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BRB Group Think: The Watson-Savage Debate (Part II)

The Tom Savage versus Deshaun Watson conversation begins again.

New England Patriots v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Tom Savage was Brian Hoyer’d by Bill O’Brien after the first half of Week’s One loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Deshaun Watson played the second half. Now Watson is starting Week Two and Savage returns to the backup role, a role he’s used to at this point in his career. With this change to the quarterback situation in the infancy of the season, the masthead joins together to give their thoughts on who should be the starting quarterback in Houston.


The Texans have needed a QB for several years now, and they traded a ton of draft capital to obtain Deshaun Watson. For me, it's not even a matter that he should be starting, and it never has been from the moment he was drafted. We really know what we have in Tom Savage, an Osweilerian clone, and every first team snap during OTAs and camp and the preseason handed to Savage was an immense waste of time and reps.

There's a considerable amount of push back from a couple of prominent Texans voices, though I'm not going to re-hash their arguments here, but I am going to address what I see are the biggest concerns.

1. David Carr! - At one time, I thought the "But David Carr" argument was valid, but I've shifted some on this. Part of the reason for this change is that, according to several people I've talked to, Carr wasn't all that interested in playing football. He went through the motions, but it wasn't a passion. In addition, Carr wasn't a very good prospect, something Charley Casserly never understood (like football in general).

But really, though, the argument is that a poor offensive line hinders QB growth. This statement is mostly true, but there are many QB prospects who did poorly behind good offensive lines, and then there are the Russell Wilsons and Andrew Lucks who were still successful behind crappy offensive lines. It happens.

Yes, I'd prefer we had the 2011 version of the offensive line out there in front of Watson, but when's that going to change? We don't pick until the 3rd round in 2018, and because offensive linemen are so expensive in free agency, it's not likely we could address more than one position. Will it be safe for him to play in 2019? Do we keep Watson in bubble wrap until then? Which leads me to...

2. Watson will get killed out there! - I find this argument especially poor. First, what do you think is going to happen to Savage? Savage's injury history is not good, and he's a statue in the backfield, so it's a matter of time before that issue arises, regardless.

Plus, Watson is far more likely to survive the offensive line sieve than is Savage.

3. Watson isn't ready! - Neither is Tom Savage, who has proven to me, beyond any doubt, he will never be better than a backup QB. There's no upside with Savage.

Yes, we would be better off with an offensive line that wasn't a pile of hot, wet, dripping trash, but that's not where we're at. What I strongly disagree with is getting a new toy, but not allowing anybody to play with it because it's suddenly a museum piece.

Deshaun Watson is a grown man who has decided to play QB in the NFL, a position fraught with risk. As Spencer Tillman would say, Watson has made this decision with intention. We can't keep Watson on the bench to protect him forever, and with our window of opportunity rapidly closing before a probable regime change, the time to start him is now.

Luke Beggs:

/rant incoming

Bill O'Brien is quite terrible and the offense he's constructed is equally terrible. He's not going to completely hand over control of the offense to an outsider or someone with a different offensive system right in the middle of a season, because that would essentially be admitting gross negligence on his part, something that wouldn't make sense unless he wants to get fired. So we're stuck in a nasty quagmire where BOB can't admit he's wrong and the talent isn't good enough to overcome the horrors of the offensive system.

So unless BOB magically fixes everything (I'm guessing that's extremely unlikely), the impact of each individual starting QB is going to be negligible, which is hilarious considering how often the importance of a QB is touted. We've somehow managed to render the position as a whole useless.

Starting Deshaun Watson is probably the right thing to do, purely from the point of future development, but who knows how he'll handle a season getting the snot knocked out of him and having his confidence ruined?


Boy, that felt good. I've been saving that since Sunday.

Rivers McCown:

I don't necessarily buy that Savage is worse than Watson right now. I do believe that the situation the Texans currently have—no receivers, no offensive line, and a bad system that doesn't deal with pressure well—amplifies all of Savage's flaws.

And when you throw in that this team is going nowhere without a run game and that Watson helps bring that to fruition, I can't see a reason not to start Watson beyond development. Frankly, I don't trust O'Brien to develop anyone right now. Might as well be the field.

Diehard Chris:

To me, this is not about Savage versus Watson.

