ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **As he steps into the starting quarterback role, Brock Osweiler knows what is primary task is.
"I'm given this opportunity, and I'm being told, 'Protect the football,'" Osweiler said. "And that's something that all quarterbacks and all skill guys know when they come into the NFL: You have to protect the football.
"You know, the saying is, 'Ball security is job security.' And if you protect the football, you're going to stay out there on the field. Game manager, protecting the football, whatever you call it -- that's our job every week."
But rarely has the task been more crucial than it is right now.
The Broncos sit at 3-4, their first losing record after seven games in six years, and a minus-11 turnover margin is the primary culprit. During their three-game losing streak, the offense gave away the football 10 times -- six on interceptions thrown by Trevor Siemian and four on lost fumbles.
Few statistics are better at reflecting the game's outcome than giveaways and turnover margin. In the 2017 season alone, teams that give away the football at least three times are 3-40; in the last 10 seasons, they are 209-815-1, according to pro-football-reference.com. With a minus-3 turnover margin, teams are 1-21 this year and 27-438-1 over the last decade. The Broncos have lost 23 of their last 24 games with a turnover margin that is minus-3 or worse.
The giveaways have not only taken their toll on the team, but they have made it difficult for Head Coach Vance Joseph and his staff to ascertain just what type of team they have.
"I'm hoping that this move can simply stabilize the offense so we can get into a fair game so we can win some football games -- or just simply to see where we're at as a football team," he said. "We can't see where we're at until we stop turning the football over. It's impossible to win in this league with three to four turnovers a game.
"Monday night [in Kansas City], it's a 20-13 game with three minutes to go in the third quarters, and we've got four turnovers. How about just two and see where we are? I'm anxious to see where we are if we don't turn the ball over, to see how good we can be."
What the Broncos want and need is for Osweiler to be the quarterback he was during his first six starts as a Bronco in 2015, when he turned over the football just three times. Denver won four of those games, including a come-from-behind overtime triumph over the Patriots, who came into that contest unbeaten.
If that means Osweiler is a "game manager," then so what? That's not a pejorative in Joseph's eyes.
"All of the good quarterbacks are game managers," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "That's a negative term in football, but it shouldn't be, because to be a quarterback, you have to manage the football game."
Osweiler expects that he can manage the game better because of the time he spent re-learning Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy's scheme and watching from the sideline.
"I think sometimes the best thing for a quarterback when he's not playing well or he's going through some tough times is actually pulling him out of the fire and making him the backup, making him the third string and letting him observe," Osweiler said. "And that's what I've been able to do."
Siemian now has the benefit of regaining perspective by standing on the sideline. That helped Osweiler over the last seven weeks as he went through what President/General Manager John Elway termed as "football rehab" following a difficult 2016 season with the Houston Texans and a failed bid to make the Cleveland Browns' roster this summer.
"Sometimes in the heat of the moment, things aren't going well and you have to make a play, and then you make a bad play worse, and it just compounds, and before you know it, you can't slow it down," Osweiler said. "But I've been very fortunate now to sit on the sideline for seven games, learn this offense and just observe and think about how I would do things differently if I'm ever given the opportunity again."
Now he can put those thoughts into practice.
"This is why we signed him," Joseph said. "We wanted a veteran presence in our quarterback room -- a guy who has played in big games. A guy who can lead our offense if something like this were to happen.
"So far, so good."