It may be the middle of June, and training camp and its looming position battles are still some five weeks off, but no one could have been surprised Tuesday when first-year Texans coach Bill O'Brien named veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick the team's starter.
Texans have named Ryan Fitzpatrick the starter. Bet Andre Johnson is thrilled— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) June 17, 2014
Fitzpatrick, who spent last season in Tennessee and has started on and off for the Bills, Bengals and Rams since arriving in the NFL in 2005, is the obvious choice in Houston. The team traded Matt Schaub to the Raiders before the draft, and the other options included Case Keenum, T.J. Yates and rookie Tom Savage.
"When I came into the 8:00am team meeting this morning I told the team that Ryan Fitzpatrick is our starter," O'Brien said. "He's a guy that's earned the job and the other three guys are working hard and battling it out for number two. All four of them have put in a lot of good work, but at the end of the day Ryan Fitzpatrick is our starter. He's had a good offseason."
The hope is that Fitzpatrick can serve in the same capacity Alex Smith did in Kansas City last season. Coming off a 2-14 record in 2012, the Chiefs traded for Smith, who was instrumental in the team's 11-win effort in 2013. He'll never be mistaken for a franchise quarterback, but Smith is accurate, makes good decisions and avoids major mistakes. Couple that with a stout defense and that will get you a long way.
Fitzpatrick started nine games last season in place of injured Jake Locker and completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,454 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also ranked 20th in total value among all NFL quarterbacks, according to Football Outsiders, just ahead of -- wait for it -- Alex Smith.
If the Texans felt that Fitzpatrick wasn't a capable short-term answer, they would have almost certainly drafted a quarterback high in last month's draft. Like, say, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. But for all the excitement Manziel brings, he apparently didn't fit what O'Brien and his staff were looking for in a quarterback.
"We have a vision for our football team and we stuck to that vision," O'Brien said recently. "Every decision we made in the draft we felt led to that vision and we'll see if that vision turns out the way we believe it will in whatever, a year, two years, three years. It was what we believed in and we stuck with it and we stayed disciplined in the draft and Johnny's in a great situation in Cleveland."
Instead, the Texans waited until the fourth round to take Savage, who remains in the mix for the backup job. No word on how Andre Johnson feels about this.