In the wake of the devastatingly embarrassing loss against the Falcons this past Sunday (a final score of 48-21 only begins to tell the tale), the question of Ryan Mallett’s competency as an NFL quarterback has resurfaced. After an interception and numerous turnovers, as well as a flurry of under/over thrown passes, Mallett was benched and Brian Hoyer came into the game. Hoyer went on to complete a successful touchdown drive in his first series, after the Falcons pulled their starters. He then led the team on a couple of additional successful scoring drives, well after the game even mattered.
In the aftermath of the game, this led to the shouts and chants to permanently bench Mallett in favor of the QB he replaced at the beginning of the season; Brian Hoyer. The Houston Texans fan base was further disappointed with the announcement that Mallett would again be starting Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts. Given his poor performance (which has only been matched in his second start with the Texans, against the Cincinnati Bengals, while suffering from a torn pectoral muscle), many fans hit social media boards, questioning the sanity and competency of the Texans organization. Rightly so, given the circumstances.
However, one such tidbit, barely announced and not even covered by local sports media, has surfaced to question Mallett’s play that should not be overlooked. Last Thursday’s injury report included that Mallett was limited in practice due to a chest injury. Even with his limited practice, he still suited up and started for the Texans game in Atlanta. His performance was poor and was eerily comparable to his 2nd start with the Texans in 2014, while playing with an injury. In fact, the game logs are almost identical. Let’s take a look:
If you look at these stats (completions, attempts, percentage, rating), they’re close to being identical. After the 2014 game, when fans starting chanting “off with his head,” the pectoral muscle injury was disclosed, and Mallett was reported to have a season-ending injury. The on-field play, where we saw Mallett consistently throwing at the feet of receivers, was suddenly understandable. He was given a break because, well, a chest injury like that is certain to affect a quarterback’s performance. The question was why was he allowed to finish the game? Clearly, something was wrong, but he never left the game.
That question wasn’t really answered. The Texans organization announced his season-ending injury after the fact, and that was that.
This time around, however, the chest injury that was disclosed in last week’s injury report, which had Mallett listed as “questionable” for Sunday’s game, was largely treated by Houston sports media as a fairly unremarkable event. Most of the focus was on whether or not Foster would return to the game on Sunday. Foster did return, and was noticeably rusty. In rushing yards, he had 8 carries for 10 yards, averaging 1.3 per carry, plus a fumble caused by teammate Derek Newton (and by him as well, for carrying the ball so loosely).
In the aftermath of the game, nothing is being reported about Mallett’s chest injury that had him limited in practice, or whether or not it could have affected his play. The Texans haven’t made an official statement after the fact, nor has it been explored by local sports media. I’m not being a conspiracy theorist here, but I will have to say that it begs to question whether or not a more serious issue is being hidden from the media and fans. If I were Head Coach or General Manager for this team, and there was a question about the competency or ability of the QB I chose, I’d be addressing some things right now.
So, moving forward here, we have a pretty big question concerning Ryan Mallett’s health. Is Mallett injured? Has he re-aggravated his torn pectoral muscle? Did it affect his play? Is this a different injury? If so, how did it happen?
Since nothing has been reported, we are simply left to speculate. My personal speculation is that we’ve overused the passing game in the short amount of time that Mallett has been in as the starter. In the 4 games we’ve had this season, the Texans offense has utilized the passing game over 65% of the time, which is the 3rd highest percentage in the league (not so ironically, the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions (ranked higher on the list) have similar records this year for their one-dimensional offense). If you look at our passing game percentage in 2014, we’ve doubled our passing game almost 20%.
Have we overused Mallett’s “cannon arm” and weakened his play? Have we created another problem in our bare-bones, injury-riddled offense? Is Bill O’Brien taking this competitive nature a little too seriously, and possibly to the detriment of our team players? Of course this is all speculation, but I don’t think such speculation is unwarranted. This team has been derailed, and they’re falling apart at the seams. O’Brien’s typical Belichick-inspired secrecy concerning the team is not justified right now. Belichick can pull it off because his team wins. O’Brien can’t keep ducking the media, because he’s got some explaining to do about this team.
Hopefully we’ll get some clarity to this situation. It’s bad enough that Mallett is having his name drug through the mud after a poor game. It’s even worse if injury is to blame, and it’s not being discussed.