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The Tall Tale of Tom Savage

Savage’s journey to start Week 9 has been the road less traveled.

NFL: Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Destiny shines on Tom Savage’s NFL career again (and again) as rookie sensation Deshaun Watson exits stage right. Like a 6th grade boy talking to girls for the first time, Savage has flirted with the starting role but has never taken the next step. Brief stints as QB1 have been derailed due to several injuries and poor performances. His career has not been a direct path to success. Savage has watched as Bill O’Brien has brought in quarterback after quarterback to assume the starting role over him. Everyone from Ryan Mallett to Ryan Fitzpatrick to (NAME REDACTED) have suited up in favor of Tom Savage.

Savage, however, is used to taking the road less traveled. His college career is a testament to his desire to play and succeed at any level.

Recruited by then-Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano (current DC of Ohio State, once head coach of Tampa Bay Buccaneers) Savage left high school early to begin learning the system at Rutgers. He was given the reigns Week 2 of his freshman year. Savage then took a middling program to a 9-4 record with a St. Petersburg Bowl victory. He was awarded Freshman All-American honors and seemed to be on a trajectory for greatness.

A big arm has defined Savage as a quaterback, but injuries have plauged it. His 2010 season began with a hand injury and resulted in him losing the starting job. His freshman year performance was too impressive for him to sit behind a lesser quarterback, so he left Rutgers to pursue the starting role at Arizona under Mike Stoops’ offense.

His time in Tucson did not last long. Once Stoops left to coach under his father Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, Savage immediately departed although he noted other reasons for his second transfers. “This is a personal decision about my family and was not influenced by Coach Rodriguez or his style of play,” Tom Savage said regarding the choice to leave Arizona.

At this point in Savage’s career, he was directionless and without a scholarship. 2011 was a football black hole for Tom. He began working for his father and performing construction jobs while he waited to walk on at Pittsburg. He almost quit football while struggling to learn the system. November 13, 2010 to September 2, 2013. 1,024 days without playing a down of football.

Remarkably on his fifth year in college and third university, Tom’s resumed his impressive play under center. Even though the 2013 Panthers team went 7-6, Savage threw for almost 3,000 yards and 21 TDs.

Bill O’Brien selected Savage late in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft to be the heir apparent to his complex offense. His first opportunity his rookie year came when Ryan Fitzpatrick broke his leg against the Colts on a QB scramble. As quickly as an injury gave Savage the starting position, an injury took it away. Savage hurt his knee at the end of the game and was done for the season. His sole rookie performance resulted in 10-of-19 completions, 127 yards, and one interception.

A shoulder injury in the preseason then sidelined him the entire 2015 season. If healthy, Savage would have had another opportunity to start as Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, and T. J. Yates all had injuries.

The 2016 offseason began with the Texans signing (NAME REDACTED). Forever the clipboard holder and never the starter, it was assumed that Savage would be the perennial backup. Then the 2016 season commenced and the most mediocre exhibition of offensive football I have ever witnessed thrust Savage into his next chance to play for the Texans.

When Savage replaced (NAME REDACTED), he brought the team back from a 13-0 deficit to win 21-20. Even though he didn’t throw a touchdown, the offense looked much better with him at the helm. He completed 23-of-26 passes for 260 yards and invited receiver DeAndre Hopkins back into the offense with eight receptions and 87 yards.

Savage started the next two games. He beat Cincinnati 12-10 in a dearth of offense. Then, Week 17 against the Jags, he left the game with a concussion. (NAME REDACTED) came in relief and won the game. Even with the playoff run, (NAME REDACTED) was traded this offseason to Cleveland. My temples hurt from having to mention (NAME REDACTED) so much. Ugh, I did it again.

It was finally Tom Savage’s unadulterated moment to lead the team. No competition. No free agent QB. No drafted..... yeah this guy never will have it easy.

From the beginning Savage was slated to be the Week 1 starter. He ran most of the first team reps in the offseason He ran out with the offense to start the preseason. He ran out with the offense to start Week 1 of the regular season. He did not run out with the offense to start the second half on Week 1. His QBR of 7.8 is all that needs to be said about his performance. The Deshaun Watson era began and Savage was back on the sideline watching the glory that was the Texans offense.

Now Watson is done for the season with a non-contact ACL tear. What we saw in Watson was more than any of us could had predicted. He led the NFL in touchdowns with 19. His brilliance was taken for us and will be shelved until next season. I am still upset and will be until Savage can demonstrate the talents that are deserving of the starting role.

“You get another shot at this thing, and not too many guys get a second chance like that,” Savage said in an interview after Deshaun Watson’s injury.

Savage knows the offense. Savage knows second chances. This is his chance. This is now his offense (again). What he can make of this moment will define his career in the NFL. This team can end anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6. Most people predict the former as the end result of the season. Who knows.

Having Will Fuller will help since he was injured Week 1. The Texans play the Colts this Sunday. Savage’s lack of mobility behind our miserable offensive line may condemn him to a poor performance. Or maybe he shines in the moment, unleashes his arm talent and shows why he was named the starter this season. It may be the most fortunate opponent to face since the Colts have one of the worst secondaries in the NFL.

Savage’s story in the NFL is not fully written, but his journey to this moment is one to appreciate.