Last Friday, talk around Houston in football circles was happy. It was optimistic. It was about opportunity.
At 5-5, you beat the Bengals at NRG Stadium on Sunday (something the Texans had gotten good at during the Andy Dalton Era, going 2-0 in two home playoff games) and now you're looking at back-to-back games against the Titans and the Jaguars, a gateway to 8-5.
That was the narrative. 8-5 would put the Texans firmly in the playoff hunt, and theoretically do so with a quarterback with a big-league arm who would be 4-0 as a starter at that point, confident and poised. The world would be Ryan Mallett's NFL oyster.
(This is where the "vinyl record scratching" sound would be made on television, jarring us back into reality.)
Unfortunately, none of that is happening. This afternoon, the Texans learned that Ryan Mallett's torn pectoral muscle, which was reported last night after the game, an injury he played the entire Cincinnati game with, will end his 2014 season. He will have surgery and be placed on injured reserve.
For three seasons, Mallett apprenticed patiently under Tom Brady in New England, knowing full well that his opportunity might not come with the Patriots but somewhere else down the line. After slipping to the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, despite first-round arm talent, amid rumors of off-the-field issues coming out of Arkansas, Mallett kept his mouth shut and learned how to be a pro in New England.
Then, this past May, the Patriots drafted the next Brady Apprentice in Jimmy Garoppolo, and Mallett was compromised again, traded to the Texans for a song a week or so before the start of the 2014 season. So he waited again. (That's the one thing we knew Mallett had gotten good at since being drafted -- waiting.)
Finally, in Week 11 of the 2014 season, the opportunity came. Ryan Mallett started, played well and led the Texans to a win against the Cleveland Browns. The arrow was pointing up. But somewhere along the way, he took a hit in that Cleveland game that led to a "chest injury" listing on the injury report all week before the Bengals game, and then the injury was aggravated before or during the Bengals game yesterday.
The question now becomes, "Where does everyone involved go from here?"
RYAN MALLETT Mallett is obviously the person most acutely effected by this, as this virtually wipes out any chance of him cashing in on 2014 during free agency after the season to any significant degree. Two games -- one decent, one awful but playing hurt -- is not enough for any team to drop a "Matt Flynn Deal" on Mallett, at least I don't think so. (While the Raiders continue to exist, we have to caveat everything with "at least I don't think so.") Flynn got three years, nearly $20 million from Seattle a couple years ago and wound up not even starting there, essentially ruining all lotto tickets for any future fringe quarterbacks who got two career garbage starts on a great team. Mallett's future in Houston will depend in part on what happens the rest of this season and what they decide, in turn, to do in the draft. He could be back on a moderate, backup type deal. I say "depends on this season" because....
TOM SAVAGE ....the Texans have this fourth round rookie, and none of us really know anything about him other than what we saw in the preseason. At 5-6 with two winnable games next, I have a hard time envisioning Bill O'Brien handing the reins to a guy who's been getting scout team reps all season, but if we are realistic about the team's playoff chances (they're basically toast), empirically, finding out about Savage is not the dumbest idea in the world. If you lose games, so be it. If you find you've accidentally discovered plutonium, then great! Because we know what we have in....
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RYAN FITZPATRICK ....and I don't know that I'm ready for five more games of that.
And I KNOW this guy isn't ready for it....
— Busted Coverage (@bustedcoverage) November 24, 2014