November 11, 2014
Mallett Promoted to Starter
by Bob Hulsey
Rookie Head Coach Bill O'Brien decided to try a bold move for his 4-5 Texans. Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had taken the club as far as it could go. For better or worse, a change was needed.
It was obvious in the Week 9 loss to Philadelphia. The Eagles loaded the box and dared Fitzpatrick to throw deep. The ball wasn't getting there and rarely did the Texans try. Philly knew from then on that they could just cover the sideline and crossing routes without worrying about the deep ball.
Fitzpatrick is a fairly competent leader who is willing to take the blows and run when the play breaks down, but his limitations were becoming obvious and hurting the offense.
So O'Brien used the bye week to switch quarterbacks. In Fitzpatrick's place is Ryan Mallett, a former draft pick of the Patriots who spent three years largely standing on the sidelines while Tom Brady played the games. Mallett, from the University of Arkansas, was acquired just before the season for a low 2015 draft choice.
In college, he was known for his strong arm. In the pros, he had to learn quick-read throws to run an offense as Brady's backup. O'Brien was one of Mallett's coaches in New England. Passing accuracy has always been a concern but there's no question he'll add a dimension to the offense that Fitzpatrick could not provide.
Whether Mallett is ready to be a starting quarterback is an open question, but the answers will start Sunday in Cleveland. With free agency looming for Mallett after the season, the Texans need to know what they have.
Defensively, J.J. Watt is continuing an awesome season, but the troops are thinning around him. Injuries and ineffectiveness have turned him into nearly a one-man show although the bye week might help get players like Brian Cushing, Jonathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson and oft-idled top overall draft choice Jadeveon Clowney back into the lineup.
If the defense bounces back, it will take some pressure off Mallett, Arian Foster and the rest of the Houston offense. Two games with Jacksonville, one with Tennessee and three with the AFC North dot the remainder of the schedule so while there is still a faint chance of a wild card spot, the Texans would be better served to focus on next year and using the remaining games to separate the NFL wheat from the chaff.
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