Houston Texans: (Almost) Full Circle

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The Brock Osweiler experiment is officially over paused for the time being. After a promising pre-season and decent start, we’ve all held our breath, patiently waited (okay, maybe not) and hoped that Osweiler would grow and improve throughout the season. He offered sporatic glimmers of hope – the 4th Quarter of the first Colts game, the overall play in anti-Texans Mexico City, but his regression has superceded those tiny spurts of growth, and came to an ugly head with back-to-back interceptions against a last place in the AFC South Jacksonville Jaguars, with the season on the line.

Enter Tom Savage, the Texans only QB draft pick of the O’Brien era (taken in the 4th round, with a compensatory pick – 135th overall – in 2014). The perennial back-up who was too green for 2014, mistakenly placed on IR due to a 4-6 week injury in 2015, and who is a large question mark himself moving forward. He’s the QB that most people forget when scolding the Texans management for not drafting a QB in 2014 (or 2015, or 2016, even though the latter 2 years would cost too many draft picks). He’s the QB who, because he has not started yet, most people disregard as anything more than a back-up.

He’s also the QB who received a lot of buzz before the 2014 draft. He’s the QB who went from off-the -radar to hottest and highest-climbing QB in the 2014 draft. I also discussed him at length during the offseason here. His overall mechanics have been compared to Troy Aikman. His quick-release of the ball has been compared to Tom Brady. He’s got possibly the strongest arm coming out of the 2014 draft, and has had 3 years to improve his mechanics. So, why has it come down to the 16th week in his 3rd season as a Texan to give him his 1st start of his NFL career?

One of the reasons is that he was under-developed out of college, due to his murky path. He won the Rutgers starting job as a true freshman, and was named on the All American Freshman Team by the Football Writers Association of America. The following year, he was sidelined by a hand injury early on, and QB Chas Dodd took over starting duties for the remainder of the season based on his early success at the role. This prompted Savage to put in a transfer to the University of Arizona. Per NCAA rules, he was red-shirted for the 2011 season (his third year of college football).

His path then got a little bumpier. Arizona Head Coach Mike Stoops, whom Savage wished to play for, was fired mid-season, and Rich Rodriguez was named Head Coach for the 2012 season. Rodriguez’s game plan of a run-oriented spread offense was an offense Savage felt he did not belong in, and it was likely that Rodriguez would make his own starting QB selections counter to the previous coaching staff. Once again, Savage put in a transfer – this time to the University of Pittsburgh. He originally applied for a hardship waiver to head back to Rutgers, but this was denied.

After transferring to Pittsburgh, Savage was again red-shirted for a second consecutive season (now entering his 4th year in college football, but only having played barely a seasons-length of full games). Savage was finally named starter (and was able to hit the field in a game after 2 1/2 years) for Pittsburgh in 2013, and halfway through his final season in college, people began to take notice. 2013 was inarguably his best year, and he finished with 2,958 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, and a 138.2 rating. He then ascended into NFL draft status.

After having been out of play for 2 1/2 seasons, Savage found the stride that got him drafted on an NFL team. However, sitting those 2 1/2 season made him lack experience necessary to be considered as more than a development project instead of immediate starter. His jumping around to 3 different colleges put his work ethic into question. However, his mechanics could not be completely ignored. So, the Texans drafted him in 2014, and he’s been in development mode since. Had he not been designated for IR in 2015, we’d likely know what we have in Savage.

Now that we’ve shown his path thus far, one could also ask why he wasn’t considered for the starting position over Osweiler in 2016? This is easier to walk through. Osweiler had decent starting experience under his belt, and should have been able to hit the ground running for 2016. The Texans wanted a QB that could take them to a good playoff run, and a former backup with no starting experience was too risky for that move. It wasn’t because Savage wasn’t good enough. He simply had no experience in the NFL, and the best bet was to get experience.

By the way, as much as we love to hate it, the Osweiler signing wasn’t a bad gamble. He is set to be paid 2nd tier QB pay for the next 2 years, and that is it. He was, believe it or not, the best FA QB available, and the Texans would have had to give up too much in a draft to get a top prospect. Let’s not forget how QB-starved the NFL has been in recent years. Management did what they could and made a smart choice, but it didn’t pay off. This happens. It particularly stings the Texans because of the consistent QB struggles, but sometimes players simply don’t work out.

Fast-forward to present day, and the Texans have a new named starter, and some renewed hope in getting to the postseason.

Now, fans, I know we’re all frustrated but let me make one thing perfectly clear: Savage is green. He’s getting his 1st start on Saturday vs the Bengals. He will make mistakes. He will hopefully learn from them, but he still has a road to development as a starting QB. So please don’t boo him if he does something wrong. In fact, let’s stop the whole booing our hometeam nonsense. I don’t know what you think that accomplishes, I guarantee it doesn’t help the game, players, or circumstances. It’s unsportsmanlike, pathetic, and embarrassing to see our home crowd booing our home team.

So stop it. Right now.

As we head into the final 2 games of the season, let’s stand behind our team and support them. 12th man isn’t a myth; it’s a part of the game. In times like this where our team is struggling, and needs that extra support, let’s give them that, instead of booing them. Cheer for Savage. Be aware this is his 1st career start. Understand that, in the next 2 games, he will make mistakes. NO. BOOING. And let’s sit back, buckle up, and prepare for the final stretch. And let’s make sure we take the time to cheer on our rivals down in Jacksonville. Just for a day.

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