After Brock Osweiler, who has posted a pathetic 71.4 passer rating in 2016, threw two horrific interceptions in the first half of play against the Jaguars last Sunday, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien decided it was time to make a swap under center, as Jacksonville had cashed in 10 points off of turnovers and led by a score of 13-0 in the second quarter.
“Feel like Tom Savage gives us the best chance to win,” O’Brien said, according to the Texans’ Twitter feed. “We will see what he can do for us Saturday against the Bengals.”
Due to Osweiler’s inability to effectively move and protect the football, Houston’s passing game, which is ranked 30th in the NFL, became a major liability and the Texans had to lean heavily on their ground game in order to stay competitive in games. While their run game wound up being a strong suit, and is ranked fifth in the league, Houston’s struggles at the quarterback position were making games a lot closer than they needed to be – if the Texans could pull away.
All of a sudden, Tom Savage, who will make his first career start on Saturday night against the Bengals, entered the picture, as Houston knew he couldn’t be any worse than Osweiler. Once Savage trotted on the field, cries of pure joy raided NRG Stadium, as loyal fans that had to endure watching Osweiler consistently underperform finally saw their wishes come true. Even Osweiler, who is in a painfully similar situation as last season, wasn’t surprised to get pulled from the starting lineup.
“I completely understand why coach [O’Brien] did what he did,” Osweiler said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “I’ve been down this road before. It didn’t surprise me. When it happened to me prior, obviously with a different team and a different season, it was to spark the team, and sometimes that’s what it takes.”
In less than three quarters of play, Savage completed 23 of his 36 passes for 260 yards, which almost eclipsed Osweiler’s season-high performance of 269 yards passing in a full game. On his first pass attempt, Savage immediately showed some promise by delivering the football right down the sideline, dropping a 32-yard dime to Wendall Williams. Most importantly, Savage didn’t turn the ball over.
Against a strong Jacksonville secondary, Savage displayed great poise and showed he was capable of making Houston’s offense much more dynamic than it had previously been. He made plenty of throws downfield and was able to get the chains moving for the Texans while giving Lamar Miller a break. Savage was able to help complete the Texans’ furious comeback by engineering a game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, which wound up being Houston’s only offensive touchdown of the game.
Savage was everything Houston hoped Osweiler would be when they signed him to a $72 million contact this offseason – competent and composed in the pocket. Houston would’ve suffered an embarrassing loss at home had Savage not stepped up. Now, with no room for error in a surprisingly competitive AFC South race, Savage has the chance to punch Houston’s ticket to the postseason, as the Texans can clinch the division with a win and a Titans loss on Saturday.
A quarterback’s salary doesn’t, and shouldn’t, dictate playing time. The quarterback must deliver in order to see the field. Houston’s owner, Bob McNair, who is paying Osweiler a fortune, knows O’Brien did what was best for the team.
“I’m just glad I wasn’t the one that had to make that decision,” McNair said after Sunday’s game, according to the Chronicle. “I mean, that was a gutsy call. Give coach credit, he made a change and it was for the good of the team. We benefited from it. Now we have three good quarterbacks and we are proud of all of them.”
Texans fans now have someone to applaud at the league’s most important position, and as a result, Houston should run away with the division and may be able to make noise in the playoffs. If nothing else, at least Savage isn’t Osweiler, which is the main reason the Texans rightfully chose to make a no-brainer decision to start Savage with a division crown on the line in the next two weeks.
“It’s a great opportunity to go out there and kind of show what I can do,” Savage said Wednesday as the Texans returned to practice. “I got to execute what I need to do. I’m going to have some fun doing it and go rip it.”