Looking To Next Season...Already
By Emin Avakian
Another week, another loss.
After 10 consecutive losses, there is little to say about the Houston Texans that hasn't already been said.
So, let's try a positive column--one that looks forward to next year, and one that gives the Texans organization something it hasn't had in nearly three months: hope.
Let's give the front office options for the most important position in professional sports, the starting quarterback (cue up Packers fans nodding their heads).
Assuming the Texans cut ties with Matt Schaub, and swallow a small percentage of what is owed to him, if released, here are four quarterbacks who would be a good fit, reasonably speaking of course:
1) Case Keenum
Staying with the hometown kid and giving him a full off-season as the starter to improve his game and gain the respect and trust of his teammates is a viable option for the Texans, and would be a respectable decision. Keenum, who is only 25-years-old, has started the previous five games after taking the ball from Schaub in a week seven loss to Kansas City. The Houston College alumnus showed flashes of potent play against the Indianapolis Colts and the Arizona Cardinals, tossing three touchdowns in each contest. Since then, however, Keenum has thrown just one touchdown and three interceptions, as opposing defenses have made the necessary adjustments. Head coach Gary Kubiak has stuck with Keenum as the starter, despite creeping permanent doubt in the youngster's mind when he was benched for Schaub in week 11. The naysayers will say that the Texans are still a playoff-bound team next season, and should go with someone more proven and experienced. Either way, Keenum has shown enough this season to compete for a starting job.
2) T.J. Yates
Yates has thrown 32 passes in seven games since taking over for an injured Matt Schaub late in the 2011 regular season and leading the team to the playoffs. It's doubtful he gets another chance with the Texans, but he's still only 26 years old and worthy of another opportunity. It's unclear why Kubiak chose Keenum over Yates after Schaub's injury this season, given the solid run he had in 2011, but it's looking like the right decision.
3) Ryan Mallet
Quite possibly the most notable and most anticipated backup quarterback in the NFL, Mallet has completed one pass since being drafted in 2011. But in that same time, he has watched and studied from the sidelines as one of the all-time greats has served as his mentor. Similar to Aaron Rodgers taking the reigns from Favre, Mallet seems to be ready, only Tom Brady isn't retiring any time soon. Assuming Mallet does not want to wait another 3-4 years, and assuming teams like the Texans want to jump on him via free agency or trade, then he'll finally get the chance to showcase his skills. The 6-foot-6 quarterback was born in Texas--hours away from Reliant Stadium. Being the savior of one of his state's professional football teams would be quite a story.
4) ::insert coveted college quarterback here::
At 2-10, and no signs of a strong finish, the Texans will own a top-three pick in next year's NFL draft. If the front office decides to start fresh at the quarterback position, they certainly have their options. Given the underclassmen that might declare, the Texans will have to give a hard look at Johnny Manziel, Tajh Boyd, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Taylor Kelly, and AJ McCarron, among others. For a slew of reasons, Manziel is the popular choice: hometown hero, exciting, polarizing, etc. The problem with drafting a quarterback to lead a team of veterans in their prime is it's usually not a wise move. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are exceptions to the rule, and there doesn't seem to be one of that caliber. The Texans' best bet is to draft a top offensive lineman, but we all know the love affair that general managers have with drafting quarterbacks, especially if it's a new regime.
Notable snub: Michael Vick (not gonna happen).
With a returning core, the Texans have a crucial decision to make at the quarterback position. Looking from the outside, their safest bet is to stick with Keenum and let him continue progressing. Of course, the situation gets a little sticky with a new head coach. Kubiak is a lame duck at the moment, and will be fired seconds after the season mercifully concludes. If solidifying the quarterback position is the team's second most important decision, then hiring the new head coach is unquestionably the most pressing issue of the coming offseason.