A Cleveland Browns staple is the infamous jersey of sadness that has the long list of quarterbacks who started for the team since 1999 (it would be 27 now if you include DeShone Kizer). It’s hard to imagine that any team could be more desperate for stability under center, or could have started more quarterbacks during any span in that period.
However, since Bill O’Brien became the head coach of the Texans in 2014, his team has taken that crown. The Browns have had eight different starting quarterbacks in that timeframe. Deshaun Watson will make it nine quarterbacks for the Texans when he starts Thursday night against the Bengals.
Here are the QBs the Browns and Texans have started since 2014
|Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum
|Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw
|Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden
|Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, Austin Davis
|Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage
|Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler
|Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson
That’s quite the bad crop for both teams. In those three seasons, the Browns are 11-37, whereas the Texans are 27-21. The Texans have had the benefit of playing in the AFC South and complementing those mediocre quarterbacks with good defenses, while the Browns have been the Browns.
Deshaun Watson could be the guy to snap that bad streak of QBs.
The Texans traded up to No. 12 overall to draft Watson this offseason, after he led Clemson to its first national championship since 1981. He was a stud in college, and it’s why he was Dan Kadar’s No. 1 quarterback in the 2017 draft:
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better big-game player in the draft this year than Watson. He picked apart the vaunted Alabama defense two straight years, and Nick Saban called him the best player in college football since Cam Newton. Watson is a stellar athlete for a quarterback and moves around the pocket with ease. Sometimes he relies on his athleticism too much, and he won’t be able to run as much in the NFL, but it’s an effective tool in his bag. And he knows how to protect himself.
As a passer he has an easy delivery and just throws a good, catchable ball. He tends to stare down his target, though, and it can get him in trouble. His 32 interceptions at Clemson are concerning. His downfield accuracy is just average, and he doesn’t attack the middle of the field a lot.
Thursday will be a test, but be patient with Watson.
Watson has shown throughout his career that he can compete with the best that’s in front of him, and improve upon it. My colleague Alex Kirshner reminded us of such after Week 1, when arguing he should be starting:
Watson was the best player in Clemson history, and he almost destroyed the Alabama Death Star in 2015’s national title game before he finished that job in a rematch a year later. Not only was a bad word never spoken about Watson. His teammates advocated for him relentlessly, and his head coach said that passing on him would be akin to passing on Michael Jordan.
Tom Savage has only had three career starts, including Week 1’s game against the Jaguars when he was pulled for Watson at halftime. O’Brien has had a quick trigger with quarterbacks in Houston, despite previously being heralded as a quarterback whisperer.
O’Brien has gotten just enough out of his bottom-tier quarterbacks in Houston, but he hasn’t had anyone who could be a game-changer. Watson could be that guy.
It’s safe to say Deshaun Watson is the most talented QB O’Brien has ever had as a HC. Tonight he gets the chance to change this QB history pic.twitter.com/u1fRJDnhpg— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) September 14, 2017
When Watson came in relief for Savage, he led the Texans to a touchdown on his first drive. He finished the game 12-of-23 passing with 102 yards, with one touchdown against one interception. He was sacked just four times, compared to Savage’s six. Watson also had a pair of rushes for 16 yards.
The Texans aren’t exactly lacking weapons, not when they have DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best receivers in the NFL, lining up for them. They also have one of the best defenses in the NFL, with studs like J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney anchoring the line.
O’Brien’s decided that he wants to get Watson accustomed to the NFL game sooner rather than later, with hopes to win an AFC South that’s looking more competitive than it has in years. It’s a better option than watching Savage, or other quarterbacks waste the primes of players like Hopkins and Watt.
And it could finally end the quarterback carousel in Houston.