The crowd went wild.
An announced paid audience of 71,709 at NRG Stadium for the Colts-Texans game went nuts during a timeout early in Sunday’s game, rising to their feet, baring their lungs and showering praise over their hometown favorite sons.
The, uh, Astros were in the house.
And yes pretty much the largest ovation of the day was reserved for MVP George Springer and teammates Chris Devenski and Joe Musgrove as the Astros players hoised the World Series trophy they’d just claimed four days prior in Los Angeles.
That was largely the extent of the cheers as resounding boos marked the cacophony of the day from fans, many of whom were still hoarse from the Astros spectacular victories for the franchise’s first major league baseball championship.
Most of the discordant boos were reserved for quarterback Tom Savage, whose biggest sin is the fact he is not Deshaun Watson. And never will be. One also is left to wonder if he will ever even be a serviceable quarterback at best, this 27-year-old quarterback who played for three different colleges and was making just his fourth career NFL start Sunday.
Watson’s absence profoundly underscores the incontrovertible truths in the NFL. If you don’t have an elite quarterback, you can’t win big. If you don’t have a good quarterback, and you got no chance. If you have a bad quarterback, and, well, hello, Houston Texans.
They’ve made the playoffs and even won a game here and there, but the Ryan Malletts and Brandon Weedens and T.J. Yates won’t get you anywhere near a Super Bowl.
Last year’s Super Bowl contestants pitted Tom Brady, who’s the Giselle Bundchen of NFL quarterbacks, and Matt Ryan, who you’ll recall won an MVP prize a few months ago. The current top 10 quarterbacks in the league had thrown 135 touchdowns against 48 interceptions before Sunday. Their teams’ collective records were 50-29, and five of them led their divisions and two were in second place.
Check out two of the best teams in the league. Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz isn’t being sized up yet for a Hall of Fame bust, but the idea’s hardly preposterous. Jared Goff’s Rams put up 51 points on the Giants on Sunday. The Texans are worried they won’t score 51 the rest of the season. The Cleveland Browns were so excited to get their shiny new quarterback in a trade they forgot to call it in to the league offices for approval.
“I just didn’t make the throws to win the game,” Savage said. “It’s probably the most frustrating game of my life. I’m not going to give you the politically correct answer and say like blah blah blah we can get better. No, I have to make the throws. I played like crap.”
His return wasn’t well-received. Nor was it productive as the former fourth-round pick constantly overthrew receivers when he wasn’t underthrowing them, failed to get the Houston offense into any semblance of rhythm and was mostly responsible for a dreary, 20-14 loss to lowly Indianapolis. Seven of Houston’s points on former Longhorn Lamarr Houston’s 34-yard fumble return, and Savage was sacked on the game’s final play in the red zone after three incompletions from the Colts’ 7-yard line.
It marked the 3-5 Texans’ second straight defeat but first since Watson went down in Thursday’s practice with a torn knee ligament that will require surgery and end his first NFL season. But there will be more losses where this one came from. Houston would seem a prime candidate to sign Colin Kaepernick out of need and PR distance from Bob McNair’s inmates analogy, but the conversative Texans owner won’t be a prisoner to that moment.
Maybe the city of Houston just used up its quota of karma in winning its first baseball title in 56 seasons when the NFL rookie phenom went down in a non-contact injury after setting the league on fire and making the Texans the NFL’s highest-scoring offense.
The Texans are simply in a world of hurt. Maybe a world they can’t hope to escape until 2018 when Watson recovers along with defensive stalwarts J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus and with the Texans’ bruised psyche. That’s in need of repair as well.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “It got better as the game went along, but it wasn’t good enough.”
O’Brien, however, was silly enough to pick Savage as his starting quarterback to begin the season. That belief lasted a half as he had a QB rating of 7.8 and was benched in favor of Watson, which proved he had very little faith.
What looked like such a tantalyzing season of promise has disappeared after this tormented franchise that has endured bad quarterback play out of everyone from Brock Osweiler to Ryan Fitzpatrick may be in for more bad luck.
The players tried to put on a good face after Savage completed fewer than half his passes, 19 of 44, for only 219 yards and one touchdown. His first. Consider that Savage now has one touchdown pass in 149 career throws. Watson has 19 touchdowns in 204 attempts.
“We believe in Tom,” safety Eddie Pleasant said. “We didn’t come out with with W, but he’s our quarterback.”
For better or worse. And we’ve all seen the worse.