Over the course of their 13-season history, the Texans have employed and started almost every version of NFL quarterback available in the "quarterback aisle" at the NFL Walmart (assuming there were an actual NFL Walmart where teams shop for players).
Young, hopeful franchise phenom? Check (David Carr). Mentally shaken, flamed-out phenom? Check (David Carr). Glorified game manager? Check (Matt Schaub). Coach killer? Check (Schaub, although it took forever to kill that coach). Career journeyman? Check (Ryan the Fitz). Local hero plucked from a tree on a deer lease? Check (Case Keenum).
The Texans have sampled, rented and owned every type of NFL quarterback. All except one — the franchise. Oh, they've paid "franchise" prices before (nobody said they were incredibly smart QB shoppers), but they've never gotten their money's worth. So this season, they're spending on all three quarterbacks what one season of Matt Schaub used to cost.
When you get the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, as the Texans did in 2014, you got it for a reason — the Texans' main reason was that pretty much everyone not named J.J. Watt stunk in 2013. That, and their quarterbacks were terrible. So initially, I suppose, you try to find your quarterback of the future. For whatever reason, and at this particular juncture, that reason doesn't really matter, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien was not a fan of drafting Blake Bortles with the No. 1 overall pick…or moving up one spot to get Teddy Bridgewater at 32….or drafting Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round.
So the Texans took Jadeveon Clowney first, Xavier Su'a-Filo 33rd and that was that. (They took Pitt QB Tom Savage in the fourth round, but he's been the Christmas toy that's still sitting in the box.) In the 2015 draft, they didn't see anything on the QB aisle they liked either. So the solution for now at the position is a temporary one. We think.
The Texans brought back Ryan Mallett, who started two games last season (one solid win, one abysmal loss) before going on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle. They brought him back on a modest two-year, $7 million contract, which means interest in Mallett's services was tepid on the free agent market. They also brought in free agent Brian Hoyer, who ironically was the opposing QB in Mallett's only career win, on a two-year, $10 million deal. O'Brien, Mallett and Hoyer all worked together in New England back in 2011. (Oh, and Savage still sits in a box in the corner of the closet.)
Who is the favorite? Well, that depends on who you ask. Ask almost any media member who covers the team and he will swear that Hoyer is going to be the starter in Week 1. Ask the online sports books, and they actually have Mallett as a -200 favorite to win the job. (Oh, they must know something!) In purely unscientific polls taken on the text line of my radio show, Texans fans overwhelmingly want Mallett to be the starter, to the tune of about 90 percent.
Mallett's popularity shouldn't come as a huge surprise. If we were amassing all the elite QB traits between Mallett and Hoyer combined, there is probably only one between the two of them — Ryan Mallett's arm strength. If you're in a division with Andrew Luck, where winning 11 games is necessary to win the division, Mallett is the quarterback who has "11-win upside".
Hoyer, on the other hand, is a little more mobile, a little more experienced, and the sense is just a little more of an "O'Brien kind of guy." He went 10-6 as a starter in Cleveland, although his completion percentage was under 56 percent and his touchdown-to-interception ratio was nearly 1 to 1. Those are generally not statistics that translate into 11 wins (or hell, even 7 wins) most of the time, no matter how good your team's defense and running game are.
For his part, O'Brien is not tipping his hand. On my radio show on SportsRadio 610, here's what he had to say about the position:
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“We want a guy that is a very consistent performer,” O’Brien told The Triple Threat. “A guy that’s very smart. A very diligent hard worker that treats practice like a game.
“A guy that makes the right decisions on the practice field. Which makes us all feel good about what’s going to happen on game day. A guy that understands the game because of his preparation and his work ethic.”
I said during the season last year that the next quarterback to lead the Texans into the postseason was still playing in college. With Mallett or Hoyer at the controls, unfortunately, my tune hasn't changed. Barring the abduction of Andrew Luck by aliens, the next quarterback to lead the Texans to the playoffs is playing in college right now.
I just have no idea who it is.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.