Amid all the talk about the obvious, necessary fixes to the Houston Texans' roster this offseason — offensive line, cornerback — there are other areas of the team that cannot get lost in the wash of upgrades that we hope Brian Gaine is able to execute over the next couple months.... which brings us to the backup quarterback position.
In each of Bill O'Brien's first four seasons, usage of the backup quarterback was a necessity. In 2014 and 2015, it was needed through a combination of underperformance and injury, with six different players starting games for O'Brien. In 2016, Brock Osweiler eventually gave way to Tom Savage in Week 15, due to Brock's continued charitable treatment of opponents, gifting them turnover after turnover. Finally, in 2017, Deshaun Watson's ACL tear ended his six game stretch as a starter, which was an oasis in a desert of poor quarterback play that season.
Deshaun Watson was fortunately able to answer the bell in all 16 games of the 2018 season, but he came close to missing time with a bruised lung in Week 7, and if Watson keeps getting pounded over 100 times per season by opposing defenses, the backup is going to see some time. Brandon Weeden as Watson's backup scares the hell out of me. The Texans must upgrade here.
My standards for a quality backup quarterback are pretty simple:
1. If Deshaun Watson goes down for the season, chances are strong that the Texans' season is done. However, should Deshaun Watson suffer a one or two week injury, the backup needs to be able to step in for a couple weeks and give the Texans a chance to win games.
2. Ideally, the backup should, to some degree, match what Watson does stylistically, which is to say that he needs to have a mobile, athletic component to his game.
So here we go with my list:
5. ROBERT GRIFFIN III
I know this one will make some folks stomachs turn — let's face it, it's a list of possible BACKUPS, so they all have warts — largely because Griffin is believed to have some diva qualities, and he hasn't played a meaningful down of football since 2016. (NOTE: Weeden hasn't played one since 2015.) I still think that, coached up properly, Griffin has enough qualities to get the Texans through a few games, and the stories out of Baltimore, where he played last season, are that he was accepting of his role helping mentor Lamar Jackson.
4. BLAKE BORTLES
We make fun of Bortles a LOT here in Houston, which likely makes us the same as every other NFL city. I think the ridicule in 2018 had more to do with the Jaguars paying him like a real starter than it did due to Bortles' inconsistency. O'Brien has certainly cobbled together one or two week game plans around his backup QB's limitations with far more limited talents than Bortles. Such as....
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3. CASE KEENUM
....remember that time in 2014 when O'Brien pulled Case Keenum out of a tree on a deer lease somewhere to go 2-0 in Weeks 16 and 17 of the 2014 season? Keenum is still a Denver Bronco right now, but they could release him, if there is no trade market for his $7 million guarantee and $18 million salary in 2019. If he became available free and clear of any contractual encumbrances, I'd take him back here in a heartbeat.
2. TYROD TAYLOR
By far, the most impressive accomplishment of anybody on this list is Tyrod Taylor skippering the wretched 2017 Buffalo Bills to a 9-7 record and a playoff spot. Two things Taylor does very well — 1. Run the football, as he's averaged 5.6 yards per carry during his career, and 2. protect the football, with a career interception percentage of 1.5 percent, including a league leading 1.0 percent in 2017.
1. RYAN FITZPATRICK
So if I'm all caught up in protecting the football, why do I want Ryan Fitzpatrick, and his God awful 4.9 percent interception rate from 2018, as my backup quarterback. Well, good question, Sean —- because, while he was careless with the ball, dammit, he had fun doing it! Check out the LEAGUE LEADING 9.6 yards per attempt! It seems like when Fitzy gets a shot at things for one or two games, he's fine. He's FITZMAGIC, BY GAWD! So if we just need him for a couple games, why not experience the thrill ride of the FOOTBALL BEARD? Like I said earlier, if Deshaun goes down for any longer than that, we're screwed anyway, so why not enjoy the ride?