Houston Texans: The Truth on Tom Savage's Chances for Success

A hidden gem?
A hidden gem?

Mathematically, the most certain way (or more accurately, the least uncertain way) to acquire a franchise quarterback in the NFL is to choose one with the first pick of the draft.

For the third time in their franchise's history, the Houston Texans had the first pick in the NFL Draft last Thursday. As has been well documented here, my hope all along had been that they would use that pick to take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. As it turns out, they did not. They chose South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney instead.

So be it; I survived draft night.

Even with a chance to move back into the first round and take Manziel somewhere in the 20's (as it turned out, several GMs disagreed with my assessment of Manziel's skills), the Texans chose not to do so.

As it turned out, the Texans (and numerous other teams) just weren't that into Johnny Manziel.

I disagree with the Texans' assessment of Manziel (and Teddy Bridgewater, for that matter, whom they also could've traded back up for at 32), but agreed with their subsequent strategy once they passed on him, whereby they waited until the fourth round to take a quarterback. (They could've waited two more rounds, for all I cared, at that point.) If you're not going to draft a quarterback early, no reason to burn valuable second- and third-round picks on one whose chances of becoming the "face of the franchise" are minimal.

So the Texans waited until the back end of the fourth round, the 135th pick, to be exact, to select University of Pittsburgh signal caller Tom Savage as their rookie project. And a project he is, having gone nearly three calendar years without playing football before leading the Panthers to an up-and-down 7-6 season in 2013, his only season as a starter at Pitt.

As best I can tell, the strengths of Savage, as considered by Bill O'Brien and Rick Smith, are:

* Prototypical NFL quarterback size (6'5", 229 pounds) * Plus arm strength * Ability to handle adversity (two transfers, worked construction between transfers)

Here is Savage's highlight reel, for your consumption...


Savage is raw and desperately in need of some serious quarterback coaching, which he will get in Houston with the Texans. However, this doesn't mean he is the future starter of the Texans, not at all. And even if Savage became the future starter of the team, there's even less chance that he becomes a perennial Pro Bowl caliber quarterback, given where he was selected in the draft.

You see, while recent history has deluded many fans and media members into thinking franchise quarterbacks are growing on trees in rounds after the first (thanks to Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Nick Foles), the fact of the matter is 2011's and 2012's drafts were anomalies.

And history has not been kind at all to fourth rounders (Savage's round). Below are all of the quarterbacks chosen in the fourth round since 2001, along with their records as starters and statistical performance. Please note that all of these quarterbacks were taken prior to the 135th pick (Savage's slot):

2001 4/101. CHRIS WEINKE, Car 20 starts (2-18), 386-709, 3904 yds, 15 TD/26 INT 4/109. SAGE ROSENFELS, Wash 12 starts (6-6), 351-562, 4156 yds, 30 TD/29 INT 4/125. JESSE PALMER, NYG 3 starts (0-3), 63-120, 562, 3 TD/4 INT

2002 4/108. DAVID GARRARD, Jax 76 starts (39-37), 1406-2281, 16003 yds, 89 TD/54 INT 4/117. ROHAN DAVEY, NE 0 starts, 8-19, 88 yds, 0 TD/0 INT

2003 4/110. SENECA WALLACE, Sea 22 starts (6-16), 468-788, 4947 yds, 31 TD/19 INT

2004 4/106. LUKE McCOWN, Clev 9 starts (2-7), 184-317, 2035 yds, 9 TD/14 INT

2005 4/106. KYLE ORTON, Chi 70 starts (35-35), 1326-2265, 15019 yds, 83 TD/59 INT 4/121. STEFAN LeFORS, Car DID NOT PLAY

2009 4/101. STEPHEN McGEE, Dal 1 start (1-0), 46-82, 420 yards, 3 TD/0 INT

2010 4/122. MIKE KAFKA, Phil 0 starts, 11-16, 107 yards, 0 TD/2 INT

2012 4/102. KIRK COUSINS, Wash 4 starts (1-3), 114-203, 1320 yards, 8 TD/10 INT


TOTALS: 367 games played, 217 starts (92-125), 4363-7362, 48561 yds, 271 TD/217 INT WIN %: .424 win percentage (6.78 wins per season) TOTAL QB RATING: 78.94

[NOTE: Brad Smith (NYJ, 2006) and Isaiah Stanback (Dallas, 2007) were both drafted after playing quarterback in college, but were drafted to play (and spent their careers largely as) wide receivers.]

Fairly hideous.

In fact, of the 12 quarterbacks chosen in the fourth round, the closest thing to full-time starters that were developed were David Garrard and Kyle Orton. That's your gold standard. Fool's gold, indeed.

So in all likelihood, the search for the franchise quarterback for the Texans will continue into 2015. That's what history tells us. In the ultimate case of irony, the non-QB portion of the Texans' 2014 draft may have been so good (the defense should be light-years better), and the remainder of their division so bad (Tennessee and Jacksonville are among the bottom three teams in Bovada's latest Super Bowl odds) that the Texans can't help improving from 2-14 to, say, 7-9, even with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starting quarterback.

7-9 would probably take them out of the mix for Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley or Jameis Winston, which means the Texans may have drafted themselves into "franchise QB" purgatory, too bad to make a Super Bowl run but too good to get a crack at the top part of the draft.

Sound familiar, Rockets fans? Does anyone know if Dwight Howard can throw a football?

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at

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