HOUSTON -- A day before the Houston Texans began their voluntary offseason conditioning program, they cut ties with the player who was their starting quarterback for most of last year. As they truly begin the 2016 season, they hope that quarterback carousel they've operated for years is over.
Even before Brian Hoyer committed the fifth turnover of the Texans' wild-card playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, his fate was sealed. When the Texans signed Brock Osweiler to a four-year deal worth $72 million, with $37 million guaranteed, Hoyer's certain future became even more sure. The Texans were moving on from Hoyer, whom they signed a year ago.
A trade was an option, but ultimately the Texans simply cut Hoyer. They're hoping Osweiler provides some stability to the position. They're hoping he takes control.
A year ago the Texans quarterback room included Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage, who was then a second-year player and a former fourth-round draft pick. Hoyer and Mallett were to compete for the Texans starting job through the offseason, through minicamp and through part of training camp.
Hoyer's win in that battle wasn't decisive. It was so tenuous that a difficult few quarters cost him his job. In the fourth quarter of the Texans' season opener, Hoyer lost the starting job. That he pulled the trigger so quickly spoke to Texans coach Bill O'Brien's lack of confidence in Hoyer. Mallett, too, had a short leash, which spoke to O'Brien's lack of faith in him.
What the Texans did last year was try to make the best of an unenviable situation. They didn't like any of their options at quarterback but knew they needed something. Hoyer and Mallett were two football smart players familiar with the offense. Perhaps that familiarity and that knowledge could be enough for the Texans to succeed, they thought.
Ultimately, though, the Texans were simply shuffling two backup quarterbacks.
Have they found a starter? Some of Osweiler's numbers are similar to Hoyer's. Last season Hoyer completed 60.7 percent of his passes, threw 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions and had a 91.4 passer rating. Osweiler completed 61.8 percent of his passes, threw 10 touchdowns and six interceptions and had a rating of 86.4 last season.
The difference is in what they did in pressurized situations.
Backups T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden, not Hoyer, produced the Texans' most stirring wins last season -- the franchise's first win against the Indianapolis Colts and that win over the then-undefeated Bengals. Hoyer wilted in the biggest games he played -- in the season opener against the Chiefs which he opened with an interception and in the playoff game against the Chiefs in which he threw four interceptions and lost a fumble.
Meanwhile, Osweiler orchestrated a touchdown drive in the snow against the New England Patriots to take the lead in a pivotal game. And while New England tied the game, the Broncos won in overtime. It was part of the Texans' evaluation of Osweiler, and part of what gave them confidence in him despite his not having much of a sample size in starting.
They've got a player they believe in now, in a way they didn't believe in Hoyer or Mallett.