Mandatory Credit: Photo by Matt Patterson/AP/Shutterstock (13332340gd) Houston Texans quarterback Kyle Allen (3) looks to pass during an NFL preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, in Houston 49ers Texans Football, Houston, United States – 25 Aug 2022
Yes, yes, yes, the Texans are going to change quarterbacks this week. Does Lovie Smith really have a choice? To run Davis Mills back out there against the Dolphins on Sunday would be coaching malpractice.
Smith, the Texans head coach, said he won’t be telling reporters which of his quarterbacks will start because he wants to keep the Dolphins guessing. OK, then. That’ll show ‘em.
On the other hand, by not naming a starter, he’s all but telling the Dolphins to check out some Kyle Allen video. May I suggest a 2017 game in which he completed 31 of 33 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns in a University of Houston victory over Rice?
Simply reading those statistics aloud has to at least pique your interest. Just a little? He’s 26 years old and hasn’t started an NFL game since 2020. He’s 7-10 in 13 starts for the Panthers in 2018-19 and Washington in 2020.
He has played 21 games in all, with 24 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. He signed a one-year, $2.5-million deal with the Texans in March. Considering that the Texans are 9-29-1 since firing Bill O’Brien four games into the 2020 season, even a little spark would be a step in the right direction.
Speaking of O’Brien, King Bill may soon be unemployed again, according to ESPN’s Paul Finebaum, who predicts a disappointing Alabama season will prompt Nick Saban to make staff changes.
Thinking about O’Brien makes one nostalgic for the good old days, of which there have been few on Kirby Drive. Some may have seen King Bill as a bully and a blowhard, but he did lead the Texans to four playoff appearances in five seasons between 2015 and 2019.
For a franchise that has won four playoff games in its 22 seasons, O’Brien succeeded in a way none of the Texans’ other six head coaches has.
Which brings us back to the current head coach. The Texans are 1-8-1 and have lost five games in a row. They’re last in the NFL in total offense and next-to-last in defense.
After Sunday’s 23-10 loss to Washington, Smith got a barrage of questions on a possible quarterback change and the overall state of the franchise. For those eight or nine minutes, the gloves were off, and Smith finally had enough.
“What do you expect me to say right now?” Smith asked at one point. “We just got beat.”
The questions were fair game on a day in which the home team was outgained 246-5 in the first half, and Mills produced 22 first-half passing yards and threw a pick six on the first possession.
NRG Stadium again emptied out quickly, but at least things got interesting after the game. If you’re looking for progress from the Texans, there it is. Near the end of the press conference, when a reporter began a question with, “I know there’s a lot of disappointment, but there are some positives,” Smith cut him off.
“I want to hear this now,” Smith interrupted.
Whether the Texans will get a lift from starting Allen isn’t even the point. Rather, this would be about giving Mills an opportunity to reset himself mentally, if not physically.
Coaches are reluctant to pull their starting quarterback because it creates doubt in the player’s mind and also in the collective confidence the rest of the team has in him.
This does not apply to the Texans. These last two seasons have been about evaluating whether Davis Mills is capable of being a winning quarterback if the Texans ever surround him with enough talent to do his job.
That’s the danger in attempting to evaluate a player that isn’t exactly surrounded by Pro Bowl talent. Still, because he’s the quarterback, he was the focus of the postgame discussion because his numbers were dreadful. He leads the NFL with 11 interceptions, and his 78.1 quarterback rating ranks 30th.
But as Smith said, this latest defeat began with Washington’s defensive front having its way with the Texans’ offensive line and pass protection schemes. Afterward, Washington players were cackling about how they destroyed overmatched rookie guard Kenyon Green. But it was way more than just him. The Texans produced one first down in their first six possessions, and there’s no way all of that is on a single rookie.
Once Mills threw the pick six on his second pass followed by the Commanders driving 85 yards to make it 14-0 early in the second quarter, Washington’s defensive group could tee off on the Texans.
At this point, the Texans 2022 season is about getting into position to draft Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. Either of them would change the franchise’s outlook on day one.
Neither is talented enough to fix everything else that’s wrong with a team that’s 31st in defense and 32nd in offense. Thinking that would be silly. But it would provide the fans who were headed to the parking lot at halftime on Sunday with a spark of hope. That’s not nothing. Until then, it’ll be interesting to see what Kyle Allen can do.