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Sunday, 15 March 2015

2015 Free Agency: Are The Texans in Denial about Quarterback?

The Houston Texans went into this off- season in reasonably good salary cap shape. They had about $14 Million in cap space and had targeted some players with relatively high cap numbers for contract restructure or dismissal. Andre Johnson, Adrian Foster, Duane Brown and Johnathan Joseph were foremost among those headed for the “chopping block”.

Most NFL analyst believed the Texans would probably cut last years’ starting Quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, if they were confident that they could upgrade the position. So far, the Texans have been relatively quiet. During this lead up to Free Agency and the Draft, only the release of Wide Receiver Andre Johnson and the reported re-signing of Back-up Quarterback Ryan Mallett put the Texans on the news ticker.

Then, the rumors and reports that the Texans are likely to sign free agent Quarterback Bryan Hoyer began to creep across the bottom of the screen on ESPN, CBS and the NFL Network. Clearly, that news would seem to indicate that last year’s starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, will indeed be given his “pink slip.”

While the probable release of the 32 years old Fitzpatrick isn’t surprising, releasing him without having secured an “upgrade” to the position is. If Hoyer is the replacement for Fitzpatrick, it is certainly not an “upgrade” and most analysts would likely agree that it is a slight “downgrade”.

 Fitzpatrick started 12 games for the Texans in 2014 before being placed on the Injured Reserve List with a season ending injury. While no one expected Fitzpatrick to suddenly become the Texans’ “franchise” Quarterback, he did play well enough for the team to post a winning record (9-7), and fall just short of the playoffs, one year after going 2-14 and having the first overall pick of the NFL Draft.

The former Harvard Quarterback played well for new Head Coach Bill O’Brien, leading the team to a 3-1 start. Then the team suffered three devastating losses to Dallas by 3 points, the Indianapolis Colts by 5 and the Pittsburgh Steelers by 7. Although Fitzpatrick played well in two of those games (Indianapolis and Pittsburgh - posting a 109.3 and 98.7 passer rating respectively), the team faltered and could never regained consistency for the rest of the season.

During the 2014 season, Fitzpatrick completed over 63 percent of his passes and only threw 8 interceptions, but despite that success, the Texans appear to be ready to cast him into the briar patch of free agency.

The move from Fitzpatrick to Hoyer does not seem to make much sense. When comparing the two QBs, Fitzpatrick has the better 2014 and career numbers. Fitzpatrick has more starting experience than the 29 years old Hoyer. Fitzpatrick was a “full time” starter in Cincinnati, Buffalo and Tennessee (89 starts). Hoyer, on the other hand, has only one year of starting experience (13 starts).

In 2014 (12 starts), Ryan Fitzpatrick had a pass completion rate of 63.1 percent; Hoyer could only muster 55.3 percent in 13 starts. Also during that season, Hoyer threw for almost 1,000 more yards than Fitzpatrick; yet, Hoyer only threw 12 touchdown passes while Fitzpatrick’s threw 17.

Last season, the Texans passed on drafting a “franchise” Quarterback (Bridgewater or Bortles). They also failed to make significant, meaningful “upgrades” to their receiving corps. This year they appear to be in the process of replacing a slightly older but more productive Quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) with a less experienced and less prolific signal caller (Brian Hoyer).

None of these three Quarterbacks (Fitzpatrick, Hoyer or Mallett) will morph into the Texans’ “Quarterback of the future” but until Houston can find the gumption to pull the trigger on a prospect, they owe it to their fans to put the best player on the field. With this move (signing Hoyer and cutting Fitzpatrick), the organization does not seem to be putting the interest of its fans first.


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