Houston Texans: Tom Savage still favorite over Deshaun Watson

Dec 18, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage (3) throws during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage (3) throws during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

A cursory glance over the Houston Texans may give the impression that Deshaun Watson is ready to be an NFL quarterback, but Tom Savage is reportedly the ‘clear favorite.’

With Brock Osweiler making big money heading into the 2016 season, it would have been surprising to think that an upstart no-name quarterback like Tom Savage would be the Houston Texans‘ top dog the next summer. But that’s just the case for a team that has the best kind of quarterback problem.

After Osweiler flamed out, Savage briefly stepped up and made the Texans offense look considerably more competent. While Osweiler took over in the playoffs due to injury, the only one of the two still on the roster is Savage.

And that is a point that should not be overlooked.

While the Texans spent a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on quarterback Deshaun Watson, the top player on the depth chart is still Savage. Savage has just two starts (and one win) under his belt, but he looked like an NFL starter in his brief time under center in 2016. Watson, who has reportedly shown growth (per the Houston Chronicle), may have to ride the bench to start the season.

The report that Savage is the “clear favorite” heading into training camp comes from Gil Brandt, who has spent many years as a front office executive and has turned into a fairly reliable pundit. Either Brandt knows something that the rest of the NFL doesn’t know, or the Texans are hiding their interest in Savage incredibly well.

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Max Meyer of NFL.com makes light of Savage in an increasingly common way, pointing to tweets from Gregg Rosenthal, Kevin Patra, and Chris Wesseling that highlight the tongue-in-cheek belief that Savage is “deemed illusory.” He is as real as any other quarterback in the NFL, but if a casual fan were to look at the news, all the information revolves around Watson and not Savage. This is in part because the Texans made traded up to get their future franchise quarterback, spent a first round pick on him, and can’t seem to stop talking about him.

And who can blame them? Watson was a winner through college and repeatedly impressed in Clemson’s offense. Statements like “we won’t have to limit Watson” make easy headlines for Meyer and other NFL writers. It’s certainly more exciting than headlines like “Texans QB Tom Savage building chemistry,” which appeared in the Houston Chronicle. Speculation surrounding Watson sells stories and builds into the excitement that an eager-to-win Texans fan base needs.

Despite all of the coverage around Watson, there are subtle hints thrown in that Brandt’s opinion may be more accurate. Taking a statement from head coach Bill O’Brien per the Houston Chronicle,

"“He’s a very poised guy. I like the way he carries himself. I like the way he operates. He’s a rookie, and he’s not nearly where he needs to be to be a full-time starter in this league, but you can tell he’s got a lot of qualities you like.” (emphasis added) that one line throws off an entire puff piece about Watson being everything the team could dream of."

Subtle hints notwithstanding, it shouldn’t be shocking to hear that Watson is behind in total growth compared to a two-year player like Savage. Watson is a rookie right now and he will have to take his lumps like any rookie quarterback. Sometimes that means riding the bench before seeing playing time.

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Ultimately, this is all good for the Texans and the team’s fans. If Watson is still progressing but Savage is still ahead, then the Texans are in a beneficial quarterback quandary. While other teams can’t find a single starting-caliber player at the game’s most important position, the Texans are caught between two that could step into the role in the 2017 season.