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If something happens to Deshaun Watson, the Texans may need a QB who can do Watson-like things,
Photo by Eric Sauseda
So on Monday in my "4 Winners, 4 Losers" for the Houston Texans' 57-14 beatdown of the Tennessee Titans, I dipped my toe in the water with what I thought was a fairly innocuous FOOTBALL observation — the ever-growing playbook designed for Deshaun Watson (and all the glorious mobility that comes with him) might necessitate a backup quarterback whose game looks more like Watson's than, say, Tom Savage's game does.
OK, that's not entirely true, my take was fairly innocuous until I attached a suggested name to it — Colin Kaepernick. The inclusion of his name, the name of Public Enemy No. 1 in star spangled sports America, turned my take from something that Texans fans generally agree with — the need for a mobile backup to Watson — to a polarizing "hot take" that turned my Twitter timeline into a smoldering pile of political and racial fury.
So I thought I'd spend more than a few sentences on the topic here, and explain myself further. (Also, I'm really into masochism.)
Before I give my football reasons for Kaepernick, allow me to lay out a few things here for you. First, I am a staunch "stand for the national anthem" person. I hate it when people are walking, talking, yawning, or doing anything except standing at attention for the national anthem. We all know that it was Kaepernick who launched the initial salvo in what's become an ongoing struggle over getting NFL players to stand for the anthem.
Second, I think Kaepernick's protests last season were somewhat ill-conceived, given that he had no real long-term plan and given that he had been photographed prior to that in a Fidel Castro t-shirt, which is odd considering he was protesting oppression. In other words, Kaepernick didn't strike me as being all that bright.
Third, I know that the odds of the Texans signing Kaepernick mirror the odds of the Texans game being cancelled this Sunday due to a blizzard. I get it. However, that shouldn't stop me from making a football point, and a point that maybe football should be the primary factor in assessing this particular free agent.
Now, with all of that said, the case for Kaepernick starts with the offense that has now liberated the Houston Texans. In that 57-14 win over the Titans on Sunday, Bill O'Brien pulled out pistol options, roll outs, QB draw plays, read options and a whole lot of other plays that he couldn't dream of using with any of the nine quarterbacks that preceded Watson. With this type of variety and versatility baked into the offense, the Texans now threaten teams in ways they couldn't before the season, especially if Savage, the definition of a missionary position QB, was going to be the starter.
So what happens if Watson gets injured, a distinct possibility given his style of play, even with the caution he exercises? Do we just return to a world where we're back to the old O'Brien system with statues handing off to Lamar Miller and throwing ten yard check downs to DeAndre Hopkins and the tight ends? I, for one, refuse to return to that world. That world sucks.
If you're looking for practical applications of what I'm talking about, look no further than Sunday's Texans-Titans game. When it was announced Marcus Mariota was done for the day with a hamstring injury, the game felt over for Tennessee. That's because Mariota, similar in style to Watson, was being replaced by the immobile tin man, Matt Cassel. With a whole half to play, Texans fans could light their victory cigars. (Look no further than Savage himself replacing Watson in garbage time and taking a sack on the first play as an example of the backward fall I'm talking about.)
Kaepernick (or someone similar, and for the record, I'm open to Robert Griffin III) allows O'Brien to run similar plays if Watson goes down, stuff that keeps opposing defensive coordinators up at night. Not one darn thing about Tom Savage strikes fear into other teams' hearts. Kaepernick is not what he was two or three years ago, but he's unorthodox and athletic enough to scare an opposing defense a little bit.
I understand the political angst signing Kaepernick would cause, and if you feel that way, I get it. But with this Texans defense, scaring opposing defenses just "a little bit" can keep the Texans winning football games.
And Tom Savage scares nobody.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.