This is about a coach who—if he actually is going to start Watson—wasted an ENTIRE OFFSEASON by not having the rookie get any meaningful time with the starting offense. But let's apply the proper context to that statement. If O’Brien goes with Watson, he's made that decision based on:

1. One half of a football game with Savage behind the absolute worst offensive line performance I've ever seen.

2. One half of a football game with Watson, who was only slightly better than Savage, likely due to Jacksonville not being prepared for him, and also with the worst offensive line performance I've ever seen.

3. All of this is significantly exacerbated by the fact that Watson isn't the same kind of QB as Savage. Watson doesn't have the same strengths/weaknesses as Savage.

4. All of this is even more exacerbated by the fact that the entire offseason offensive program was built around said strengths/weaknesses/strategies of a Savage-led Texans offense.

It is absolutely mind-boggling and completely indefensible. I'd rather see Watson start if he had been the starter during the offseason as he should have been. Now? They're just going to get him killed.

Mike Bullock:

What Diehard Chris said... with more (!!!) and [KITTEN!!].

Capt Ron:

The Texans need to start Deshaun Watson. They should have always planned to start Watson immediately after drafting him. With the draft capital invested to get Watson on the roster, it was clear that he would be the future franchise quarterback of the Houston Texans. Delaying this inevitability by sitting the rookie while he gets up to speed is flawed logic in today's NFL; I'll cover that point here shortly.*

It's not like Tom Savage has a ton of game reps or success on record to provide any support to a debate that his experience would be more meaningful and justify him as the starter. Any argument that Savage has been in this complex system longer and can operate it better only serves to point out that Bill O'Brien has installed an overly-complex, tremendously underperforming, cluster-kitten of a scheme. Bob McNair would have been better served in ejecting the obviously incompatible and dysfunctional pair of Rick Smith and Bill O'Brien at the end of last season and exerting the full compliment of resources at his disposal ($$$) to get new leadership to Houston. O'Brien should be gone. His offense is an absolute joke that few players, including ten (10!!) QBs, have been able to execute effectively, and so far nobody (including him) can direct play calls proficiently through a live game. Smith should be jettisoned for the endless malpractice (draft and free agency) he has conducted with personnel groups like the offensive line and defensive backs.

I would submit that Kyle Shanahan would have been a perfect hire before he elected to go to the 49ers, as he is arguably one of the brightest offensive coaches in the league. What about hiring an experienced senior leader to right this ship? You know, the way Jacksonville did by hiring Tom Coughlin as EVP of football operations, which by all accounts has transformed that dumpster fire on the St. John’s River into a horde of fierce, physical, intense warriors of destruction. But I digress.

*Time. Time is the reason teams can't sit rookie signal-callers and "hope" they develop the way NFL teams could do in years past. Thanks to the latest CBA, which greatly reduced the amount of time teams can hold practice, it is nearly impossible for anyone to give non-starters enough reps to develop. The starting QB is going to get the majority of reps to prepare for each game, which means there are not enough useful reps for the backups, especially any that would be meaningful enough to develop a rookie into a competent starter. The NCAA and NFL continue to drift further apart with respect to offensive schemes, which means fewer and fewer QBs are "NFL-ready" when they do go pro. Therefore it is essential to get them as many reps as possible as soon as possible.

O'Brien essentially threw away what valuable prep time he had in camp and preseason to prepare Deshaun Watson for the inevitable, and now the kid is going to literally get a crash course in transitioning to become a starting NFL QB.


//drink again!

Matt Weston:

Party like it's 2015 all over again, baby!

Remember that Chiefs game? When Brian Hoyer was benched for Ryan Mallett? We are back to living in that same situation. The difference is this time, the other option isn't someone who throw hard and shoots a pencil to the moon like a rocket ship in his free time. This time it's Deshaun Watson, a talented quarterback with draft pedigree.

I don't think this situation is going to end. It's going to be fluid. Both of these quarterbacks will probably play back and forth. I do think that Watson has to start this week. He gives Houston the best chance to win. Savage is a stone in the bottom of the lake back there. Cincy has a fairly good pass rush with just their front four, and even the meekest of rushes could generate pressure against this offensive line. Whatever the combination is, the Texans need the quarterback with the feet, speed, and pocket maneuvering to start this game. Watson is that guy. Hopefully O'Brien is able to quickly scrap an offense together that matches his skills.

Personally, I want to see Watson for the entire season. We know what Savage is--bad. At least with Watson there is upside and the ability for him to learn how to play NFL football immediately, rather than sit and watch Savage lock on his first read and wait for his first receiver to get open until the pass rush devours him.