With Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage becoming Bill O’Brien’s next project at quarterback, Anson from SB Nation’s resident Pitt Panthers blog, Cardiac Hill, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the newest Houston Texan.
1. What was the general perception of Savage's mental makeup while playing at Pitt? Did he handle pressure well? Was he tough? Was he a good decision maker?
Playing behind the offensive line that Tom Savage did last year, he certainly had to be mentally tough and handle pressure well. Nothing against Pitt's linemen, but while they played well at times, they often struggled - and that led to a gaggle of sacks. Savage was forced to bounce back time after time and hang in the pocket to make throws. Everyone talks about his prototypical body and strong arm, but his toughness is really up there as one of his primary qualities. I came away very impressed with how much of a beating he took and wanting to remain in games, etc. There were a few times where he looked a little gun-shy, but overall, he hung in there well.
The decision-making was a little more sketchy. Savage wasn't bad, mind you, but there were several questionable interceptions. Some of those seemed to be on the receivers who may have run the incorrect route, but Savage also had his share of poorly thrown balls that were dropped. He had nine interceptions this season, but as I've said numerous times on our site, that number probably should have been higher.
2. Are you surprised to see Savage was taken all the way at the end of the fourth round?
If you had asked me that question immediately after the season before the Tom Savage hype train left the station, I would have said that seemed about right - probably even a little high. There really wasn't much talk about Savage going very high during the entire season and any pick of him seemed like it would be one based on potential.
With all of the recent projections, though, and even some first-round talk, he seemed to drop farther than expected. I figured Savage would go in the second or third round, but late in the fourth was more of a slide than I assumed would happen.
3. What would you say is Savage's greatest strength? Greatest weakness?
The greatest strength is definitely the arm. Pitt has produced a steady stream of quality wide receivers, but fans were often not able to see the team go deep a lot. Tino Sunseri, and before him, Bill Stull, just weren't incredibly accurate throwing a deep ball, and guys like Jonathan Baldwin and even Devin Street really never were the deep threat they could have been. With Savage in there this season, we got a good look at what Street and freshman Tyler Boyd were capable of and the ability to throw long really stretched the field. Savage has, if nothing else, an NFL arm.
The greatest weakness for me has to be inconsistency. Savage would look great at times (23-33, 424 yards, six touchdowns against Duke, for example) and pretty bad at others. Savage laid some considerable eggs against the likes of Virginia (13-31, 191 yards, two interceptions) and Florida State (15-28, 201 yards, two interceptions), and was lackluster quite a few times. After six interceptions in his first four games, he got better tossing only three over his last nine. Still, he only had three games where he threw for at least 250 yards, and that deep passing game I mentioned earlier seemed to disappear as the season went on.
4. In terms of off the field persona, what was Savage like within the Pitt community?
Savage was widely seen as a leader and he was well-liked. Frankly, a lot of fans were so put off by the last quarterback, Sunseri, that anyone short of Adolf Hitler would have been given their approval. Overall, though, he did what you'd like to see - he took blame when things didn't go well and kept bouncing back despite taking some big hits and not always having a lot of time to throw. I think that most realized that the ups and downs were partially due to the offensive line that really made things difficult for him at times.
5. If you were the general manager of the Texans, would you have taken Tom Savage at pick 135 or either Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarron, or Zach Mettenberger?
I can't say I've seen enough of the other guys, to be honest, whereas I saw Savage every game. I'll say this, though - if I were the casual NFL fan without having seen much of any of them, I'd probably be scratching my head a little. Okay - a lot. Murray, McCarron, and Mettenberger all played well in the SEC and while they had more around them, my preference would probably have leaned towards those three. In particular, I'm really more impressed with Murray and McCarron. All three guys threw for more yards, more touchdowns, and fewer (or in Murray's case, the same amount) of interceptions in the SEC. Savage has a better arm, so that's why we saw him go higher. However, if I'm calling the shots, Savage likely wouldn't have been my pick of those four. I'd have gone with either Murray or McCarron.
I don’t know about any of you, but a Pitt fan saying that he would have preferred Aaron Murray or A.J. McCarron sure raised my eyebrow a bit. If Houston was looking for an immediate starter, I would definitely agree with Anson’s assessment. When comparing all three signal callers as long term developmental options, however, it’s pretty easy to give a lot of bonus points to Savage on arm talent alone. I’ll say this – if Bill O’Brien can turn Matt Freakin’ McGloin into a capable starter, he can probably do the same thing with a human howitzer like Tom Savage.
At least…I hope he can.
Thank you very much to Cardiac Hill for stopping by. Make sure to head on over there for all things Pittsburgh Panthers.