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Davis Mills At The Halfway Mark: By The Numbers

Is Houston failing forward or just failing?

Los Angeles Rams v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

It’s hard to recall a more polarizing rookie season for a quarterback who was able to start multiple games. Davis Mills, selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft, was handed the keys to the Houston Texans offense when incumbent starter Tyrod Taylor pulled his hamstring in Week 2. Over the next 7 games, the Texans and their fans got an up close and personal look at the player general manager Nick Caserio hopes is the future face of the franchise.

And what a look it’s been.

Davis Mills 2021 Stats So Far

From the highs to the lows, Mills has certainly created a roller coaster of hopes, dreams and deep fears for the fan base. On October 3rd, facing the Buffalo Bills, Mills passed for 87 yards, 4 interceptions, a 52.4 completion percentage and a whopping 2.34 quarterback rating. Yikes.

The following week, Mills set rookie records by delivering a career performance against the New England Patriots. In that tilt, the NFL freshman passed for 312 yards, 3 touchdowns, a 72.4 completion percentage and a QB rating of 141.7.

Unfortunately, Mills’ true average seems to fall closer to the performance against the Bills than the Patriots.

Year to date, Mills has thrown for 1,357 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. He has a 67.0 completion percentage and an 80.2 QB rating. That averages out to 193.8 yards per game, 1 touchdown, and 1.1 picks per game.Hardly the sort of week-to-week contribution a team needs from the most important position on the field. However, let’s take into account the intangibles that stats can’t accurately measure.

The Texans Are Committed To Tanking In 2021

First off, Houston’s offensive line has been nothing short of miserable for years now. Just two seasons ago, the line allowed the most sacks in the NFL. Despite throwing numerous high draft picks at the unit, bringing in free agents such as Laremy Tunsil and Justin Britt, shuffling players all over and replacing the offensive line coach, this position group still sucks. In 2020, the Texans tied for second-most sacks in the league, with 50. So far in 2021, they’re tied for fourth-most with 26. Not an ideal situation for a first-year quarterback to enter.

Next up, let’s talk about “a rookie QB’s best friend”, the running game. Just as with the offensive line, Houston’s run game is an embarrassment to a city that boasts all the Earl Campbell and Arian Foster memorabilia you could ever want to see. The 2021 Houston Texans are one of four teams to have rushed for less than 700 yards so far this season, with 682 total ground yards. They’re tied for second-fewest rushing touchdowns with four. The longest rush year to date is only 35 yards. They rank dead last in most rushing first downs with only 31 and yards per carry at 3.3. Hardly the sort of “best friend” any rookie QB needs.

Next up is the offensive play calling, game plan and in-game management. Tim Kelly seemed to be a shooting star of an offensive coordinator last season, helping Deshaun Watson lead the league with 4,823 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a QB rating of 112.4. Mills is no Watson. And Kelly doesn’t seem able to adjust his play calling accordingly. Maybe it was Watson who made Kelly look so good.

While the game plan seems vastly improved from years past, where former head coach Bill O’Brien routinely failed at having the team ready to play, often taking two or three quarters to get the units clicking, head coach David Culley seems to make a lot of the same boneheaded mistakes from the sidelines O’Brien made. Ultimately, Culley isn’t helping Mills either.

And let’s not forget the elephant in the room: Houston’s brass wants to lose for 2022 draft positioning.

Where does that leave us?

Rumors are swirling that the Texans’ “brain trust” believes Mills is the future face of the franchise. It’s hard to accurately argue for or against that. While Mills is clearly no Deshaun Watson or (young) Matt Schaub, he did what no other Texans rookie QB has ever done—he flat out roasted the New England Patriots. If the rest of the team would have helped (or we weren’t hip deep in TANK-A-PALOOZA), that would have been a W and one of the best games in recent H-Town memory.

While it’s easy to look at the miserable stats from other games, the apparent deer-in-the-headlights decision making, bad footwork and more, a team like the 2021 Houston Texans could very likely ruin a rookie Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Tom Brady. It’s that bad.

Now, with Tyrod Taylor back from IR and doing just as poorly as Mills, odds are the rook will see the field again this season. Unfortunately, the offensive line, running game, play calling, game plan, clock management, and more will all still suck.

Can Davis Mills become a great starting NFL quarterback? Absolutely. Can Davis Mills become a great Houston Texans starting quarterback? Doubtful.

Either way, it’s clear Houston would do better to start Mills over Tyrod Taylor for the rest of the season. That way, the debate can continue. Coaches and scouts will have a better picture of what Houston has and needs under center. If nothing else, the Texans can get a larger sample size to dangle in a potential trade should they decide to offload Mills in 2022.