O’Brien Benches Osweiler and Earns My Respect
People have spent the entire football season talking about a certain quarterback controversy in the state of Texas. The severity of that quarterback controversy depends on who you ask. However, with the events of last week, Dallas is no longer the most interesting city in Texas when it comes to quarterbacks.
The Texans season was at a crossroads on Sunday. Desperately trying to protect a slim division lead, head coach Bill O’Brien pulled starting quarterback Brock Osweiler. Osweiler, who was the Texans hyped free agent signing, scuffled his way to a stat line of six completions on 11 attempts for just 48 yards and two interceptions in just under a half of play. The former Arizona State Sun Devil was making the Jaguars look like the ’85 Bears. If you have watched Jacksonville at all this year, you know how hard that is to do.
Trailing by 13, O’Brien turned to little-known signal caller Tom Savage. The third-year quarterback had never seen game action anywhere close to as meaningful as what he was thrown into. Unfortunately, Savage is not related to late wrestling legend “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Despite that, he still received a roaring ovation from the home fans and was able to lead Houston to a comeback victory that allowed them to stay in the playoff race. Savage was not spectacular, but was certainly clean. He completed 23 of 36 passes for 260 yards. Most importantly, he threw no interceptions.
It is all the little subplots that make this story so interesting. The Texans are no stranger to having a great roster that is held down by poor quarterback play. Osweiler was brought in to correct that. The near seven footer signed a $72 million deal with $37 million guaranteed in the off-season. Osweiler made a name for himself last year when he stabilized the Broncos while Peyton Manning was injured. It is fair to say that the Broncos do not win Super Bowl 50 without Osweiler posting a 5-2 record as a starter and helping them nail down home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Osweiler eventually gave way to a rejuvenated Manning. We all know how that story ended.
Osweiler got the job done in 2015, but did not set the world on fire. In eight games he threw 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. His quarterback rating was a shade over 86. It does not get much more average than that.
Given those numbers, it is easy to see why so many around the league (including the Broncos) balked at paying the kind of money the Texans did for Osweiler. In Denver, Osweiler was asked to manage a franchise for a little while. He is more than capable of doing that. In Houston, he was asked to carry a franchise to glory. It takes a special quarterback to do that. To say it has not worked out for Osweiler in Houston would be an understatement. Struggling to complete half his passes, he sits in the bottom five among qualifying quarterbacks in completion percentage. He has also thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.
Give credit to the rest of the Texans roster for staying in the playoff race with their starting quarterback playing so poorly. Something had to be done on Sunday. O’Brien could see his team’s season slipping away. He deserves a ton of credit for having the stones to turn to his backup quarterback knowing the media firestorm it would create.
O’Brien continued to earn my respect after the comeback victory saying “we don’t make decisions based on how much a guy gets paid.” I wanted to stand up and applaud from my couch. While every NFL organization should operate based solely on what gives the team the best chance to win, it is no secret that not all of them do. The Texans announced Monday that Savage will start Saturday night against the Bengals. It was about this time last year that Osweiler was benched for a legend in Denver. That decision was a key one on Denver’s road to a title. While Savage is by no means a legend, sending Osweiler to the bench again was and is the only chance Houston has to achieve the same result as last year’s Broncos.