Texans Need To Give Brock The Season; Then Open Up Competition

by MIKE MELTSER, SportsRadio 610

1 – The Texans need to give Brock Osweiler the entire season to start games. This is not the equivalent of saying that Osweiler is playing anywhere near acceptable football right now. He’s not. But, like it or not, the team invested $37M guaranteed in him during the offseason.

Caveat: if Osweiler gets hurt, or starts throwing 2-3 interceptions a game, then you can throw this theory out the window.

No matter the sport, I like when teams have a true process. I don’t believe that it’s realistic to make a significant investment in a QB and then bail 9-10 games in. That type of move would send signals across the NFL that this is a regime that waivers and can’t stick to any decision, particularly at the most important position in the league.

We’ve been told for 2.5 years that Bill O’Brien runs a very complex system. This offense features a bevy of young wide receivers, a new running back, and an inconsistent pass-protecting offensive line.

Those are legitimate explanations for the struggles in the passing attack. It’s difficult to run some of what O’Brien wants without more experienced players. Adding to that problem is the injury issues that have plagued Will Fuller and Braxton Miller so far. In addition, while it’s not a popular view, I don’t see DeAndre Hopkins getting a lot of separation so far this season. I blame 20-30% of his low statistical production on him, with the rest going to Osweiler.

I’ve also been a defender of the Texans offensive line, because it seems that many of our listeners have the misguided notion that this OL is among the worst in the league. It is not. Getting Duane Brown back healthy has been a huge boost, and the run blocking has been much improved in recent weeks. However, Jeff Allen has been a disappointment so far at right guard, and I don’t believe that the coaching staff has a ton of faith in the right side to hold up consistently in pass protection. To some degree, they are scheming to account for the deficiencies in that area.

I also do believe that there is some value in having consistency at quarterback. The Texans haven’t had their starting QB go the distance since 2012. At some point, the organization has to stop spinning the wheel and stick with one player for 16 games.

However, things need to start improving, and fast. Which leads me to…

2 – If Osweiler doesn’t improve, the Texans need to open up the quarterback competition in the offseason.

Caveat: this doesn’t necessarily mean that the team needs to announce anything to the public, with consistent updates to the media throughout the offseason. This is more about having a completely open and frank approach to the starting quarterback position, and viewing Osweiler’s $37M guarantee as more of a sunk cost than some type of albatross that leaves the organization with no choice in the next year.

Right now, you basically can’t find any stats or metrics to say anything positive about this 6-3 football team. Football Outsiders DVOA stat ranks the Texans as the 30th best team in the NFL, with the 31st best offense in the league. Some are trying to figure out if this is the worst 6-3 team of all time.

I’ve seen some defense of Osweiler on social media recently, mainly coming from the standpoint that he hasn’t had a lot of time in Houston, and the fact that he has only started 16 full NFL games. Furthermore, it has been pointed out that O’Brien and offensive coordinator George Godsey have been calling games close to the vest, with a heavy emphasis on the (recently fairly successful) running game.

Here’s what is not defensible: Osweiler is completing 58.6% of his passes, while averaging 5.61 yards per attempt. In a most fundamental explanation, when they pass, NFL offenses are either trying to complete passes efficiently, deep down the field, or some combination of both. There is no offense in the league that is trying to keep things basic, throw short, while also having its QB produce the 5th-worst completion percentage in the league. That’s not sustainable in any way.

Osweiler’s yards per attempt is the worst in the NFL, behind Blake Bortles, Joe Flacco, and Blaine Gabbert.

My expectations weren’t incredibly high entering the 2016 season. I stated on MaD Radio that I expected the offense to go through plenty of growing pains, with a few performances that would leave us fairly pessimistic. I also realize that the Texans are paying Osweiler like a league-average starting QB, not a top 10 QB, as some would have you believe.

However, progress needs to start being made to even see “average” on the horizon. Osweiler is working with a head coach who, for all of his faults, has been pretty good at massaging efficient seasons out of his quarterbacks. The 2014 Texans, with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Savage, Case Keenum (and one Arian Foster throw) combined for 22 TDs against 13 INTs. The much-maligned 2015 group, with Brian Hoyer, faulty alarm clock Mallett, TJ Yates, Brandon Weeden (and one Cecil Shorts throw) combined for 29 TD against only 12 INTs. Through 9 games, Osweiler has thrown 11 TDs against 9 INTs.

My concern is that this organization will bury its head in the sand and proceed with a business-as-usual approach, even if Osweiler doesn’t show major signs of improvement. If this level of play continues, Bob McNair, Rick Smith, and Bill O’Brien need to have an honest conversation in January about Osweiler’s progress, upside, and possible alternatives.

Unfortunately, Osweiler’s $19M cap hit in 2017 most likely prevents the team from making a significant move, i.e. trading for Tony Romo or Jimmy Garoppolo, unless they engage in some very clever salary cap tricks, or gut significant parts of this team. Most likely, any alternative would be taking a real look at Savage throughout offseason workouts, or possibly drafting a quarterback.

To recap: the Texans invested a significant sum of money and time in Osweiler. He needs to start for the rest of the season. But if we don’t see strides being made in the passing game, the organization needs to enter the 2017 offseason with a completely open mind.

More from Mike Meltser
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