With Brock Osweiler Gone, Larger Questions Loom for the Texans

Will the team re-examine the processes that led to this mistake?

By Nath Pizzolatto March 9, 2017

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Brock Osweiler has been traded to the Cleveland Browns.

I worried that I was too harsh on Brock Osweiler when I wrote in February that "Osweiler was frequently inaccurate, afraid to take chances downfield, and generally played like one of the worst quarterbacks in the league." Apparently, though, the Texans felt similarly, as they pulled off the surprise move of the offseason—getting rid of Osweiler by convincing the Browns to take him in exchange for giving up draft capital. (The final tally: Texans send Osweiler, a 2017 6th-rounder, and a 2018 2nd-rounder to the Browns in return for a 2017 4th-rounder.)

As I mentioned, the Texans couldn’t release Osweiler because his salary was guaranteed, so this was the only way to get him off the books. And it was probably necessary for the team to do so if they intended to contend this year: I mentioned that Tony Romo was an ideal candidate for the Texans, as he’s a proven performer and the team already has a strong supporting cast on offense and an excellent defense. Getting Osweiler’s contract off the salary cap has made it much easier for the team to make a deal for Romo, who currently carries a $24.7 million cap hit. $10.7 million of that is in the form of signing and restructuring bonuses, which the Cowboys will have to eat on their cap if they move Romo. It’s a lot more palatable for the Texans to pay $14.7 million for Tony Romo when they aren’t paying $19 million for Brock Osweiler as well. 

The move was necessary from a team standpoint: Osweiler wasn’t just bad, he was the worst QB in the league to get as many starts as he did by almost any measure. My preferred statistical shorthands are DVOA and DYAR by Football Outsiders, and Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt (shortened at Pro Football Reference as ANY/A). The only thing that saved Osweiler from being the worst quarterback in the league is that Jared Goff came in and played at an all-time bad level for half a season. Osweiler was a negative on the field—when Tom Savage represents an upgrade, that’s a bad sign—and I’m not sure the team or the fans had the patience to sit through an attempt to give him another chance. 

Kudos to the Texans, then, for recognizing their mistake, although the real question is whether or not they will re-examine the processes that led to this mistake. I was baffled at the signing then: The only thing Osweiler had going for him was that he was 5-2 as a starter for a team that won a Super Bowl behind a great defense. His film wasn’t good, his numbers weren’t good, and he eventually got benched for 39-year-old Peyton Manning, who had no physical talent left and essentially willed passes complete through his knowledge of defenses and ability to make pre-snap adjustments.

So what do the Texans do now? Romo seems like the most likely option for the short term; it’s possible they go a different direction, but acquiring him makes the most sense for everyone involved. (The other team rumored to be interested in Romo are the Denver Broncos, and I think with the talent they’ve lost on defense both playing and coaching, the Texans are the better option to make a Super Bowl run.) But Romo turns 37 soon, and the Texans will still need a long-term answer. This might clear the way for them to take a quarterback. Given how league draft boards seem to be shaking out, the most likely option is DeShone Kizer out of Notre Dame. It would be an ideal fit for both parties; Kizer could spend time learning the NFL game behind Romo and Savage, and by the time Romo is done he should be ready to start. 

No matter what they do next, though, the Texans’ offseason just got a lot more interesting. We’ll watch and wait to see how they address the quarterback position going forward.

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