Bill O'Brien Had No Choice

Illustration for article titled Bill O'Brien Had No Choice

Yesterday, Brian Hoyer played one of the very worst games by an NFL quarterback in the playoffs that I’ve ever seen. He threw four picks, lost a fumble, and I counted at least two other throws that could easily have turned into interceptions. By some metrics, it was one of the worst such games of all time; Hoyer had the most first-half turnover since 2000; he’s the only QB ever to toss 30 or more passes without a TD or 15 completions in a home playoff game (per ESPN); his 1.7 QBR is the third-lowest in the past decade of playoff games. And yet, for how dreadful he was, Bill O’Brien made the right call sticking with him.


The thing about the Texans is that they are incredibly unbalanced. They sport superstars at wide receiver, defensive end, running back (if he’s healthy), and, aside from some solid talent on defense, not much else worth a damn. That they made the playoffs at all is more a testament to their miasmic division than their skill as a football team.

It’s not like the Texans had any grand illusion about who Hoyer is. He struggled in Week 1 against the very same Chiefs who snuffed them out yesterday. Hell, Hoyer is kinda-sorta-almost responsible for jumpstarting Marcus Peters’ career. But what else could they have done besides stick with Hoyer? Ryan Mallett isn’t walking through that door, and J.J. Watt ain’t cutting it, fun as that play was. Brandon Weeden, the backup, is far more notable for his feud with another owner than anything football-related he did this season.

This is a team for whom the loss of T.J. Yates registered as a near-disaster. They aren’t gonna win many playoff games as currently constructed without any kind of decent quarterback. So, the Texans had no choice but to stick with Hoyer. It’s better to be consistent than indecisive, especially with a critical offseason coming up. For all the justified head-scratching at some of O’Brien’s coaching choices (namely, the Watt play), he shouldn’t be under any kind of fire for sticking with his less-shitty quarterback over his other shitty quarterback. Not to stray into the realm of coaching mysticism, but continuity and consistency matters for coaches. O’Brien knew Hoyer wasn’t going to set the world on fire, but he also knew Brandon Weeden wouldn’t either.

What’s more interesting than the non-debate about this is where they go from here. Given the ignominy of yesterday’s debacle, I’d be surprised if O’Brien trots out Hoyer again. Yates could be interesting, but it’s clear that the team’s ceiling with that tier of quarterback is not much higher than what we saw yesterday. O’Brien has a history coaching and developing quarterbacks, and you’d have to think he’ll want to draft a protege of his own. His former Penn State QB is in the draft, and after losing a bit of his luster, should be there when Houston picks. Plugging a rookie QB into a playoff team is a risky proposition, but sticking with who they have is perhaps worse.

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