HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – The complexities of the Bill O’Brien offensive scheme has been a narrative that has followed every quarterback that has walked into NRG Stadium hoping to learn its intricacies and nuances towards eventual mastery. Unfortunately after four seasons with O’Brien at the helm and eight quarterbacks with starts in Houston, it’s been a string of barely passing grades for the signal callers learning taking O’Brien Offense 101.
While the Texans have a starting quarterback who knows the system in Tom Savage based solely on his four years as a reserve player in it; Savage is at best the starter ad-interim with the 12th overall selection from the 2017 draft Deshaun Watson in the pipeline. However, with O’Brien’s history of taking his time giving key roles to rookie players he has been adamant that Tom Savage is the starting quarterback and that Watson’s job is to learn.
“We start him with what we call the basic information section of the playbook,” O’Brien said on the second day of rookie mini-camp on Friday. “How do we huddle? Where do you go in the huddle? If the Houston Texans are on this sideline, you’re on this side of the huddle. If you’re on this sideline, you’re on this side of the huddle. I mean, it’s that simple.”
The offense may by simple in theory, but the complexities lie in the terminology and the verbiage which signify protections, routes, and other essential elements of a play call. Collegiate offenses traditionally don’t give quarterbacks much freedom or complex language for them as many spread offense have calls come in from the sidelines through their coaches. Watson, despite having a little more control of their offense at Clemson than most collegiate quarterbacks, knows after a few weeks of immersion that there is a lot to learn.
“It’s like learning Spanish if you don’t know Spanish,” Watson said of the complexities of the O’Brien offense. “You have to flip everything you learned before and turn a page and learn something brand new and make sure you are on the same page with not just the coaches, but your teammates. Telling everyone what to do and doing things that I haven’t done before. It’s going to take time.”
After the draft O’Brien said that he was most impressed with Watson’s recall ability. During Watson’s pre-draft visits O’Brien and the offensive coaches tested Watson’s ability to learn the offense quickly and had him teach the offense back to them. While the is confidence in his ability to learn the offense quickly, it will likely take Watson time and several weeks of immersion in training camp before O’Brien is confident enough to have him start games for the Texans.
“It’s having to repeat it over and over again and then understand what it means, what each part of the play means to everybody in the huddle and then it’s what is the read of this play,” O’Brien said. “It’s just so much information that we throw at these guys, especially the quarterback position. But, as long as you keep plowing ahead and you take it one step at a time and you stick with it, you’ll learn it,”
Alex Del Barrio covers the Houston Texans for Sportsradio610.com and is the color commentator for the Houston Dynamo. He also hosts “ADB and Murph” with Matt Murphy which can be heard on Saturday afternoons 4-7 pm Follow Alex Del Barrio on Twitter: @alexdelbarrio