now tell if the safety is here, what do I need to know, if he's there, what do I need to know.' And I've always remembered that, get down to the basics, decide what do they need to know and move on.''