The Houston Texans announced on Tuesday a development that might have seemed inevitable from the moment they elected not to use a high draft pick on a quarterback: Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick has been given the starting job.
Viewed by many as a placeholder while Houston rebuilds, Fitzpatrick has not had much success in the NFL, compiling a 27-49-1 career record. Considering the reality of having Fitzpatrick under center, what is the Texans' ceiling for 2014?
Fitzpatrick's history provides little reason for optimismRyan Fitzpatrick has never won more than six games in a season and owns a career winning percentage of .350 as a starting quarterback. Even if we allow that the Texans have better surrounding talent than Fitzpatrick's Bills and Titans squads, it's a stretch to believe Houston can produce a winning record, given the quarterback's obvious limitations.
The ceiling is 8-8, with Fitzpatrick starting all 16 games. The floor is the NFL's worst record, with Fitzpatrick yanked in favor of Case Keenum or Tom Savage by midseason.
Texans won't be great -- but they could still winOne of the most overused cliches in sports: It's hard to win a game in the NFL. Plenty of mediocre teams win eight games. Heck, mediocre teams make the playoffs almost every season with 10 wins. (The 2010 Kansas City Chiefs, anyone?) A lucky 10-win season is probably the ceiling for Houston this year in a lousy AFC South.
The Texans' defense has the talent to be a top-five group. This is a team that can't possibly win the Super Bowl because Ryan Fitzpatrick is at the helm, but this was also the most unlucky team in the NFL last year. They are a great candidate to bounce back.
Yes, there's hope for HoustonLet's start here: The Texans went 2-14 last season, but let's remember that Murphy's Law descended upon Reliant Stadium. There's undeniable talent on this roster, and that was before Jadeveon Clowney was added with the No. 1 overall pick last month. Throw in the return of Brian Cushing and Arian Foster, and this team is well-stocked to contend in the underwhelming AFC South. What Houston needs, of course, is half-decent quarterback play -- something Matt Schaub and everyone else who took up the mantle was unable to provide in '13. Ryan Fitzpatrick has had moments -- remember, this guy got a $60 million extension three years ago -- so we shouldn't be stunned if he plays competently.
The Texans can easily be a playoff team. Somebody tell Andre Johnson.
No matter how bright he is, Fitzpatrick can't lift this teamRyan Fitzpatrick is an extremely smart player, but I'm not sure that'll be enough. I don't think he's the guy to lead you to the playoffs, just based on his history in the NFL.
The biggest plus for the Texans right now is head coach Bill O'Brien, who is going to prove himself to be a standout coach. But I don't think he can lift Houston into the postseason with Fitzpatrick as his quarterback.
Forget about Fitz; the rest of the AFC will be a problemEven with what oughta be an all-world pass rush, the Texans won't have enough to slow down what oughta be an all-world passing attack in Indy, and they won't be able to take the AFC South. That means their high-end potential is as a wild-card team. However, would you say their chances of getting one of those two at-large bids are better than those of the Chiefs in Year 2 under perennial playoff participant Andy Reid? How 'bout the Chargers, who are coming off Philip Rivers' successful first season under Mike McCoy? Each of the four AFC North teams -- yes, that includes the Browns -- looks to have at least a decent shot at making the playoffs. The Dolphins just missed the postseason last year, and they appear to be an improved bunch -- as do both the Bills and Jets.
In other words, before we even look at Ryan Fitzpatrick, it's clear the AFC of 2014 has more going for it collectively than just the Pats and Broncos. As for Fitzpatrick, he's a mediocre salve for bad teams without a better option at the sport's most important position. Ideally, he'll serve as a bridge to Tom Savage ... who I expect to take over by midseason. Houston will finish somewhere around .500.