By now, you’re quite familiar with what happened at NRG Stadium this past Sunday. After an entire offseason of proclaiming that Tom Savage was “THE GUY,” Bill O’Brien decided to bench his starting quarterback at halftime of the first game of the regular season in favor of rookie Deshaun Watson. Although O’Brien hasn’t confirmed it, all signs point to that benching lasting at least through the beginning of tomorrow night’s game in Cincinnati.
Publicly, Tom Savage has said all the right things over the last few days, expressing his willingness to help the team any way he can. His agent, however, has chosen a different path, taking to the media today to defend his client, reportedly with Savage’s blessing. You can find the entire interview here, but the Chronicle has several excerpts from Neil Schwartz’s exchange with Mike Florio.
"I watched all 31 plays, because that was the extent of what Tom saw in the first half," Schwartz said. "And I can't figure out why he's benching Tom. I went through every single play and I even went one step further. I asked two different NFL personnel people (or) coaches on two separate teams to evaluate and break down the film to see if I was missing something. He went 7 for 13 ... 12 of the 13 balls touched the receiver's hands. The only ball that didn't was the strip-sack fumble that they called incomplete (upon replay). Seven were completions, five were drops.
"If you watch the film and you say 'I see something wrong that deserves to be benched,' I wouldn't be on the phone with you now. The second issue which I heard is he held the ball too long. He didn't hold the ball too long. Every play except for the one that was third and 12 (and) he got sacked was (released in) less than three seconds."
"Tom earned the right to be the starter," Schwartz said. “It wasn't given to him. And he's worked hard every day in training camp and the exhibition season to be the starter – on the field and off the field – to maintain a leadership role. After 31 plays, you bench him? I have an issue."
Perhaps most interesting was Schwartz’s assertion that he got Savage’s permission to go public with his issues concerning O’Brien’s decision.
"I wanted to defend Tom and this was my choice," Schwartz said. "I spoke to Tom and he was OK with it and comfortable. Someone had to defend Tom and I didn't feel the coaching staff defended Tom or defended his performance.”
We’re not breaking new ground with this assessment of Savage’s performance; indeed, many others have said the same things Schwartz has said. Whether you think Savage deserved to get benched or not (I happen to think reasonable minds can legitimately debate that point, given the nightmarish offensive line play and repeated drops by his receivers early against Jacksonville), I imagine everyone can agree that Bill O’Brien has absolutely butchered the quarterback situation in Houston yet again. Unfortunately, as the Chronicle notes, history says there’s no reason to believe anything will change moving forward when it comes to O’Brien’s management of the quarterbacks on his roster.
Watson will become the ninth different starting quarterback in O'Brien's four seasons as Texans coach. In the 2015 season opener, he benched Brian Hoyer after three quarters for Ryan Mallett. Hoyer returned to the starting role in week 6.
Florio asked Schwartz if he expected a reprise of that QB carousel.
"Getting benched after 31 plays is incredulous to me, so at this point in time, nothing will surprise me," Schwartz said. "I don't have a response because I'm shocked (Savage) got benched after 31 plays."
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