“Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”
New Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio clearly has a plan up his sleeve with the radical chaos-theory of signings over the last month. While it’s hard to say exactly what that is right now, hopefully it’s a lot more than just “let’s acquire more free agents than any other team in offseason history.” In the flurry of signings, Caserio brought on veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor and traded for Ryan Finley. Neither of those guys scream “new franchise quarterback,” but either of which could end up starting this season.
Taylor was selected in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. After four years in Baltimore, where he never started a game, Taylor found himself with the Buffalo Bills, starting 44 games from 2015-2017. In 2015 and 2016, Taylor threw for over 3,000 yards, a combined 34 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a combined 94.5 quarterback rating. 2018 saw Taylor traded to the Cleveland Browns before he landed with the Los Angeles Chargers for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Ryan Finley was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He started four games in his two seasons with the Bengals, completing 58 of his 119 passes for an underwhelming 48.7 completion percentage, 638 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. Why exactly the Texans felt compelled to trade for Finley is unknown. However, he could turn into a huge surprise if he lives up to his collegiate hype.
With A.J. McCarron gone, and Deshaun Watson likely unavailable for at least part of the coming season, Houston still needs answers for the most important position on the team. According to Spotrac at the time of this writing, Alex Smith, McCarron, Robert Griffin III, Matt Barkley, Josh McCown, Geno Smith, Blaine Gabbert, Brian Hoyer, Blake Bortles, Brett Hundley, Sean Mannion, Nick Mullens, Jake Rudock, Kurt Benkert, and Joe Webb are still on the street. Teddy Bridgewater is also in play since the Carolina Panthers traded for Sam Darnold, effectively closing their trade door on Deshaun Watson.
Of those listed above, we can reasonably rule out McCarron, McCown, Gabbert, Bortles, and Webb as all either having been in Houston at one point in the past or been too close to them via the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Texans to take them seriously. Alex Smith has seen his name tied to Houston recently. Robert Griffin III and Teddy Bridgewater could scratch a similar itch as Taylor, but both have a lot of injury baggage and not enough success to offset it.
Brett Hundley, the former 2015 fifth round pick of the Green Bay Packers, filled in for an injured Aaron Rodgers in 2017. The former UCLA quarterback started nine games, completing 192 of his 316 pass attempt for a 60.8 completion percentage. He threw for 1,836 yards, 9 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a 70.6 passer rating. Not exactly inspiring numbers, but better than Finley.
Then comes Brian Hoyer, who should be ruled out due to his history with the team. If you don't recall Hoyer’s time with the Texans, congratulations on burying that traumatic set of memories. Unfortunately, Hoyer has connections with both Jack Easterby and Nick Caserio from their time with the New England Patriots. No matter how much we all want to rule out Hoyer’s return, never say never.
Sean Mannion was taken by the St. Louis Rams in the 2015 NFL Draft. Over the next four years, he started just one game with the Rams before signing with the Minnesota Vikings in 2019, where he also started a single game. In some respects, you could say Mannion is the anti-Deshaun Watson as his career rushing totals reflect 18 runs for –12 yards and a –.07 yards per attempt.
As we can see, Houston doesn’t have many options outside either an unexpected trade for another team’s promising backup quarterback or a trade that allows them a shot at drafting a quarterback of the future. Even if Taylor starts and has his best career year, a quarterback entering his 11th season is hardly the answer for the future.
Nick Caserio’s plan could be to tank the 2021 season in the hopes of a higher draft pick in the 2022 first round. Is Caserio’s end game simply a chance to draft North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, South Carolina’s Kedon Slovis, Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, or Liberty’s Malik Willis? We’ll find out in a few months.
In our ongoing search to determine who’ll be start at QB for Houston this season, we ran a poll a few weeks back that got the following results:
Houston will start the 2021 season with:
- A rookie quarterback acquired in a trade – 37%
- A veteran quarterback acquired in a trade – 13%
- Deshaun Watson – 22%
- Tyrod Taylor – 28%
While the landscape of the available free agents, Watson’s lawsuits, and Houston’s trade capital have all seemingly changed, one thing remains: Houston needs to figure out who is lining up under center in 2021.