Major free agent contracts aren’t usually recognized as disasters after only five games, but in the case of Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler, the monetary misfire should have been apparent from day one. It’s a wonder why the Texans ignored the fact that they were only the second-most desperate team looking for a quarterback behind the Denver Broncos – The very team who closely monitored Osweiler for four seasons and still let him go.
Much like the Washington Redskins did with Kirk Cousins, the Broncos could have had Osweiler on the franchise tag for one year to at least find out if he might have a priceless NFL career ahead of him, but Denver general manager John Elway had seen enough. Now Houston head coach Bill O’Brien can’t look away from the car crash of a season his new quarterback is having.
Five weeks in, Osweiler is among the three worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. The others are whoever is forced to take snaps for the Cleveland Browns and Ryan Fitzpatrick of the New York Jets. I would have included the San Francisco 49ers’ Blaine Gabbert, except that he was just benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick. Before a recent contract restructure, Kaepernick was too expensive for the team to risk starting. In the case of Osweiler, he’s too expensive for Houston to not start him – but if they want to make the playoffs, O’Brien might have to reconsider.
So far, Osweiler is even worse than a 39-year-old Peyton Manning was for the Broncos last year when he proved that even the best quarterback of all-time could still become the worst quarterback at any given moment:
Manning through five games, 2015: 63.5 percent completions, 1,234 yards, six touchdowns, seven interceptions, 6.5 yards per attempt, passer rating of 77.3.
Osweiler through fives games, 2016: 58 percent completions, 1,133 yards, six touchdowns, seven interceptions, six yards per attempt, rating of 70.6.
In an era when almost every QB is racking up historic numbers, Osweiler sticks out like a person dressed up as Monica Lewinsky at a Halloween party full of Ken Bones. See here as he throws a ball that is closer to two Minnesota Vikings players than it is to his own receiver and is intercepted.
— NFL Canada (@NFLCanada) October 9, 2016
Osweiler currently ranks 29th in passer rating, which is also how ProFootballFocus ranks him among all quarterbacks, behind such players as Cousins, Fitzpatrick, current Broncos starter Trevor Siemian and former Texans starter Brian Hoyer. But as bad as he has been, the part that really stings Houston more than anything at a time when they lead the AFC South and are without star defensive end J.J. Watt for the rest of the year is the fact that they could have gotten better production at quarterback at a much lower cost.
They signed Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million deal, paying him more per year than Matthew Stafford, Andy Dalton and Alex Smith. That’s even though Osweiler had seven career starts and was benched in January’s playoffs in favor of Manning, whose right arm that was long past it’s expiration date. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien explained the move by saying, “It’s not easy to be a starting quarterback in this league. It’s one of the most difficult things in sports to do. I think we got the right guy.”
Osweiler went 5-2 for Denver last year and led them to wins over the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals, but the Broncos also had a championship-level defense and eventually had to turn back to Manning because of Osweiler’s inconsistency as a passer. Many defenders of the signing said that it was the right move because Houston “Needs a starting quarterback,” and technically that’s what Osweiler was for a time last season, but they could have just as easily gotten this production from a number of players who are considerably cheaper.
The Texans could have drafted Paxton Lynch, but since they were no longer looking for a quarterback, it was Denver who drafted Lynch. In two games, Lynch hasn’t been great, but he’s been better than Osweiler. He’s also younger and signed for the same amount of years at roughly a third of the cost. They also didn’t draft Dak Prescott, the rookie quarterback pushing Tony Romo out of Dallas, who the Houston had four chances to draft. They might have also waited out the trade of Sam Bradford, currently having a career-year for the 5-0 Minnesota Vikings and on a lower-risk deal than Osweiler. But most embarrassing of all is that the Texans could have stood pat with what they had last season and still been better off.
O’Brien never considered bringing back Brian Hoyer, who had a terrible playoff performance against the Kansas City Chiefs but still threw 19 touchdowns and had a passer rating of 91.4 in the regular season. Hoyer is currently starting in place of Jay Cutler for the Chicago Bears and has thrown for 300 yards in all three starts, with six touchdowns and no interceptions.
He’s on a one-year, $2 million deal.
The Texans don’t have many options right now but to stick with Osweiler and ride it out in hopes that he keeps his head above water long enough to win the division (by far the worst in football) and get out of the year with a playoff run akin to the one he witnessed on the sidelines last season with Denver. The other choice is to bench him now and turn to Tom Savage, finally finding out if there’s anything there; after all, it would be difficult to do worse than Osweiler has done to this point anyway.
The fate of the contract was sealed months ago, so that’s not something that can be corrected until 2017, when Houston can release him and start saving some money. The only thing that can be changed now is who is taking the snaps for the Texans on Sundays.
It’s time for O’Brien to open up the quarterback competition once again.