The free-agent quarterback class of 2016 never made sense to me.
The dash to pay $18 million a year for Sam Bradford. The bizarre bidding war for Brock Osweiler. The willingness of a team to let Ryan Fitzpatrick hold its offseason hostage until close to training camp, only to give him his $12 million anyway. It was all fool's gold.
None of it ever computed as it unfolded in real time, nor ever figured to work out even in the short term, much less the long view. And it only stood to reason that Week 15 marked the nadir for that trio.
Osweiler was finally, mercifully, benched by the Texans in the second quarter Sunday after throwing two awful interceptions against the lowly Jaguars. Fitzpatrick, benched multiple times this season already, was reduced to playing garbage time in a blowout loss to the Dolphins on Saturday night with seemingly no one watching in the Meadowlands in prime time. Bradford, after some surprising stretches of turnover-free ball this season, reverted to form Sunday in something of a must-win game against the lowly Colts' defense, compounding a blowout loss with his slow start and early turnovers.
Alas, be careful what you pay for. In the NFL, at the quarterback position, it can be damning.
Fitzpatrick's 2015 season looks like a statistical anomaly with each passing week. He should've been benched after a six-pick debacle at Kansas City in Week 3, yet the Jets stuck with him for three more starts before finally turning to Geno Smith, who promptly tore his ACL in his Week 7 start against the Ravens.
Fitzpatrick then lost the starting job, again, this time to Bryce Petty after a horrible Week 13 outing, yet Jets fans can't escape him. Petty was beat to a pulp in the blowout loss Saturday night and Fitzpatrick was forced back into duty, again, while Matt Moore of all people lit up the Jets defense to help save the Dolphins' season.
The Jets should've taken a hard line with Fitzpatrick from the onset, and now he might have to play out the string knowing he has no future in New York, depending on Petty's recovery from a chest injury. That's because the team does not think rookie Christian Hackenberg is ready to start.
The Texans, meantime, could only go so far with Osweiler. You can't keep winning despite your quarterback, especially in January. It is shocking that the Texans have as many wins as they do, considering Blake Bortles is the only full-time starter in the NFL who has been worse than Osweiler.
Of course, Bortles isn't one year into a deal that will pay Osweiler at least $37 million through 2018. And, lucky for the Texans, Bortles was the opposing quarterback Sunday. The former first-round pick did next to nothing of note all game except toss a few more crushing picks -- including one on the final drive -- that helped Houston remain unbeaten in the AFC South with a 21-20 victory. Bortles threw for 92 yards and ran for a touchdown, but tossed the two picks that helped seal the Jags' ninth straight loss. After the game the Jaguars parted ways with fourth-year coach Gus Bradley.
Of course, for Houston, it's less than ideal when your alleged franchise quarterback -- whose arrival had everything to do with ownership and quite little to do with the coaching staff -- gets immediately outshined by a former fourth-round pick. Tom Savage came in cold, without any real prep and having never started an NFL game, and with the Texans sputtering on offense and already behind, all he did is win the game. Savage was composed as he completed 23 of 36 passes for 260 yards and no picks. His teammates rallied around him with spirit and urgency.
For a division-leading team to have to deal with this drama at this stage of the season isn't ideal ... but in this case it was the only move. In fact, I'm fairly convinced if Savage hadn't been out with a elbow issue the past few weeks, O'Brien may have made this move sooner. Don't forget, he yanked Brian Hoyer in the third quarter of Week 1 a year ago.
O'Brien can't let his players be handcuffed by a misguided quarterback contract, and there is absolutely no reason to go back to Osweiler now. If Savage managed this comeback having thrown only 19 career passes (all the way back in 2014, his rookie year) and without getting regular reps at practice, and he already outshined the starter, you have to like his chances getting all the snaps Monday through Friday.
Osweiler managed to pack a lot of damage into less than a half of football, again starting in a lethargic manner and throwing two quick picks. The second pick was horrible, with everyone in the stadium except Osweiler seeing linebacker Telvin Smith drop in coverage. Osweiler entered the day tied for fourth in the NFL with 14 interceptions and at this point has 16 picks to 14 touchdowns.
It was time for a change, indeed, though the Texans are stuck with this contract for another year.
The only winner in this QB charade is the Eagles, who managed to plunder the Vikings for a first-round pick and a fourth-rounder for Bradford after Teddy Bridgewater's injury. Bradford's numbers have been fine, but he's rarely spectacular and in critical moments -- at Detroit on Thanksgiving; at home to the wounded Colts on Sunday with the Vikings trying to hang in the wild-card race -- he has come up far too small.
The Vikings were outgained 281-69 in the first half and outscored 27-0. Minnesota's offense ran a mere 13 plays in the first half. The Vikings' first six drives: three-and-out, four-and-out, three-and-out, fumble, interception, fumble. Bradford was 5-of-8 for 52 yards and a pick in the first half.
Even with the return of Adrian Peterson, who was less than pedestrian in his surprising first game back from knee surgery, this team was listless on both sides of the ball, failed to show up at home, and put their playoff chances in jeopardy. It was a far cry from that 5-0 start. At 7-7, they're cooked and likely stuck with Bradford given the nature of his contract and the uncertainty over Bridgewater's return.
That's a lot of money wasted on these three passers. And a lot of questions about the future of that position in all three cities.