Brock Osweiler’s final possession of the 2016 season ended the same way his first did: with an interception. It was his third, Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, and it sealed the Texans 34-16 AFC Divisional Round loss to the New England Patriots.
Osweiler played poorly Saturday as he did for most of his first season with the Texans. He threw for 198 yards on 40 attempts and managed to lead the Texans on just one touchdown drive, which was aided by a short field after a Patriots turnover. He’s a big reason why the Texans offense managed just 27 touchdowns in 18 games this season, but he wasn’t the only reason.
The quarterback was the biggest free agent signing in Texans’ history, but he wasn’t the only investment they made on that side of the ball. Along with Osweiler’s $72 million contract ($37 million guaranteed), the Texans handed Lamar Miller and Jeff Allen $14 million in guaranteed money. Miller played well in 2016, Allen did not, and was benched at right guard in favor of Oday Aboushi in Foxboro, and the guys who finished the game next to Aboushi were also not supposed to be there in August.
Second round pick Nick Martin was penciled in to be the Texans center, but an ankle injury cost him the entire season. Jeff Mancz was more than adequate in his place, but another injury proved more costly as right tackle Derek Newton tore both patellar tendons in October, and his replacement, Chris Clark was rated as the league’s worst pass-blocking right tackle by Pro Football Focus.
Martin was part of a youth movement on the offensive side of the ball. Along spending lots of money, the Texans spent their first four draft picks on offensive players.
Will Fuller was first, and after a brilliant start, the 20th overall pick out of Notre Dame was a non-factor catching a total of 35 passes over the Texans final 14 games, and didn’t find his way in the end zone after a game-winning punt return in the Texans week four win over Tennessee. He also had a tendency for not catching the football, which was on full display Saturday when he dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball from Osweiler in the end zone.
After Martin, the Texans selected Braxton Miller in the third round, and he caught 15 passes for 99 yards before being placed on injured reserve in December, and fourth round pick Tyler Ervin was supposed to be a big boost to the return game. He wasn’t. Ervin’s longest kick return was 33 yards, and had just two punt return travel more than 20 yards, and he didn’t score once, though he did fumble five times, losing two of them, but those two turnovers pale in comparison to man who took most of the snaps at quarterback.
Including Saturday, Osweiler gave the ball to the opponent 21 times. He threw two fewer touchdowns (17) than interceptions (19), and finished last in yards per attempt during the regular season (5.8) and 29th in quarterback rating (72.2), and that’s where it gets confusing.
In eight games with Denver last season, Osweiler averaged 7.2 yards per attempt and finished with an 86.4 quarterback rating. How did it get so bad in 2016 with a Texans staff that figured out how to move the football consistently while trotting the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden at quarterback?
Bill O’Brien reiterated Saturday night that he’d return in 2017, and acknowledged the offense simply wasn’t good enough. He’s got six months to figure out what went wrong in 2016 and how to fix it moving forward. There’s no question that Osweiler was a big part of the problem, but he wasn’t the only part.