Tony Romo seemed like the perfect solution to the Houston Texans’ ongoing quarterback woes. Now he’s putting the NFL behind him to pursue a career in broadcasting, leaving the Texans scrambling for a Plan B.
Bill O’Brien had a reputation as a college coach for quality quarterback development, but that hasn’t carried over to the NFL. Since he was hired by Houston prior to the 2014 season, there’s been a revolving door of quarterbacks. None of them have been particularly successful.
Romo would have been a great fit, and he said during a press conference Tuesday that Houston was tempting.
Romo: "Obviously Houston was at the top of the list of teams I looked at."— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 4, 2017
The most recent quarterback experiment was Brock Osweiler. He signed a three-year, $72 million contract with $37 million guaranteed in 2016. The Texans managed to unloaded him and his massive cap hit onto the Cleveland Browns, via trade, a year later. They had to sweeten the deal with a second-round pick. Now, they’re left with just Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden on the roster.
Hoping for the best with Savage and Weeden isn’t a viable answer, and there’s not a great fit waiting for them in free agency. If the Texans want to upgrade at quarterback, they’re going to have to do it through the draft.
This isn’t the best year to be in dire need of a quarterback. There are a handful of talented prospects with long-term potential, but there’s not a single player who looks like a surefire, immediate solution capable of taking over in Week 1 and carrying the team’s Super Bowl aspirations.
Deshaun Watson will probably not be available
Very few analysts are projecting Watson to the Texans, and for good reason. Watson’s combination of talent, maturity and leadership coupled with the number of teams that need a quarterback that pick before Houston makes it unlikely the former Clemson star will still be available at No. 25.
Watson’s remarkable poise in the pocket and excellent awareness are a good combination of skills for long-term success. His ability to throw on the move would be an asset for the Texans.
One of the bigger knocks on Watson is that he took almost every single snap in college out of the shotgun, so transitioning to taking snaps from under center could be a challenge in terms of timing and execution. That’s a concern that can be overcome with good coaching. Arm strength and accuracy on deep ball are another question surrounding Watson that could be a problem in an offense that likes to throw down the field. Sure-handed receivers like DeAndre Hopkins will help.
If Watson is available, he’s the best option there is in the draft. Like every other quarterback prospect this year, he needs time to develop to succeed at the next level, but he’s got the right combination of skills to have a long, productive NFL career.
Mitchell Trubisky is a good option if he’s available at No. 25
There are concerns about Trubisky’s single season of starting experience, but his 30 touchdowns against six interceptions in his final season at UNC stand out. Trubisky can make plays with his legs, but it was a last resort for him in college. He prioritizes the pass, which makes him a decent fit for O’Brien’s offense.
There’s no guarantee Trubisky will still be available when Houston picks. If he is, he’s probably their next best option after Watson.
Todd McShay projected Trubisky to the Texans in his latest mock draft, though Trubisky to Houston isn’t a popular pick. Under 7 percent of mock drafts have Trubisky going to the Texans.
DeShone Kizer could fit the Texans offense
Mocking the Draft’s Dan Kadar has Houston selecting Kizer in his latest mock. In Kadar’s scenario, both Deshaun Watson and Trubisky are already off the board. He’s been a popular projection for the Texans. Over 18 percent of mock drafts have Kizer headed to Houston.
Kizer can make plays with his legs when necessary (18 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons). He’s also shown he’s comfortable as a pocket passer, and has a big arm that can make all the throws. That’s a good fit for the Texans offense.
He struggled last season with his consistency on his throws from week to week (his completion rate dropped from 62.9 to 58.7 percent between 2015 and 2016). Those struggles got him benched a few times last season.
Kizer is the top quarterback in Mike Mayock’s most recent positional rankings, but his stock may have fallen a bit when his former college coach, Brian Kelly, expressed concerns about his NFL readiness. But Kizer impressed teams at the combine. San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, who holds the second overall pick, said Kizer “blew the doors off” his interview with the team. If teams are really that high on him now, he may not be available at No. 25.
Patrick Mahomes may be the most practical answer
Mock drafts love the idea of Mahomes to Houston. He’s the overwhelming favorite among quarterbacks right now, with 28 percent projecting the Texas Tech product to the Texans.
Mahomes should be available when the Texans pick in the first round. He has some definite flaws in his game, but they’re mostly technique and timing issues. Good coaching can resolve them. It may take Mahomes a little time to grow into his role in the NFL, but the Texans have won the AFC South the past two seasons on the strength of the defense alone, so they could be fine as Mahomes develops, even if they have to start Savage early in the season.
Mahomes has plenty of upside. He showed marked improvement each season at Texas Tech in completion percentage, going from 56.8 percent in 2014 to 65.7 percent in 2016. Last season, he threw for over 5,000 yards, 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He needs to develop to succeed at the next level, but drafting Mahomes would be a perfect opportunity for Bill O’Brien to get back to his quarterback whisperer ways.
There’s also the possibility of trading for a quarterback who’s already in the NFL — hello, Jimmy Garoppolo! However, Houston’s best bet would be starting from scratch with a player they can groom on their own who’s locked into a four-year rookie contract at team friendly prices.