Had the Houston Texans turned to quarterback Deshaun Watson as their starter back in May, it would have made sense.
He’s the most talented quarterback the Texans have. The notion that a rookie quarterback has to sit – especially one with as many big-game reps as Watson – is outdated. But the Texans went through with the charade that Tom Savage could be a competent starter to begin this season. They even mentioned he could be their starter all season.
Now the Texans are changing course after watching Savage play a half of football. Watson will start on Thursday against the Cincinnati Bengals, according to NFL Network. Savage was bad against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but that shouldn’t have been a big surprise. At some point over the summer the coaching staff had to realize Watson was the better quarterback. But they were stubborn. That lands us here.
Making the move now might ultimately be the best move for Houston, but it’s not ideal this week. Watson gets a short week before a road game, which is a challenge. When you wait to give a rookie quarterback his first start, coaching staffs often like to find a soft landing spot to get him in the lineup. The Texans have done pretty much the opposite of that.
On top of having less than half the normal time to prepare, Watson will be playing behind an offensive line that was horrible in Week 1. Left tackle Duane Brown is holding out, and his absence was a problem last week. You’d rather not have your first-round pick at quarterback starting behind a line that can’t block for him, but that’s the spot Watson is in now.
Watson also had to mostly take second-team reps in practice behind Savage until this week, which didn’t speed along his development. Again, had the Texans admitted the obvious right after the draft, they’d have put Watson in a better spot to succeed right away.
But the Texans didn’t want to waste any more time with Savage. They have playoff aspirations and the offense was awful against the Jaguars. Houston will be better off over the long run with Watson (again, nobody inside the Texans figured all this out over the summer?). But right now, this isn’t an ideal spot for the rookie.
Luckily, Watson was in many challenging spots at Clemson and his toughness helped him succeed. That experience will serve him well in his first career start.
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