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BRB Group Think: The Watson-Savage Debate

The BRB staff discusses who will start, who should start, and what it feels the Texans’ thought process should be for the QB position in 2017.

NFL: Houston Texans-OTA
Deshaun Watson during Texans’ OTAs, May 2017
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In this week’s BRB Group Think, we tackle the question of Deshaun Watson’s prospects to start in 2017 versus the same prospects for “starter-elect” Tom Savage. Let’s see how the group feels following this week’s close of Mandatory Minicamp.

Mike Bullock:

After watching the “Hoyer/Mallett/No, Hoyer!/Wait... Mallett, Get In There!” debacle, I'm not totally sold on the "Savage is our starter" line being fed by NRG Park. While I want to root for Savage (even if for nothing other than that name alone), his resume and injury history just don't scream "Super Bowl Champion". He does have a cannon arm, quick feet, and the ability to read a defense at a higher reading level than Brock Osweiler did, but at the end of the day I'm not sure he's mobile enough, quick enough, or savvy enough to survive behind the patchwork Houston offensive line.

With Watson, you have the balance of "45 mph pass/quickest release this side of Aaron Rodgers" x-factor, the ability to win a game with his legs, and whatever has led him to win at every level so far. While that "born winner" gene doesn't always translate to the pro game, it certainly can't hurt.

In the end, I think Savage comes out on a short leash. If Houston isn't north of .500 by game four, Tom becomes well acquainted with the clipboard and headse, and the Texans find out really fast if two first round picks were well spent or utterly wasted.

Titan Matt Weston, Slanderer of Blade Runner and a Huge Fan of the Texas Rangers:

I have no faith in Savage being a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. He was an older fourth round pick. The coaches repeatedly passed on giving him chances to start. Brock Osweiler was the worst quarterback in the NFL for nearly the entire season before he was benched for Savage. The Texans went with Brock in the playoffs. Savage has been in the same system for four years and still holds onto the ball forever. He was bad last year when he played, and there's nothing that points to anything being any different when he plays again.

Before the 2017 NFL Draft, I felt that Deshaun Watson was currently the best quarterback of the rookie class. At the moment, he was the best quarterback, using pocket presence, accuracy, and anticipation to be a successful in college. The biggest problem for him is arm strength. I think Watson should be better than Savage right now. The one thing he needs to figure out are the throws he can and can't make based on good the coverage is. Once he catches up to the speed of the game and understands his own limitations, Watson will be the best quarterback available for Houston.

Once Watson learns this, he should start. How long is this going to take? I don't know. If I had to guess Savage will be terrible to start the year, get yanked out quickly Brian Hoyer style, and then Watson will get tossed out there regardless of how ready he is. My guess is Savage plays two games and Watson comes in for the rest.

Luke Beggs:

I think it will be quite difficult for Savage to sustain any period of starts. Whether it be via injury or poor form, I think the ghost of Deshaun Watson will loom too large and will be too enticing to not want to start at some point.

The song remains the same regarding the Texans’ QB situation. Everyone is in this Savage limbo because the two and a bit games’ worth of tape that we have on him are not enough to completely condemn him as a lost case yet don't show anything near enough to believe that he could be in anyway a sustainable option for the future.

I think this is a Brian Hoyer/Ryan Mallet situation all over again. Savage is going to get pulled after the second game before getting yanked out for Watson, who then plays about six games and suffers an injury that places him on the IR for the rest of the season, returning the QB throne to the House of Savage.

Capt. Ron:

I have attended Texans' practices, and I have seen Tom Savage throw many passes. His throwing velocity and accuracy are damn impressive, but that is during "practice" conditions. Many in the media will attest to him looking like the best QB on the roster during training camp the last couple of years, yet he has been passed over for other signal-callers to start under center. I think the coaches recognize that while Savage looks great in practice, something changes in live games. The most obvious issue is that he holds the ball too long and eventually gets injured as a result.

What I "think" will happen is that the Texans will march forward with the failed concept that a rookie QB needs to sit and learn, and they'll start the year with Savage. After several games of under-performing, they'll replace him with Watson. My guess, after looking at the schedule, is Watson will start Week Four at home against the Titans.

What "should" happen is that the coaching staff recognize the fallacy of sitting a rookie QB and invest as much time as possible in getting Watson ready to be the starter.

Here's why:

1. In contrast to the past, the current CBA puts huge limitations on practice time. This has greatly affected the previous model of sitting a rookie QB to develop him slowly because there are now so few reps available for the team. Most of those reps will be focused on the starters to prepare for the next game, which leaves very little opportunity for non-starters to get the valuable experience they need to develop. The best way to get a rookie QB developed these days is to give him as many reps as possible. That means ideally, rookies need to be declared starters as early as possible in camp, well before the regular season starts.

2. Houston invested a tremendous amount in drafting Watson. It's an eventuality that he will be the franchise QB for this team. It's not "if" but "when" he'll take the reigns.

3. It would be better to put all the chips in on Watson as early as possible to get him truly ready instead of limiting his reps as a backup and then hoping he can make the leap when called into action. He has a much better chance of early success if given all the starting reps.


In my perfect world, where tacos and sushi are fed to me and the beer is always cold and anything but Curs Light, Tom Savage wouldn't get a single first team rep.

You see, we know what we have in Savage, and there's not a single reason to invest another snap in his long term future with the team. While he has the physical attributes to be an NFL starter, he doesn't process the game quickly enough.

DeShaun Watson is the future at QB. Every snap with the second team is a potential pass that isn't to DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller or, hopefully, Jeremy Maclin. This is a big deal. We've already put a massive down payment on this vehicle, so there's absolutely no reason to let it rust in the driveway.


I have to believe that Watson will get enough starts this season because this is a contract year for Savage, and the front office will need to know whether they can safely move on from Savage or whether he needs to be kept around another season. I know that Savage has his supporters among the fan base, but I'd like to think the team drafted a quarterback in the first round for a reason and gave up draft picks to get their guy and, therefore, is eager to see him play as soon as he's deemed ready.

I cannot pinpoint a game that makes OB sit Tom and play Deshaun. That's partly because OB is a proud man and may want to make that decision free from perceived fan and media pressure. I do believe that Deshaun will start at least half the games for the team, though, simply because Tom will be ineffectual or suffer yet another injury.

Do you have similar thoughts, BRB? Feel free to comment below and let us know how you think things will shake out with the (inevitable?) starting QB controversy.