HOUSTON -- Tom Savage will tell you his goal for the rest of this season is to win games, but he is playing for more than just the 2017 Houston Texans: Savage is trying to prove he has a future as an NFL quarterback.
Savage is in the last year of his rookie contract and has the chance to earn a new deal in the offseason. Savage's audition didn't start well, as he was benched at halftime of the Texans’ season opener, and his performance since regaining the starting job after Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in early November isn't likely to inspire much interest as a starter when free agency comes around in March 2018.
This season, Savage has completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 1,349 yards, with five touchdowns and six interceptions. He is also tied for the NFL lead with seven lost fumbles.
In Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans, Savage had the best game of his career, averaging a season-best 7.45 yards per attempts, throwing for 365 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception on his last pass of a then-four-point game.
"I think all four years were an audition, even preseason," Savage said. "That's just the way it is. It's an audition for other teams and audition again for Houston. I just have to go out there and take advantage of it, but most importantly I want to win. That's the most important thing to me."
Savage is 1-5 as a starter in 2017, but he has been able to keep the Texans in games. Houston has lost two of his starts by seven or fewer points this season, and Sunday's loss to the Titans was a one-possession game until a late Tennessee touchdown.
"I think he's proven that he can play," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He can play in this league, whether it was Arizona or the game [Sunday] or even the Baltimore game. I mean, if you really study the tape, the guy has done some really good things relative to playing quarterback in the National Football League.
"He's been a lot of fun to coach and to watch improve and I think he's really gotten better, no doubt about it."
This season has been Savage's first real extended run as a starter. He dealt with injuries each of his first three seasons, including missing all of the 2015 season due to a shoulder injury. In 2017. Savage replaced quarterback Brock Osweiler in Week 15 and started Houston's Week 16 win to clinch a playoff spot. He suffered a concussion in the regular-season finale in Tennessee, though, and didn't regain his starting job for the playoffs, even after clearing the concussion protocol.
Next season, the Texans anticipate Watson to return in time for the regular season from his torn ACL. Houston's only other quarterback on the active roster right now is T.J. Yates, who, like Savage, is not under contract for next season. While the Texans could decide to go a different route next season, there is a chance Savage could return to back up Watson again if the Texans feel he has shown enough this season. That might require more convincing during his final four games.
"Hopefully I'm showing [people around the NFL] that I'm a competitor and I can play in this league, which I know I can," Savage said. "I know I can go out there and make the throws. I know there’s nothing that the defenses are doing right now that are surprising me.
"I'm going in there prepared, and ultimately I'm a team guy. I care about this team more than anything in this world and it's going to continue."