Tom Savage Named Texans Starting QB over Brock Osweiler vs. Bengals

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 18:  Tom Savage #3 of the Houston Texans signals at the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien announced Monday that Tom Savage will be the team's starting quarterback against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday.

"I've let the team know this afternoon Tom will be the starting quarterback against Cincinnati," he said, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicleadding"Brock's a pro. He didn't say a lot. He understands he's got to be ready to play. He's in the same situation Tom was in, one play away."

Per McClain, O'Brien also noted, "We make decisions based on what we think will help the team win."

On Wednesday, however, O'Brien told reporters that the organization has not given up on Brock Osweiler. 

Savage, 26, took over for incumbent starter Osweiler in the team's 21-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday after Osweiler threw two interceptions in the second quarter. Savage was solid in relief, finishing 23-of-36 for 260 yards and helping the team overcome a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

"He's got a real strong arm and the confidence to put the ball any place on the field," wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said, per McClain. "His familiarity with this offense, being in it for three years, also helps. He's always been into it [offense] even though he was never the starter."

Tight end Ryan Griffin was also impressed with Savage's performance.   

"It was a tough spot," he noted. "We were struggling. He came in with confidence and a calmness, and we really fed off that."

Savage, who was a fourth-round pick of the Texans in the 2014 NFL draft (No. 135 overall), had appeared in just two games prior to Sunday. He spent the 2015 season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, though offensive assistant Pat O'Hara would deliver him the game plan each week as though he were playing, according to McClain.

"Savage knows the offense, very knowledgeable," O'Brien said Monday, per Drew Dougherty of Texans TV. "All three do, though. He gives us the best chance to play well."

His performance Sunday—coupled with Osweiler's struggles throughout the season—quickly created a quarterback controversy. Osweiler, 26, signed a four-year, $72 million contract this offseason but hasn't lived up to the hype, throwing for 2,704 yards, 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions and completing just 59.6 percent of his passes.

Not surprisingly, public sentiment supported Savage earning the start over Osweiler.

Football writer Cian Fahey was convinced Savage was the man for the job almost immediately:

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com was impressed as well:

ESPN's Louis Riddick was blunt on the matter, saying on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike that "Savage is a better passer and a better natural quarterback than Osweiler will ever be."

He's been thrown into the fire immediately, as Houston is in the midst of a tight playoff race. The Texans are tied atop the AFC South with the Tennessee Titans at 8-6, though the Texans won the lone meeting between the teams and hold the tiebreaker. The two clubs will meet in Week 17, potentially with the division and a berth in the postseason on the line.

The Texans can afford to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals since they'll still clinch the division if they beat the Titans in Week 17 thanks to their superior record in the AFC South. But a loss to Cincinnati will only reopen Houston's quarterback controversy, especially if Savage bombs.

In other words, Savage finds himself operating on a short leash with so much at stake. 

        

You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.   

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