Mandatory Credit: Photo by Derek Regensburger/CSM/Shutterstock (13400840r) Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) throws a pass in the first half of the football game between the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans at Empower Field Field in Denver, CO NFL Football Houston Texans vs Denver Broncos, USA – 18 Sep 2022
It was an ugly parting of ways, to say the least.
Deshaun Watson spurned the Texans, then left the organization swarmed in controversy, ugly public relations shrapnel, and attorney fees. As in most nasty breakups, the Texans were side-swiped by it all. Flattened. Completely gob-smacked.
And then in walked Davis Mills, looking like the All-American boy in every way except on a football field.
At its core, that’s what this Texans-Davis Mills’ experiment and recovery effort are all about.
· There’s the act-like-it-never happened crowd, also known as the Texans front office. It collectively pointed to the clouds, rarely mentioned Deshaun’s name and deflected all it could until Deshaun was gone and lawsuits were settled
· There were the vocal delusionists, believing the louder they said the Texans would be better off with Davis Mills and without Watson, the more it would be true.
· Then there were the devastated, broken souls, plummeting into dark places after practically tasting an AFC title-game appearance with Deshaun, knowing they shouldn’t miss him but realizing they always will
That’s a lot of baggage for anyone to inherit, much less a third-round draft pick with physical skills that never will measure up to the Texans’ electrifying ex.
But that’s how Mills and the Texans found each other. It was a true rebound-relationship match.
The Texans were desperate to move on. And Mills was the epitome of Stage One of the five stages of a rebound relationship: Low-hanging fruit.
Mostly, he was available. The next warm body in the room. There were the Texans without a quarterback nor a first- or second-round draft pick in the 2021 draft. And there was Mills, available because he didn’t have a lot of starts at Stanford. He had a few other questions, too, but he was big and strong, had good character, and could check a lot of boxes.
Bingo. On to Stage Two, the Texans went: The honeymoon.
Mills could not have better filled a need in the wake of the Deshaun mess, and all parties probably went too fast and too far singing his praises. The Texans hyped up his “measurables” and that he may
well have been a first-round pick – just like Deshaun – if not for Covid and leaving school early. Fans, media, and everyone were hopping on board.
Woot-woot. It’ll all be just dandy, after all. And when Mills stepped in after an injury to starter Tyrod Taylor, after a few struggles, he shined enough to build even more optimism. Mills clearly was the best of a mediocre class of rookie quarterbacks and flashed the occasional hint of possessing something special.
Coming into the 2022 season, the delusionists were feeling pretty good about things. Who needs Deshaun? Don’t forget, Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round! Mills Mania, baby!
But then this season began. Through two games, Mills’ regression has been so pronounced the Texans might be 2-0 had any other middling NFL quarterback, or even Brock Osweiler, started against the Colts and Broncos. Instead, they’re 0-1-1 and head to Chicago to face a lowly Bears team as
Hello, Stage Three: Reality.
Rebound relationships rarely end well. This one likely won’t, either.
Mills deserves the entire season to prove his worth, certainly. But he’ll always have to be the guy who followed Deshaun Watson. Comparisons always will be there. And on a football field, that’s
something Mills simply never will match.
The best the Texans can hope for from Mills now is simple efficiency and enough production to complement the defense. He doesn’t have to be spectacular like Deshaun; just avoid being a net negative. And on that front, Sunday’s game in Chicago could not be more important.
Thus far, Mills, in fact, has been a net negative. He’s missed open receivers. He’s held onto the ball too long and taken sacks. The opportunity definitely is there, but does he have the game? Or did the Texans
and their fans beer-goggle their way into seeing something that is just not there?
Take Bears quarterback Justin Fields, who has been a huge disappointment. He’s already been called a bust, even. Yet Fields has been only mildly less productive in his second season than Mills, leading a
Bears offense that ranks 31st, compared to the Texans’ 29th in total yards. And while Mills leads the 25th-best passing offense, the Bears and Texans are tied at 27th in the league in scoring at
14.5 points per game.
Which leads to Stage Four. Nostalgia.
There are so many things about Deshaun Watson that won’t be missed. Namely, his abhorrent behavior and the position he put this organization in with his off-field troubles. But there’s something that
most definitely will be missed. What he did on the field. It’s that something that Mills has never shown.
Hence, Stage Five. The epiphany.
In his second full season as a starter, Mills is completing just 56 percent of his passes and has a dismal 80.8 quarterback rating. He still has the support of an entire organization. The team still is his. The owner still supports Mills in every way. And there are no illusions of anyone else even playing the position.
“Davis is our quarterback,” head coach Lovie Smith said.
They keep trying to talk Davis Mills as the franchise quarterback into existence. He keeps trying to prove them wrong.