That’s right, Texans fans, the most important position on the team is also the weakest.
Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle described the playing field of the quarterbacks as “level,” while Brian T. Smith quoted Bill O’Brien as saying the competition is “wide open.” Both descriptions are just another way of saying none of these guys has the requisite skills to handle the responsibilities of the job right now.
T.J. Yates told James Palmer of CSN Houston the Texans “have been studying old Patriots film quite a bit in quarterback meetings.” If the quarterbacks have been watching closely and listening to O’Brien, they realize the freedom that Tom Brady has to make pre-snap adjustments goes beyond deciding which receiver will be his hot read.
As described by Brett Kollmann of Battle Red Blog in his extensive breakdown of Bill O’Brien’s expectations for the position, the quarterback also calls the blocking assignments. Center Chris Myers made those calls in the past but no more. Kollmann defines the hierarchy on offense as being strictly one-dimensional: “If the quarterback does not do it, it does not get done.” (Italics are Kollmann's.)
This offense is the antithesis of what Gary Kubiak jammed down Matt Schaub’s throat for seven seasons until the quarterback finally choked on it. Schaub never had the independence or confidence to opt out of a play in response to a defensive adjustment that came after Kubiak made the call from the sideline.
When coaching at Penn State, O’Brien certainly did not place the same burdens on Matt McGloin and Christian Hackenberg that he did on the Patriots signal-caller. What will be expected from this Texans trio will be a simplified version of what is run in New England.
The emphasis in the draft on bolstering the run with a guard, tight end, running back and fullback should take some of the load off the passing game this year. No matter how far the offense is stripped down, it cannot compensate for the limitations of the current quarterback candidates.
Fitzpatrick may have scored 48 out of 50 on his Wonderlic, but his intelligence is directly proportional to his fondness for throwing picks. His interception percentage of 3.6 is the highest of any NFL quarterback who has started at least 50 games in the past five seasons.
Keenum started off like the answer to Andre Johnson’s dreams in his first three starts, which he lost by a total of seven points while throwing seven touchdowns (five to Johnson) and no interceptions.
When defenses learned to keep Keenum bottled up in the pocket, the lack of a running game (96 yards per game in his last five starts) and a deteriorating offensive line sealed his fate, along with a 0-8 mark, as the quarterback of record.
Tom Savage is a dollar-store version of Blake Bortles, the man the Texans would have taken with the first pick, according to Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Insider, if the right deal had come along. Savage's top-drawer arm was on display for only two full college seasons as he transferred from Rutgers to Arizona before settling in for his senior year at Pittsburgh.
He enters the NFL at the age of 24, older than most rookies but less experienced due to sitting out his transfer years. Patrick D. Starr from the State of the Texans website thinks “his skill level is much more advanced than the group” of quarterbacks. This endorsement belies the recent history of the position.
From 2004 to 2013, 72 quarterbacks have been taken in the fourth round or later. Only one has appeared in the playoffs, our own film buff T.J. Yates, who ended up winning the first postseason game in franchise history. It seems ironic he will lose his spot on this squad to a draft choice who stands little chance of duplicating his accomplishments.
The long-term solution at quarterback for the Texans is probably still in college. Then again, Ryan Mallett may be going into his fourth season as a member of the New England Patriots because he has the stuff to be the heir apparent to Brady. Mallett continues to be the object of much speculation; Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal was the latest to weigh in on his trade potential.
For now, we will go with what we’ve got. And a sad lot it is.