After giving up a 2018 first-round pick to move up and select Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien made it clear that incumbent Tom Savage would remain the starter. Ostensibly, Houston wanted to ease Watson into the NFL and give him ample time to learn the team’s system, adapt to the speed of the game, and develop as a pro passer. O’Brien held strong to that declaration throughout training camp and the preseason, naming Savage the starter prior to the team’s opening game against the Jaguars. But, as Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
Savage was a disaster in the first half on Sunday, completing just seven of 13 passes for 62 yards. Savage was also sacked an incredible six times (that doesn’t even include another sack-fumble-return-touchdown that was reversed and called an incomplete pass). As the Texans went into the locker room at the half down 19-0 to their division rivals, O’Brien had seen enough. The rookie trotted onto the field to start the third quarter, and it was official: The DeShaun Watson era had started.
On his first drive, Watson showcased some of the skills that convinced Houston to take him in April’s draft. The former Clemson star completed five of eight passes for 37 yards, capping it with a touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins.
The Texans offense has been among the worst in the league over the past three seasons, and despite hefty investments at the receiver and running back positions, the lack of a quality starter at quarterback has stunted any chance for growth. The team has wasted the skills of an excellent defense for too long, cycling through eight starters in the last three seasons—including Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler, and Tom Savage. Even if Watson’s not as ready for the limelight as the team would like, it was clear after just two quarters that Houston could not wait any longer to turn to the talented rookie. Watson likely represents O’Brien’s last chance to fix his offense and, probably, save his job. Watson's not going to be perfect (and a fumble lost on his second possession showed that), but he’s more dynamic and talented than anything the Texans have seen at the quarterback position in years. Houston fans have been waiting for upside like this for a long time.