HOUSTON (SPORTSRADIO 610) — Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien changed quarterbacks just 30 minutes into the season, going from Tom Savage to rookie Deshaun Watson in the opener.
But SportsRadio 610 has learned that O’Brien wanted to make the move much earlier.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, O’Brien wanted to promote Watson after his performance in Week 1 of the preseason against the Carolina Panthers, but was talked out of it by general manager Rick Smith.
The source was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
Watson, who led the Texans to a 57-14 rout of the Tennessee Titans Sunday, spent all offseason behind Savage, who was named the starter the night Watson was drafted 12th overall.
But according to the source, when O’Brien approached Smith about his thinking, Smith said he should “give it time,” in part to ensure that Watson wasn’t being rushed.
“(O’Brien) knew what he had a long time ago,” the source said, adding that “it wasn’t a matter of if, but when” Watson would get the nod.
The decision to stick with Savage was collaborative, the source said, and one that O’Brien ultimately agreed to.
In the meantime, O’Brien put in significant time with Watson in training camp to get him ready for when he’d eventually take over.
Watson is the ninth different starting quarterback under O’Brien.
O’Brien and Smith haven’t always agreed about quarterback decisions during his tenure.
Their relationship has been at times been complicated.
Last season, as Brock Osweiler emerged as one of the biggest free agent busts in NFL history, multiple reports suggested that O’Brien had grown frustrated with Smith, and contemplated leaving the job the way his longtime friend and Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone did with the Buffalo Bills.
But according to the source, the dynamic between O’Brien and Smith is now stable.
“I think it’s better than it used to be,” the source said of O’Brien and Smith’s relationship while admitting, “they are very different types of people.”
O’Brien is in the second to last year of the five-year contract he signed in 2014.
Does he want to be in Houston long-term?
“If they win, he stays and everyone works together,” the source said.
Owner Bob McNair defended O’Brien’s handling of his quarterbacks this summer on Sunday.
“I think (O’Brien) did the right thing,” McNair said. “In preseason, they both played well and Savage deserved a shot and he got it. And Watson was patient and waited, and he got his opportunity and he took advantage of it and showed what he can do. It’s great. We’re in a good position and we can go forward from here.”