Will Texans search for franchise QB end with Fitzpatrick?

Now that the hullabaloo about having our first Triple Crown winning race horse since Affirmed in 1978 has come and gone, Texas football fans can get back to the same dilemma that has bugged them since the end of the 2013 NFL season—how can the Houston Texans regain the respect they once had from the rest of the league?

Just as the final gun sounded ending that horrific 2-14 debacle that tormented the Texans fans throughout the winter, their biggest wish of either drafting or trading for a franchise quarterback fell by the wayside when Houston once again passed on their chance to draft college football’s hottest quarterback Johnny Manziel and selected  defensive lineman Jadevon Clowney.

Now don’t get me wrong, Clowney deserved the top billing he received several weeks before last month’s draft, and he will be a great addition to the defensive line anchored by All-Pro J.J. Watt and make the Houston Texans one of the feared defensive threats in the league for years to come.

But Houston’s problem last season was NOT the defense, although it got worst as the season went on ONLY because it was on the field most of the game due to an inept offense—especially at the quarterback position where starter Matt Schaub quickly fell out of favor with the fans because of the numerous Pick Sixes he threw early in the season.

When the chanting fans finally got their wish and Head Coach Gary Kubiak benched Schaub, things got no better. In fact it got worst because of the inexperience of Schaub’s backups and also the fact All-Pro running back Arian Foster went on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.

So now the Texans were without a competent quarterback or a running back which resulted in a multitude of three-and-outs and very little scoring by the offensive unit and consequently a losing streak at eventually grew to an outlandish 12 straight games.

A head coaching change was imminent and made, but instead of the gurus pulling the strings and opting for an experienced NFL head coach like Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher or a multitude of choices, the Texans braintrust went with Bill O’Brien, who replaced deposed coaching legend Joe Paterno at Penn State and never was an NFL head coach.

O’Brien did work with one of the best in the business, New England’s Bill Belichick, first as quarterback coach and later offensive coordinator. O’Brien had a passion for developing young, inexperienced quarterbacks, so perhaps with Case Keenum and T.J Yates on the team, the choice had some merit. But the first thing O’Brien does is handpick 31-year-old journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in free agency from the Tennessee Titans and declares him as the Texans’ top choice to potentially guide the initial stage of the organizational rebuild, master a complex new offense and providing leadership that the Gary Kubiak era fruitlessly searched for.

O’Brien believes the Texans can minimize Fitzpatrick’s turnovers and maximize his potential as a game manager and signed him to a two-year deal worth $7.25 million.

“We really liked his intelligence,” O’Brien said. “We liked the fact that he had played a bunch of football. We felt what was best for the Houston Texans was to find a good fit at quarterback for our system, He was the guy that we thought fit that.”

Fitzpatrick is on his fifth team in 10 years and boasts a mundane 28-49-1 lifetime record, and according to Sunday’s Houston Chronicle, wouldn’t be a Week 1 starter on any 2014 playoff contender. He has thrown 106 career touchdowns, 93 interceptions, has a 59.8 completion percentage and a passing rating of 77.5.

Greg Cosell, NFL Films senior producer, believes Fitzpatrick could be the perfect answer to the 2014 Texans. He rates him as having a good arm, high intelligence, legitimate experience and a natural feel for the position. Cosell lists Fitzpatrick’s negatives as having limited athleticism, occasionally frenetic in the pocket and makes random regrettable throws that can turn games upside down.

Fitzpatrick’s credentials appear very similar to those of departed starting quarterbacks David Carr and Matt Schaub, who never became the franchise quarterback the Houston Texans were searching for since 2002.

“A quarterback like Fitzpatrick can sometimes be exposed, which is why Ryan Fitzpatrick is not Tom Brady,” Cosell evaluated. “But for the most part, I think Bill (O’Brien) sees a guy that he can really manipulate and control—in a positive sense—and get the most out of him.”

Fitzpatrick’s mentor was 43-year-old veteran quarterback Gus Frerotte, who played 15 seasons for seven teams. When they played together for Minnesota Fitzpatrick was in his second season and Frerotte in his 13th. Frerotte saw a protégé in Fitzpatrick and passed on many valuable tips that helped him become a better player and game manager. Perhaps Fitzpatrick might have that same kind of influence on young Tom Savage, the Texans quarterback selected in the fourth round.

The Houston Texans are banking on one of those two to be the franchise quarterbacks of the very near future.  Bill O’Brien’s job will depend on it.

KWICKIES…It appears the Houston Astros promotions of their top prospects to the major leagues is paying huge dividends. Since management elevated top prospects George Springer and Jon Singleton and stuck with strikeout king Chris Carter, things have improved immensely. All three walloped homers in Sunday’s 14-5 rout of the Twins in Minnesota, with Carter and Singleton’s being grand slams—the first time the Astros have hit two Grand Salami’s in one game since July 30, 1969. Springer has hit 12 round trippers since early May, Carter has bashed six since May 9 and Singleton has already hit two since being brought up last week. All three sluggers plus third basemen Matt Dominguez are capable of bashing 30 homers in a season. And the Astros have won 11 of their last 15 games through Sunday and five of their last eight series.

Brad Gilmore had a hole-in-one last week on the 158-yard Par 3 No. 3 hole at Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange. He made his ace using a Hybrid-4 club playing with the foursome of walkers that included Ron Roberts, Darrel Latiolais and John Grooters. And for his effort and because he is a member of the 2014 Men’s Golf Association, he was presented with a check for $200.

It could very well have been a freak accident that prevented California Chrome from winning horse racing’s Triple Crown in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. When the 4/5 favorite sprang from the gate at the start of the race, his right hind leg inadvertently kicked his right front leg, which is like in human terms, ripping off a fingernail. Most horses would pull up lame and quit the race, but the game California Chrome continued and finished in a dead-heat tie for fourth place. The 1½-mile race was won by 11-to-1 shot Tonalist who had run only one race since Feb. 22 but won it by four lengths at Belmont May 10 over Commissioner, the same horse that came in second in the Belmont. If I had a little more time before the race, I would have picked up on that fact from the program and bet a $2 exacta box with Tonalist and Commissioner and probably had an extra $300 in my blue jeans today.

The Miami Heat returned home fortunate to be 1-1 in the NBA Finals with San Antonio. And the Heat stands at 8-0 at home so far this season in the 2014 playoffs going into last night’s (Tues.) Game 3. It appears LeBron James came to life Sunday by scoring 14 of his game-high 35 points in the third period to rally his team to a narrow 98-96 victory. I still like the Heat in six games.

JUST BETWEEN US…One of the hottest topics of conversation on ESPN and other sports talk shows recently was the statement made by Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll who said that if the season began this week, his fastest player Orange’s Earl Thomas would be his choice to return punts and kickoffs. “Why would Carroll want to use the NFL’s best free safety as a punt returner?” those sports talk gurus asked. It probably never will happen, but if it did, Earl certainly would be 100 per cent in favor of the move. He’s dying for the opportunity to score some touchdowns.