HOUSTON -- Every time coach David Culley has been asked about balancing winning now with thinking about the future of the franchise, the Houston Texans coach has been clear that he is just focused on the team’s next game.
Now, after the Texans’ 31-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the biggest focus on the next game for Houston (2-10) will be about which quarterback will be under center in Week 14 against the Seattle Seahawks.
In the third quarter Sunday, quarterback Tyrod Taylor went to the blue medical tent with a left wrist injury, his non-throwing hand. On the Texans' next offensive drive he was replaced by rookie Davis Mills, who finished the game.
After the game, Culley said Taylor hyperextended his wrist, but a team spokesperson said Taylor was healthy enough to return to the game. The Texans did not make an announcement with an injury update during the game.
On Monday, Culley said the medical staff is “still evaluating” Taylor’s injury and that the quarterback “couldn’t grip the ball when the ball was snapped to him” during the game.
However, even though Culley said he was waiting for the results of Taylor’s MRI, he said whether or not Taylor plays on Sunday “will be a football decision.” On Monday, Culley was asked whether he talked to general manager Nick Caserio on the headset during the game when making the decision to bench Taylor.
“No, I made the decision myself,” Culley said.
All season, Culley has said that Taylor is the team’s starting quarterback when healthy -- he missed six games with a left hamstring injury -- but he wavered from that after the loss to the Colts.
“When you don't score any points in the game, you evaluate everything,” Culley said Sunday after Taylor completed 5 of 13 passes for 45 yards.
None of Taylor’s five passes were completed to a wide receiver, and he never led the Texans into Indianapolis territory. One of the reasons Culley continued to point to Taylor giving the Texans a better chance to win is his track record of protecting the football.
And while Taylor did not throw an interception in the six quarters he played before his injury, that has not been the case since his return from injured reserve. In those four games, Taylor has thrown five interceptions, including one on the first play of the game against the Colts.
Mills, who completed 6 of 14 passes for 49 yards in relief of Taylor, stated that he’s “a better player than I was earlier in the season.”
“I know more of the offense now, being in it for longer,” Mills said. “I think the comfort builds as you get more playing experience out there.”
In Mills’ six starts while Taylor was injured, he went 0- 6, and while he showed flashes of playing well, he was inconsistent in his time as the starter.
And although Taylor and Mills have both struggled this season, the truth is that the Texans haven’t set up either quarterback to succeed and injuries have made it even worse.
The Texans’ reshuffled offensive line is without left tackle Laremy Tunsil and right tackle Marcus Cannon. Center Justin Britt just returned from injured reserve after missing five games with a knee injury. The protection has struggled for Taylor and Mills, and the Texans allowed a combined nine sacks in Weeks 12 and 13.
Houston will enter this offseason with a lot of questions surrounding its quarterback situation. Deshaun Watson is still on the roster, but he could be traded before the NFL draft. Taylor is playing on a one-year deal and Jeff Driskel switched his position to tight end. The Texans could choose to go with Mills, a third-round pick, in 2022 or use what is trending toward a top-five draft pick on a quarterback.
There isn’t a quarterback projected to be worthy of a pick like the Texans will have in the first round if they don't trade down, so there’s a chance Mills will be competing to start in 2022. If he is given the chance to start again this season, it seems unlikely things turn around given the personnel surrounding him.
“Obviously, the job of our quarterback is to score points and get us in the end zone, and we haven’t done that very well, and we are going to see what we can do to get that corrected,” Culley said. “That’s why we are doing the evaluation right now.”