The forgotten man in all the discussion about who will be the signal caller for the Houston Texans in 2015 and beyond is the player picked in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft, Tom Savage out of Pittsburgh. Savage is a true pocket passer at 6’4” and 230 pounds. He has the size scouts love and was called a “natural thrower” by NFL network’s Mike Mayock. Mayock went on to praise the pick for the Texans and his overall draft profile can be found here.
"“I think this is a great fit for the Texans. He’s got a hose. His arm is any bit as good as Logan Thomas‘ or Zach Mettenberger‘s. He took a beating at Pitt, but he continued to stand in the pocket. He’s a natural thrower of the football. He’s got all the mechanics, so now it’s all about developing the kid’s ability.” — Mike Mayock"
Savage did himself no favors in college when he bounced around schools. After starting at Rutgers in 2009 he had 2,211 yards with 14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. The numbers weren’t terrible, especially for a freshman but he only complete 52% of his passes. In 2010 he had an injury shortened season which saw a decline in passing accuracy, down to a 51.8% completion rate.
After that season is where things got weird. Savage transferred to Arizona in hopes of playing for then coach Mike Stoops. Due to NCAA rules he had to sit out the 2011 season (odd that a player has to sit out a year when he transfers away from a year to year scholarship, but a coach can rip up a multi-year deal and not miss a day…but that is a whole different article for a whole different day). The coach Savage transferred for was let go and again the NCAA stepped in and said no when Savage wanted to return to Rutgers on a hardship waiver.
So again, Savage packed his bags, moved to a new school and sat. This time he enrolled at Pittsburgh but had to miss the entire 2012 season, again thanks to an outdated NCAA rule. When Savage finally got to play again in 2013 there was obvious improvement in his mechanics. He now completed 61.2% of his throws and was just shy of 3,000 yards. He also had 21 touchdowns to only nine picks.
It’s obvious that the sitting around for two seasons made the young prospect less intriguing to NFL scouts than if he had four straight seasons under center. Still, the quarterback needy Texans took him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft after much speculation they would have picked someone in the earlier rounds to start immediately.
Now drafting a quarterback in round four usually means two things. One, that the team believes the guy has hope of being a real player one day. And two, the player still needs some seasoning before he is ready.
Savage proved the second point to be true as he looked a bit behind the eight ball in his limited appearance in 2014. Completing 10 of his 19 throws (51.9%), Savage managed 127 yards and one interception. This is in no way an indictment of the 24 year old, as the team struggled all year to find consistency, and health, at the most important position.
One belief I have is by not jumping the gun as many thought on a different quarterback, head coach Bill O’Brien most likely believes he can be patient and find the right quarterback, rather than just a starter for now. Perhaps the team decides to pass on Ryan Mallett as the future passer in Houston and rides Ryan Fitzpatrick for one more year. Or maybe they go young and allow Case Keenum to compete with someone else, like Mallett for this coming year.
One thing that cannot be forgotten in it all, is that O’Brien probably had plans in mind when selecting Savage last season. Most likely those plans did not include the young man being thrown to the lions before he was ready. Now we just have to wait and see when O’Brien thinks Tom is ready, and whether or not he can rise to the challenge.