HOUSTON -- All offseason -- after the Houston Texans traded Brock Osweiler to the Cleveland Browns -- the front office and coaching staff have said they believe in Tom Savage to be the team’s starting quarterback.
But in a huge move in the first round of the NFL draft, the Texans traded two first-round picks (No. 25 in 2017 and their 2018 pick) to get Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, the guy that general manager Rick Smith clearly thinks is Houston's quarterback of the future and the end of their quarterback carousel.
But not yet. After the pick, Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien reiterated that Savage is still their starting quarterback. “I don’t know if people believe us, but we’re comfortable with Tom Savage as our quarterback,” Smith said with a laugh.
“As a rookie quarterback it's a big jump,” O’Brien added. “Tom is our starter and Deshaun will come in and he's going to work hard and we're going to teach him and feed him a lot of information and he'll work at it.”
But Watson didn’t just fall into their laps at No. 25. Smith said after he saw the Kansas City Chiefs trade up to select Texas Tech quarterback, he made the call to Cleveland to complete the trade. This is the first time since 2012 that three quarterbacks were picked within the first 12 picks, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
According to the organization, Savage will be given a chance to succeed. But given the high price the Texans gave up to draft Watson, he will have the chance for the starting job, and we may see Savage on a short leash if he struggles.
In less than two months, Savage has gone from the guy who the Texans said was their answer at quarterback to now being in what could be a tough position battle. With one year remaining on his rookie contract, this is his chance to be an NFL starter, something that has been just out of his reach due to other quarterbacks and injuries.
During his conference call on Thursday night, Watson said he was prepared to do whatever it is the Texans ask him to do.
"All I need to do is put my head down, don't say anything, learn from all the veteran guys, learn from Tom Savage, learn from Brandon Weeden and just play my role," Watson said. "Whatever role that is, play it well and help the team win."
The phrase Smith and O’Brien repeated after drafting Watson is that he is a winner, something that is very important to the organization. O'Brien cited Watson's poise and impressive memory as characteristics that impressed them about the rookie. Watson, who was was 32-3 in as a starter at Clemson, threw for 4,593 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2016 to lead the Tigers to the national title last season
"One of the things that stood out to me was how well he played in clutch moments, in big games, in games that really meant everything — national championship games, big ACC games, the guy came through," O'Brien said. "When the chips were down he was able to lead his team to victory. And I think that says a lot about a quarterback. In the end, one of the things that we always look at is is the guy a winner and this guy is a winner ... I don't think anyone can argue with that."