"More is lost by indecision than wrong decision." — Tony Soprano
Bill O'Brien is a lot things. Indecisive is most certainly not one of them. This was reinforced on Wednesday afternoon, when a fairly uneventful day was turned upside down with news that Ryan Mallett is preparing to be the starting quarterback this coming Sunday in a Week 2 matchup with the Carolina Panthers. The decision, which O'Brien has not confirmed publicly, was first reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network:
The move comes as a mild surprise insomuch as the starter in Week 1, Brian Hoyer, was anointed as such after what appeared to be an exhaustive effort throughout the preseason by O'Brien and offensive coordinator George Godsey to identify the better option between Hoyer and Mallett. Unfortunately for Hoyer, all it took to undo several months of evaluation was three bad quarters against the Kansas City Chiefs in the season opener.
In that game on Sunday, Hoyer turned the ball over twice deep in Texans territory, setting up 14 easy points for the Chiefs. He was also erratic overall throwing the football, completing just 18 of 34 passes for 236 yards and a 12.3 QBR on ESPN's website. Beyond that, Hoyer's demeanor throughout the game was the opposite of calm. With 6:10 remaining in regulation and trailing 27-9, O'Brien had seen enough and turned to Mallett, who went 8 for 13 for 98 yards and brought the Texans within an onside kick of a potential game tying possession.
After the game, O'Brien was peppered with questions about the QB situation, but insisted he needed to see the film and kept his options open. On Monday, the Texans' head coach insisted that we would all find out on Sunday who the starter was, but that he knew exactly who it would be. Again, considering the extensive detail that presumably went into evaluating and naming Hoyer the starter, along with an incident in preseason in which Mallett overslept for a practice, it's definitely a bit shocking to see a change in starting quarterbacks so early in the season.
That said, it creates a fascinating dynamic, considering the following:
1. Ryan Mallett is finally getting his chance to lead an NFL team, which is all he ever wanted. If he doesn't get it done here, then the next opportunity to be a full time starter may never come.
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2. If Mallett winds up being a winning QB, and takes the Texans to the playoffs, then in theory, the Texans have found their guy. However, if Mallett winds up being just a taller, more strong-armed version of Hoyer, then it will be interesting to see if O'Brien goes back to Hoyer. How many times could O'Brien flip back and forth? And when does decisiveness in each move cross over to being overall indecisive with the number of times you change your mind?
3. It's quite clear that O'Brien basically sees both of these quarterbacks as essentially disposable, benching Hoyer after three quarters of football and putting Mallett behind Hoyer to start the season to begin with. If you're a fan who is looking for the team to draft a quarterback with a high draft choice, you are veering at breakneck speed toward your goal.
If Mallett isn't the answer this season, it's almost impossible to envision them not targeting a quarterback in the 2016 draft. But for now, Mallett just needs to be the answer this Sunday to keep the Texans from starting the season 0-2, which is, generally speaking, a kiss of death to a team seeking a playoff berth.
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