INDIANAPOLIS -- Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith and head coach Bill O'Brien want quarterback Ryan Mallett back in Houston next season, both men said Thursday during the NFL scouting combine.
Mallett, whom the Texans acquired through a preseason trade with the New England Patriots, will become a free agent on March 10, barring a deal with the Texans before that date.
"I think if you look at our offense, I think it's important for us to bolster the quarterback position," O'Brien said. "To me, one of the ways to do that is to get Ryan Mallett back here."
Offered Smith: "We're hopeful that we'll get him back and have another opportunity to continue to help us."
Fitzpatrick went 4-5 in those first nine games, and Mallett replaced him as the starter during the Texans' ensuing bye week. He led the Texans to a 23-7 win in Cleveland, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 211 yards, two passing touchdowns and one interception. His Total QBR was a strong 81.9.
Mallett suffered a torn pectoral muscle after that game and played hurt against the Cincinnati Bengals the next week. The injury became too significant, and Mallett was placed on injured reserve.
Mallett spent the first three seasons of his career in New England playing behind Tom Brady. Given the Hall of Famer in front of him, Mallett's playing time was significantly limited, and what he would do in a full game remained a mystery.
"The thing that I was impressed probably most about him is you see backup quarterbacks in this league all the time play behind great quarterbacks; sometimes they pick up on how to play the position from the guy that they're watching," Smith said. "In his case, it was pretty apparent to me right off the bat, not only did he understand the position, it was apparent he had picked up several leadership traits playing behind such a great player. He was able to incorporate that in his stuff, his style."