T.J. Yates Returns to the Houston Texans
Aaron M. Sprecher
Well, this isn't how Bill O'Brien drew it up on the white board. Not even close.
In a perfect world, the Texans would have a young quarterback that they'd have already begun building the offense around. In the world O'Brien drew up in the offseason, partially out of necessity and partially out of O'Brien's own choosiness with young QBs, he would have an efficient Brian Hoyer backed up by a perfectly content Ryan Mallett. Well, this is a different world altogether, and in the race to see which would give out first, Hoyer's QB chops or Mallett's brain, Mallett's brain won, and after missing the team charter to Miami on Saturday, he was cut on Tuesday.
So now we're in this world, a world where it's Brian Hoyer and a trip to the QB garbage bin to see what recyclables are available. In this world, the best option to drag in from the street to back up Hoyer is someone who's been in O'Brien's vaunted "system" before, is the quintessential "good guy and good teammate," and most of all, is someone whose alarm clock functions properly.
So, in this surreal world of shaky quarterback play and 40-point deficits, we welcome back T.J. Yates!
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Yates, of course, was traded by the Texans to the Atlanta Falcons late in training camp back in 2014 for linebacker Akeem Dent, but the handful of months during camp and OTAs in O'Brien's system were enough to compel the Texans' head coach (and GM Rick Smith) on bringing him back in as the backup to Hoyer.
“My agent and Rick (Smith) had some conversations on Monday, decided what they were going to do and Tuesday morning, I was sitting on my couch having a cup of coffee and Rick called me. I got on a plane right away,” Yates said after practice on Wednesday.
"Being here last offseason, I was here during the offseason and OTAs and minicamp, just getting back into it, it’s a lot of stuff, very fast, but pretty good recall. I’ve just got to grind away at it. I’m going to be in this building nonstop until I get it down. The time being if you want to find me, I’ll be down the hall,” Yates promised.
Yates walks into a locker room coming off a beatdown against Miami that saw the Texans trailing 41-0 at the half, and into a franchise whose head coach and general manager have reportedly been at odds recently. The Texans are a frustrated and possibly fractured team, and yet still, in the wretched AFC South, they're only one game out of first place, even at 2-5.
On Wednesday, Hoyer wouldn't comment on the release of Mallett, choosing to keep his thoughts to himself, but Yates was quick to bring up his relationship with Hoyer, which dates back to the Manning Passing Academy seven years ago, where the two were counselors for high school quarterbacks attending the camp. “Me and Brian, I think we ended up on the same delayed flight, sat in the airport together for a couple hours, ended up being roommates at the camp, and we kept in touch over the years, played against him a couple times throughout the years in the NFL, so we kept in touch,” Yates said.
Of course, Texans fans have fond memories of Yates from his rookie season in 2011, arguably the best Texans team in the franchise's history, when he led the team to its first ever playoff win, a 31-10 defeat of the Cincinnati Bengals. Oddly enough, Yates's finest moment as a Texan came in the regular season division-clinching game against the Bengals in Cincinnati, leading the team on a long drive in the waning moments to secure a 20-19 win.
For now, Yates is just excited to be back in the city where he got his start. “I was extremely excited, just to get another opportunity to come back to a city like Houston and come back to this team where I have so many friends and know so many people in the organization; it couldn’t have been a better situation for me," Yates said.
For the Texans and O'Brien, Yates's joy was just another strange chapter in what's becoming a lost season.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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