Tom Savage or DeShaun Watson? That’s the question Houston Texans fans will ask each other over the next few months. On Tuesday we got a clue as to the Texans’ thinking, as veteran reporter John McClain said Savage would get the nod barring a catastrophe:
Given Houston’s current roster and what they gave up to get Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft, conventional wisdom would suggest starting the rookie. But that would absolutely be the wrong move.
Watson was the most NFL-ready of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft, but that’s not saying much. The Texans only need competence at quarterback right now to win the AFC South. Heck, they won it in 2016 despite an absolute mess at the position. If Bill O'Brien and company can bring Watson along slowly by giving Savage the job, they should do that at all costs. Savage should be serviceable enough to win games given the loaded roster that will surround him.
The trade up and selection of Watson was a move for the next 10 years, not one to serve short-term interests. Houston’s offense ranked 29th in the NFL with Brock Osweiler at quarterback last season. But in limited appearances, Savage outplayed Osweiler by every metric. If he can just be an effective game-manager, the Texans could compete in the AFC thanks to the NFL’s top defense. Houston’s defense allowed just 301.3 yards per game in 2016 and appears poised to be among the league’s best units again in 2017. Especially with J.J. Watt due back after missing all but three games last year.
Obviously the key for the Texans will come on offense. But with Lamar Miller at running back, DeAndre Hopkins, and developing game-breaker Will Fuller at receiver and a solid offensive line, there is hope in Houston. Throwing Watson into the fire could fundamentally ruin his progress if he faces adversity early.
Obviously Savage is not the long-term answer for the Texans. Watson will be the quarterback of the future. But there is no need to rush his development, especially given the relative strength of the rest of the team’s roster. Even if they shift to Watson at mid-season, at least it will give him extra time to sit, learn and get used to the speed of the NFL game.
Expect Savage to be under center when Houston hosts Jacksonville to open the 2017 season.