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Bill O'Brien tabs Ryan Mallett as Texans' starting QB

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The Houston Texans have seen enough of Ryan Fitzpatrick. They want to get a look at Ryan Mallett now.

Texans coach Bill O'Brien announced Wednesday that the team is making Mallett their starting quarterback moving forward. Now 4-5 on the season, the Texans head into their bye week after two of Fitzpatrick's worst games of the season.

"This might be the thing that helps our team," O'Brien said.

The Texans acquired Mallett for virtually nothing on August 31, giving up a conditional seventh-round pick in 2016 for the former Patriot. O'Brien coached Mallett as his offensive coordinator in New England, and cited his familiarity with O’Brien's system as one reason to make the move.

"Watching Ryan in practice, I really believe he's gotten better and better," O' Brien said. "His huddle command, his knowledge of our offense. He's really been in the system for four years, he was drafted in 2011. Obviously he backed up Tom (Brady) for three years and came in here to back up Ryan (Fitzpatrick) and I think he's made a lot of progress."

This is a decision that should be popular in some corners of the Texans locker room. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported earlier this week that Andre Johnson is a big fan of Mallett and his big arm.

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While O'Brien is taking a leap of faith for a player who has never started an NFL game, it's a sensible move for the Texans' future. They want to know if Mallett is a legitimate candidate to be their quarterback in 2015. We have never been impressed with Mallett's preseason work, during which he has looked off target and uneasy in the pocket. Just don't question Mallett's intelligence.

"My football IQ is a lot higher than a lot of people think it is. If you think I'm a dumb player, fine. My advantage there," Mallett said Wednesday.

For much of this regular season, Fitzpatrick played fairly well. He kept the Texans in games and avoided big mistakes. His accuracy and decision making has fallen off in recent weeks, however, and Mallett offers the promise of the unknown. Houston is not out of the playoff mix at 4-5, but a season around .500 is a positive step for a squad that finished 2-14 a year ago.

Much like Mark Sanchez in Philadelphia, this is Mallett's audition to change the course of his career.

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