Tom Savage over Brock Osweiler: The right move for the Texans

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EDITOR'S NOTE: After the publishing of this story, Bill O'Brien declared that Tom Savage would indeed start Houston's game against the Bengals on NFL Network this Saturday night.

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The Houston Texans are going to win the AFC South if they stick with Tom Savage at quarterback.

I'm smiling broadly as I pound that sentence into the computer. It's zany. It's a statement that describes the amazing and wild nature of the NFL.

It's also not really up for debate.

Yes, the Texans signed Brock Osweiler to a $72 million deal in March. Yes, I thought it was a no-brainer move, as Osweiler sure seemed to represent a major upgrade over the Hoyer/Mallett/Yates/Weeden clown car at quarterback. Yes, I was wrong. And yes, none of this should matter in the Texans' pursuit of a second consecutive AFC South title.

Osweiler hit Brock bottom on Sunday, getting benched at home against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. The 26-year-old QB had thrown a pair of gruesome-looking picks on consecutive possessions against a team so dreadful it rightly fired the coach (Gus Bradley) after the game. Bill O'Brien understandably had seen enough and went to the bullpen for little-used third-year man Tom Savage. Well, it's not hyperbole to say this decision saved the game, the season and the heat, with Savage rocking steady (completing 23 of his 36 passes for 260 yards) and leading the Texans to a 21-20 comeback win.

When Savage ran onto the field in relief midway through the second quarter, the home crowd erupted in cheers that haven't been heard in Houston all season. And when Savage proceeded to complete a 32-yard pass to Wendall Williams on his fifth snap -- delivering a perfect ball down the right sideline -- Texans faithful responded with the elation of a fanbase that felt like it finally had something to applaud at the game's most important position.

Savage, a fourth-round pick in O'Brien's first draft with the Texans three years ago, has talent. He hasn't been healthy. But this is barely about Savage himself.

The key with Tom Savage is that he isn't Brock Osweiler. Yes, it's been that bad.

In 14 starts this season, Osweiler has thrown 14 touchdown passes ... and 16 picks. His 71.4 passer rating ranks 30th among qualified QBs, below Blake Bortles and above Ryan Fitzpatrick -- not exactly the kinda company you want to be keeping as a purported franchise signal caller. Pretty mind-boggling, considering the brouhaha that followed Osweiler's decision to ditch the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos in favor of a lucrative deal with the QB-needy Texans.

More nuggets of futility? Glad you asked.

Osweiler ranks dead last in yards per attempt among qualified QBs at 5.75. Osweiler has thrown 54 more passes than Trevor Siemian -- the man who replaced him in Denver -- yet the Texans QB has 308 fewer passing yards.

His numbers are sinking like a (B)rock in water. And actually watching his play has been worse. Osweiler has turned star receiver DeAndre Hopkins into a non-entity. The fourth-year pro is on pace for his lowest marks in receiving yards and touchdowns since his rookie season -- and his lowest yards-per-catch average ever.

Bill O'Brien is a fine coach who has won a lot of games in Houston with awful quarterbacks. The fact that the Texans are in first place at 8-6 is pretty remarkable, given Brock's deficiencies and, of course, the absence of three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, who went on injured reserve in September.

But now, O'Brien has to stick with the new plan by keeping Osweiler on the bench. And management needs to back him up.

"We don't make decisions on how much a guy gets paid," O'Brien told the assembled media in the postgame. "We make decisions on what's the best way to win a game. That was the decision we made today, and I thought today, it worked out OK."

Yes, it did. Now, roll with it.

Texans owner Bob McNair, who is paying Osweiler, called the decision to bench the quarterback "a gutsy call" while giving O'Brien credit. Now, he needs to give O'Brien his full blessing, if he hasn't already done so in private.

See, Houston is in a great position to make the playoffs. Jadeveon Clowney is healthy and enjoying an impactful third pro season. Even without Watt, the defense has been strong, ranking No. 1 in total D. Houston can run with Lamar Miller, the marquee free-agent addition who has lived up to the billing, having already eclipsed 1,000 yards. The Texans should beat the Bengals at home on Christmas Eve (memories of Marvin Lewis playoff gaffes and losses to the Texans dance around my head). This would set up a huge Week 17 showdown with the Titans in Nashville.

The Titans, also 8-6, are hot, having beaten the Broncos and Chiefs (at Arrowhead) in back-to-back weeks. Marcus Mariota makes big-time throws, DeMarco Murray is a bruising beast of a runner and the offensive line is excellent. Veteran tight end Delanie Walker is so tough. And so is Dick LeBeau's defense.

But Houston can absolutely win this season finale and make the playoffs -- IF the quarterback doesn't serve as a double agent and undermine his own team's effort.

I feel terrible for Osweiler. What a wild 13 months it has been for the former Bronco. The most underrated part of his meltdown and regression is that John Elway offered him $16 million per year -- but wouldn't go higher. And while Siemian has been a better performer, Denver's offense is currently a mess and has totally regressed since the injury to running back C.J. Anderson. The irony isn't lost that Osweiler got benched in Houston on the same Sunday when New England finally won in Denver. Remember -- and you really have to jog the mental rolodex for this -- Brock beat a then-perfect Patriots team on Thanksgiving weekend last year. Feels like a lifetime ago.

Still, going into Christmas week this year, Houston is in much better shape for the playoffs than Denver. The Broncos are also 8-6, third in the AFC West, and could easily lose out with remaining games against the Chiefs (in Kansas City) and the first-place Raiders (in Denver). Meanwhile, Houston controls its own destiny with the two aforementioned -- and winnable -- games.

O'Brien needs to take destiny into his own hands, completely pull the plug on the 72 Million Dollar Man and hand the keys to Savage. Don't chase bad money with bad decision-making.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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