Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans Sign Backup QB A.J. McCarron

A.J. McCarron will be the Texans' new backup QB.
A.J. McCarron will be the Texans' new backup QB. Screen grab from YouTube
Deshaun Watson has been a Houston Texan now for two full seasons. In 2017, his rookie year, he started just six games before tearing his ACL, and from there the season went into the toilet, finishing at 4-12. In 2018, his second year, Watson played in all 16 games, and the team went 11-5 and won the AFC South division. The message is clear — without Deshaun Watson, the Texans have been a mess since he arrived in 2017.

When that 2017 season went down the drain, quarterback play was a huge reason. Tom Savage and T.J. Yates were dismal in Watson's stead. Thankfully, in 2018, backup Brandon Weeden didn't have to see the field. In trying to upgrade the backup quarterback spot, Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien need only find someone who can be a steady hand and win a couple games if Deshaun Watson goes down for a few weeks.

On Tuesday, I believe they accomplished this with the signing of sixth year quarterback, A.J. McCarron, to a one year deal reportedly worth $3 million.

McCarron, of course, is best known as a two-time winner of a national championship at Alabama, but he's also seen some NFL action since arriving in the league in 2014 as a fifth round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, going 2-1 in three starts with a 65 percent completion rate and a 100.1 passer rating in those three games. Had it not been for a Vontaze Burfict illegal hit in a 2015 playoff game, McCarron would have as many playoff wins as a starter as any other QB in Texans history (one).

A few other thoughts on the signing of McCarron:

This is a major upgrade over Deshaun Watson's previous backups
As previously mentioned, Deshaun Watson's backup quarterbacks over his two year career in Houston have been Tom Savage, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden. Two of them are sitting waiting for a phone call, and the other is now an assistant coach for the Texans. McCarron, on the other hand, was probably the last man out when it came to veteran quarterbacks looking for starting roles in 2018, as he received a modest payday from the Bills, only to see them use the seventh overall pick in the draft on Josh Allen. As far as backups go, I would safely put McCarron in the upper third league wide.

O'Brien's has had a good track record using backups (2017 notwithstanding)
Before you say "Really, Sean? Who cares? It's the BACKUP QUARTERBACK!", hear me out. If we are counting 2017 as a mulligan, considering that Deshaun Watson's injury was just the tip of the iceberg, Bill O'Brien's track record when utilizing backup quarterbacks has been pretty solid as the head coach of the Texans. In the three 9-7 seasons from 2014 through 2016, O'Brien managed to cobble together a 6-0 record in games started by Case Keenum, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, and Tom Savage. I think sometimes people forget this when they're critiquing O'Brien's body of work as a head coach. He has his flaws, to be sure, but he's shown a knack for coming through in these triage type situations.

Looking back, McCarron was one of the better QBs from the 2014 draft class
Ironically, the Texans could have had McCarron back in 2014, when they were in the market for a quarterback, but instead they took Tom Savage with the 135th pick, and McCarron went to Cincy 29 picks later. In fact, here are the quarterbacks taken in 2014:

1/3 Blake Bortles
1/22 Johnny Manziel
1/32 Teddy Bridgewater
2/36 Derek Carr
2/62 Jimmy Garoppolo
4/120 Logan Thomas
4/135 Tom Savage
5/163 Aaron Murray
5/164 A.J. McCarron
6/178 Zach Mettenberger
6/183 David Fales
6/194 Keith Wenning
6/213 Tajh Boyd
6/214 Garrett Gilbert

It's not a reach at all to say that McCarron is the fourth best QB out of this class, behind Carr, Garoppolo, and Bridgewater. Blake Bortles has started far more games, but that's because the Jaguars have spent five seasons trying to justify taking him with the third overall pick.

Keep an eye out for Katherine Webb
Outside of football, McCarron is probably best known for his wife, Katherine....

Keep an eye out, Houston!

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast