LOS ANGELES -- It has been only two games since rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson tore his ACL, but in those two losses, the Houston Texans’ offense has scored only 14 points with Tom Savage at quarterback.
Since taking over for Watson, Savage has shown he's not the answer to help turn the Texans around this season.
In Savage’s past two starts, he completed 46 percent of his passes for 440 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Savage has been with the Texans since he was drafted in 2014 and knows head coach Bill O’Brien’s system well, but he does not have the skill set to replicate the historic season Watson was having before he tore his ACL. With Savage under center, the Texans are not built to win shootouts.
Savage was able to move the ball down the field in the first half against the Rams, but he and the offense struggled in the second half. The Texans had 188 yards of offense and 11 first downs at halftime, but finished with just 283 yards of total offense and 14 first downs.
Savage finished the game 18-of-37 for 221 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions and a passer rating of 54.0. Savage also fumbled the ball twice, turning the ball over four times against the Rams.
“It’s on the quarterback when we put up seven points,” Savage said. “It’s on me.”
But while Savage has struggled, it's clear the Texans don't have a better option at quarterback on the roster right now to replace him as the starter.
After Watson tore his ACL, the Texans signed quarterbacks T.J. Yates and Matt McGloin. Last week, Houston released McGloin and signed Josh Johnson. Yates has been active in Weeks 9 and 10 as Savage’s backup, but has not played. Yates has not thrown a pass in a regular season game since Dec. 20, 2015, and Johnson has not thrown one since Dec. 11, 2011.
Savage continues to struggle on throws downfield. In Sunday’s 33-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Savage was 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) for 85 yards and an interception on throws more than 10 yards downfield, the second-worst completion percentage by a Texans quarterback with a minimum 10 passes on such throws in the past 10 seasons. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Savage entered the game completing 33.3 percent of passes more than 10 yards downfield this season, the second worst among 38 quarterbacks with at least 20 such attempts.
While Yates or Johnson may not be better options than Savage, there are external options, including free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who threw for 2,241 yards and 16 touchdowns last season for a passer rating of 90.7 for the San Francisco 49ers. Of course, signing Kaepernick is not just a matter of on-the-field performance because last month, the polarizing quarterback filed a grievance against the NFL for collusion. Last season, Kaepernick did not stand during the national anthem, which has led other NFL players to follow in protest of racial inequality and police brutality.
O’Brien said the Texans did discuss Kaepernick, but the team instead opted to sign Yates and McGloin immediately after Watson was put on injured reserve. On Saturday, Kaepernick’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, told the Reasonable Doubt podcast that the Texans’ poor play has made the case against the NFL “even stronger.”
The Texans had the fourth-easiest schedule to play in the second half, but as Houston showed in the first game on that list, it won't be smooth sailing unless something changes. Now at 3-6 and three games back in the division, the Texans are quickly losing time to right the ship, and there’s no healthy quarterback on the roster who can help plug the Texans' Watson-sized hole.