New Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien felt it important to name a starting quarterback prior to entering training camp. On Tuesday he did just that.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who came to the team via free agency, is the winner of the battle that never really materialized. Also competing were holdovers Case Keenum and T.J. Yates, both of whom have started games in relief of Matt Schaub for the Texans previously, and fifth-round pick Tom Savage. Schaub was traded to the Oakland Raiders, and Fitzpatrick signed from the Tennessee Titans.
"He earned it," O'Brien said. "He earned it with his preparation. He earned it with his accuracy."
Fitzpatrick, 31, completed 62 percent of his passes a year ago with the Titans, replacing injured starter Jake Locker for more than half the season. In nine starts, Fitzpatrick threw for 2,454 yards with 14 TD passes and 12 interceptions.
Fitzpatrick was the favorite for the job because he was believed to be O'Brien's hand-picked option in free agency, but it was thought that the QB battle might carry over into training camp.
As for what the other quarterbacks will need to improve, O'Brien said: "With all three of those guys, we need just a little bit more consistency."
But three is now two. Yates was cut following the Fitzpatrick announcement.
Yates won the first playoff game in franchise history in 2011, having replaced Schaub. It would not be a surprise if he ended up with the Baltimore Ravens, with former Texas head coach Gary Kubiak now calling plays.
Despite owning the first and 33rd pick in the draft, the Texans waited until No. 135 overall to take Savage. He has a great chance to make the initial 53-man roster as a developmental No. 3 quarterback with Yates gone, but there's a great chance that Keenum has the inside track to win the backup job now.
In 10 seasons with the St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills and Titans, Fitzpatrick has started 80 games — and three or more for each of those four teams. But he also has been cut by his past two teams, the Titans and Bills, and is not guaranteed to be the starter past this season, or even for the duration of 2014.
Although the Texans and New England Patriots have previously discussed a trade involving Ryan Mallett, it's likely that the team won't identify its future starter past this season unless Savage — a journeyman himself, with three college stops — unexpectedly impresses.
The Texans' offense is a concern heading into camp. Andre Johnson is currently holding out, and there are precious few other established receivers on the roster. The offensive line has shown weakness in spots the past few seasons. Arian Foster has been hampered by injuries.
O'Brien, who established his reputation as a strong offensive mind in New England and with a rebuilding Penn State team the past two seasons, has his work cut out for him.
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