In the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night, the Houston Texans selected Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. That might seem like an ominous sign for former Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, but the team's head coach said that Savage will remain the starter with Watson taking on a learning role:
After the pick, Smith and head coach Bill O'Brien reiterated that Savage is still their starting quarterback. "I don't know if people believe us, but we're comfortable with Tom Savage as our quarterback," Smith said with a laugh.
"As a rookie quarterback it's a big jump," O'Brien added. "Tom is our starter and Deshaun will come in and he's going to work hard and we're going to teach him and feed him a lot of information and he'll work at it."
Savage keeping his job right now is the obvious move. I don't know that you can take any first-round quarterback and declare an all-out competition for the starting job before the guy's even gotten into his first practice. All of that said, when you take a player that high, sitting him on the bench for more than one year isn't usually the plan. Savage will likely have less leeway and more pressure from fans who will want to see their first-round pick in action. How he handles the first month of the season will be critical for him. Most fans won't be pressuring management to play Watson in the first few months but if Savage struggles, the calls for Watson will get louder as the year goes on.
Since being drafted in 2014, Savage has moved up the depth chart only to see Houston bring in more guys. When he finally won the job last year, he got injured just before the playoffs, giving up his job to former starter Brock Osweiler. Osweiler led the team to a win against the Raiders before keeping the job the following week and losing to the Patriots. The team believed enough in Savage to deal Osweiler to the Browns. But now, another hurdle stands in his way in Watson.
One thing on Savage's side is that this isn't a bad team and this shouldn't be a throwaway year for a team that not only made the NFL Playoffs but won a game. It's a lot harder to play a rookie quarterback when you have a decent team. If the Texans were bad, the thought process for many would be to let Watson go out and get some on-the-job experience. You don't do that with a team hoping to compete for an AFC title.
Savage will likely keep the job through training camp and the preseason and be the team's opening day starter. But he'll also have Watson breathing down his neck and looking for playing time if he starts to struggle a little.
And no, you're not the first one to think that this will be Pitt beating Clemson again.
Pitt going to beat Clemson again when Tom Savage starts week 1— David Lawrence Hall (@PittDLHall) April 28, 2017
Pitt over Clemson? When's the last time that happened? https://t.co/aQaptuVJpw— Ryan S (@rys1324) April 28, 2017
Can't wait for Pitt to beat Clemson again when Savage beats out Watson for the staring job #TommyFootball— Tommy (@thust26) April 28, 2017