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Texans don’t know what the heck they’re doing with quarterbacks

Brock Osweiler is the latest example of a Week 1 starter who didn’t pan out for Bill O’Brien.

After yet another rough outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, the Houston Texans finally benched quarterback Brock Osweiler in favor of backup Tom Savage. Osweiler finished the day only completing 6 of 11 attempted passes for 48 yards and two interceptions before Bill O’Brien made the switch in the second quarter.

Osweiler is under contract with the Houston Texans for the next two games, and the following three seasons. That commitment came with a $72 million contract, with a whopping $37 million guaranteed. It’s not panning out for Houston, and Osweiler is just the latest example of the Texans and Bill O’Brien not being able to figure out the quarterback position.

The hope was that Osweiler would bring stability at quarterback after Houston has essentially had a revolving door at the position for the past few seasons. In 2015, the Texans started a combination of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden. The 2014 season — O’Brien’s first season as head coach — featured a combination of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mallett, and Case Keenum.

Since 2013, the Texans have started nine different quarterbacks. Only one other team has done that over that span, and it probably won’t surprise you to learn that it was the Cleveland Browns, who actually rolled with Hoyer and Weeden for a time, too.

In O’Brien’s time in Houston, the team has had eight different starting quarterbacks, and six in the last two seasons:


Year Quarterback Started Done
Year Quarterback Started Done
2014 Ryan Fitzpatrick Week 1 Benched Week 11
2014 Ryan Mallett Week 11 Injured Week 12
2014 Ryan Fitzpatrick Week 12 Injured Week 15
2014 Case Keenum Week 16 Finished season
2015 Brian Hoyer Week 1 Benched Week 1
2015 Ryan Mallett Week 2 Injured Week 5, cut Week 7
2015 Brian Hoyer Week 6 Injured Week 10
2015 T.J. Yates Week 11 Injured Week 11
2015 Brian Hoyer Week 12 Injured Week 14
2015 Brandon Weeden Week 15 Benched Week 16
2015 Brian Hoyer Week 17 Finished season
2016 Brock Osweiler Week 1 Benched Week 15
2016 Tom Savage Week 16 Starting Week 16

In 2014, O’Brien named Fitzpatrick the starter prior to the season, and he stuck with Fitzpatrick until Week 11. Fitzpatrick was replaced by Mallett, who tore his pectoral muscle, giving Fitzpatrick another shot as the starter. The Texans didn’t see the long-term potential of Fitzpatrick, though, and traded him to the New York Jets following the season.

Prior to the 2015 season, O’Brien named Hoyer the starter. Hoyer was benched during the Texans’ Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, so O’Brien’s confidence in Hoyer as the starter didn’t last long.

Hoyer was replaced by Mallett, and got another shot in Week 5 after consistently ineffective play from Mallett, who was later released for missing a team flight. Hoyer was then injured, and Yates got his turn at quarterback, but tore his ACL in a Week 15 win over the Colts.

Weeden even got his moment in the sun with Yates and Hoyer both sidelined with injuries, and started Weeks 15 and 16. Hoyer was back for the final week of the season, and the Texans moved on from him after he laid an egg in their 30-0 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

This season, with Osweiler behind center, the Texans are in the driver’s seat in the AFC South, but the offense ranks near the bottom of the league in pretty much every relevant statistical category. Houston is ranked No. 30 out of 32 teams for passing yards per game, and the Texans are only averaging 17.9 points per game, which places them 28th in the league.

Among qualified quarterbacks, Osweiler is at or near the bottom in nearly every major category, including completion percentage (59.6), interceptions (16), yards per attempt (5.75) and QB rating (71.4). Despite Osweiler’s inadequate numbers, O’Brien said he didn’t make decisions on who to start based on a player’s paycheck. Yet, it was only a matter of time before he was forced to switch to yet another starting quarterback.

* * *

It remains to be seen if the Texans’ quarterback woes will be resolved, or at least diminished, with Savage as the starter. He has only appeared in three games in his career and will get his first start this week.

O’Brien handpicked Savage after recruiting him out of high school when O’Brien was the head coach at Penn State. Savage ended up at Rutgers and transferred to Pitt, but he was still the target for the Texans in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft.

Savage played in two games for Houston during the 2014 season, throwing for 127 yards and one pick. He spent the 2015 season on injured reserve with a severe shoulder sprain, so he has very limited pro experience.

When Savage replaced Osweiler in Week 15 against the Jaguars, he went 23 of 36 for 260 yards and no touchdowns. Still, he did enough to get the win for Houston, and he was able to get DeAndre Hopkins 17 targets, which was a season-high for the dynamic wide receiver.

With Osweiler making $17 million per year on the bench, though, it will be a challenge for Houston to come up with a more permanent solution at the position. O’Brien and the Texans’ recent history with quarterbacks suggests that won’t be the only challenge.