In 2012, the Texans were a team that struggled defensively but they had a Pro Bowl quarterback. Weird how things have changed. He threw for over 4,000 yards with a 22:12 TD:INT ratio. Matt Schaub turned out to be fools gold, as his career hit a brick wall within two seasons after his trip to Hawaii. He was practically kicked out of Houston after multiple “pick 6s” and leading a playoff hopeful team to a 14 game losing streak at the end of 2013.
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It is now two offseasons removed from Matt Schaub‘s complete meltdown, and they still don’t have a viable playoff quarterback despite having a top 5 defensive unit, All-Pro Arian Foster, and soon to be Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans are often criticized for not being able to find their quarterback of the future but how much is the front office to blame for this? Is the heat they take fair or has there been practically zero opportunities to find the quarterback they desperately need if they want to be a true AFC title contender?
Here were the options the Texans passed up since 2013 (but make sure to grab a trash can to throw up in before you read this list) :
2014 Free Agency: Kyle Orton, Josh McCown, Charlie Whitehurst, Michael Vick, Derek Anderson, Mark Sanchez, Shaun Hill, Jason Campbell, Tavaris Jackson, Brandon Weeden, Matt Flynn, Rex Grossman, Josh Freeman, Colt McCoy, Terrelle Pryor, Jimmy Clausen, Brady Quinn, Vince Young, and more.
2014 Draft: Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, Logan Thomas, Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarron, Zach Mettenberger, David Fales, Keith Wenning, Tajh Boyd, and Garrett Gilbert.
2015 Free Agency: Shaun Hill, Tyrod Taylor, Matt Moore, Christian Ponder, Matt Schaub, Colt McCoy, Michael Vick, Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor, Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell, and Tyler Thigpen.
2015 Draft: Garrett Grayson, Sean Mannion, Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley, Trevor Siemian.
That is possibly the worst list I ever seen. Eww.
Where the Texans went wrong was in the 2014 draft. Selecting Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick was the right thing to do. He is a franchise player who was considered the best defensive prospect coming out of college since Mario Williams. Clowney being paired with JJ Watt was too much of a force to pass up, and his health will be an intriguing story to watch on Hard Knocks in a few weeks. However, the rest of the first round was played out perfectly for the Texans to be able to get Clowney and their future starting quarterback.
Bortles flew off the board early, but Johnny Football and Teddy Bridgewater began to slip deeper into the first round than most expected. When the Cleveland Browns traded up to 22nd overall, everyone knew they were going to draft Manziel. This worked out perfectly for the Texans because the teams picking after the Browns all had great starting quarterbacks and weren’t going to be taking Teddy Bridgewater. It looked as if the Texans were going to have Teddy, who was widely considered the number one pick early in draft season, in the second round. Instead, the Seahawks traded the 32nd pick to the Minnesota Vikings just one pick before the Texans were on the clock. Although this is admittedly hindsight analysis, the Texans really needed to trade up a few spots to guarantee that Teddy Bridgewater would be a Texan. Despite playing with well below average wide receivers, without Kyle Rudolph, and without this Adrian Peterson guy, Bridgewater played extremely well for a rookie and has the looks to being a franchise quarterback.
Later in this draft, the Texans decided to pick Tom Savage who has practically no upside and still has done nothing to give any hopes. He was a mediocre starting quarterback in college and just does not possess the skills or presence needed to win a starting quarterback job in the NFL. There were better options later like Zach Mettenberger who provides more upside with his arm strength, albeit with more risk. But who cares about risk when Mettenberger drops to the sixth round. Sixth rounders only give teams valuable minutes on rare occasions, so the LSU Tiger would be worth the gamble. Mettenberger flashed at times last year even in one of the worst environments in the NFL with a lousy line, no running game, and a horrid wide receiving core in Tennessee.
As we can see from the list above, free agency is the last place to find a starting quarterback. All of these players have failed miserably as starters or were unable to win starting roles in the past. Since Peyton Manning signed with the Colts a couple years ago, there has not been a notable free agent quarterback on the market. Teams simply do not let their quarterbacks leave if they have proven they can win. Out of the free agents above, maybe Mark Sanchez or Mike Vick would have been better than Ryan Fitzpatrick but even that is a stretch.
Fitzpatrick turned out to be solid behind the wheel of the Texans offense last year. In 12 games he only threw eight interceptions and gave the Texans a chance to win in almost every game he started in. Fitzpatrick was arguable the best option the Texans had in 2014 with a roster built to be contenders in the AFC South or at a Wild Card. The Texans were only one win away from being in the playoffs last year but that unfortunately put them in a spot that left them zero quarterback options in the next NFL draft.
This offseason was a roller coaster ride. First on the agenda was figuring out what to do with the current quarterback depth chart that consisted of Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, and Thad Lewis. In the end, the front office kept Tom Savage on his rookie contract and got rid of all of the rest. Getting any kind of draft picks out of Keenum and Fitzpatrick was a miracle in itself, so my hat is off to you Rick Smith. Re-signing Ryan Mallet was a no brainer since he had started a couple games last year and has been under Bill O’Brien‘s wing for multiple seasons going back to New England. Then the Texans made a head-scratching move when they signed Brian Hoyer to a more expensive deal than Mallet’s. The idea is that by creating a competition, Mallet will have to work harder, but I don’t think the cap space is worth it.
This past draft was one of the worst draft classes of all time. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota have the makeup to be franchise quarterbacks but the Texans were too far away to even consider making a trade offer to land a top two pick. The Texans only options were to find value in the later rounds. The Texans decided that Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty, and Saun Mannion were not big enough upgrades over Tom Savage or did not have the upside to be drafted in the fifth, fourth, and third round respectively.
In all, the Texans’ front office has only had one chance at finding the franchise quarterback they desperately need since Matt Schaub’s collapse in 2013. They missed out on Teddy Bridgewater when the Vikings out “front officed” (let’s pretend that is a word) in the 2014 draft. If Teddy was a Texan this year, the Texans would be AFC contenders and could make a playoff run. Instead, we have a quarterback competition destined to lead the Texans to another .500 season.