All along, it's been a race where naming a "winner" was going to feel like a bit of a misnomer.
When the Texans began mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, the open race to see who would be the Houston Texans' starting quarterback consisted of four men -- Ryan Fitzpatrick, rookie Tom Savage, Case Keenum, and T.J. Yates. Other than Keenum still tugging at the heartstrings of very isolated (and Cougar red) portions of the fan base, none of these names really inspired confidence nor excitement.
But by the end of the day on Tuesday, what the depth chart lacked in talent, it at least made up for in clarity as head coach Bill O'Brien named Fitzpatrick his starter. Hours later, he had released Yates, who led the Texans to their first playoff win in franchise history back in 2011, leaving the roster with exactly zero quarterbacks who'd won a game as a Texan.
We start with Fitzpatrick. Here's what Bill O'Brien had to say:
"He earned it. He definitely earned it. He earned it with his preparation. He earned it with his accuracy. He earned it with his command of the line of scrimmage....We have confidence in his ability to lead our football team. He's done a really good job in the offseason of picking up our system. He's executed well on the field."
Fitzpatrick has played quite a bit of football, which at this point, amidst a lackluster roster of signal callers, is his most redeeming quality. Sure, his 85 NFL career starts have been generally underwhelming turnover-fests, but Fitzpatrick knows his way around a huddle, around a line of scrimmage, and around a film room.
Fitzpatrick's best season came in 2011, when he went 4-2 as a starter in the first six weeks for the Buffalo Bills, who then recalibrated the "hair trigger decision" scale by showering Fitzpatrick with riches in handing him a six year, $59 million deal ($24 million guaranteed). Upon signing the deal, Fitzpatrick almost immediately turned back into a pumpkin, finishing the season with 12 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions in the last ten games.
The Bills were, unfortunately, stuck with Fitzpatrick for the time being, keeping him for one more excruciating year in 2012, before mercifully (and expensively) cutting him.
Meanwhile, also today, Yates lost the battle with Keenum to see which former Gary Kubiak disciple would be allowed to stay with the team
through training camp before eventually getting cut because O'Brien may only keep two quarterbacks.
Yates' star peaked with the Texans back in his rookie season when the team, off to a 7-3 start, lost starter Matt Schaub to a foot injury and then lost backup Matt Leinart one half of football later to a shoulder injury. Kubiak was forced to turn to Yates who led the team to a couple of playoff clinching wins and the team's first ever postseason victory.
If you're looking to compile a list of T.J. Yates moments as a Texan, I would say that roughly 80 percent of them are contained in this short video of the playoff berth clinching drive against the Bengals in Cincinnati in 2011:
Of all those plays, the one I'll never forget is the 17 yard scramble on 3rd and 15. At the time, because Texan fans had become so accustomed to the cement shoed running style of Schaub, it felt like Yates had shown pretty good athleticism. Now two years removed, Yates looks more like a teenager plodding through obstacles during a game of laser tag. Just my opinion.
The only question now, with regard to Yates, is whether or not the Baltimore Ravens (where Kubiak is now the offensive coordinator) have signed him by the time you're reading this.
So after crowning a king in a quarterback battle that the New York Post on Tuesday called the "worst in NFL history", the Texans, as I mentioned before, are left with three signal callers who've combined for exactly zero wins as a Texan starter.
Let's face it, this whole thing probably isn't going to get Andre Johnson back in camp very soon.
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