The Houston Texans sabotaged their 2016 season by signing free-agent quarterback Brock Osweiler on a huge contract last season.
The 26-year-old spectacularly failed to live up to expectations, struggling immensely in the signal-caller position.
Due to the poor standard of his performances, Osweiler was pulled from the line-up in favour of Tom Savage late in the campaign, much to the delight of the Texans supporters.
The club made the playoffs despite the quarterback’s ineptitude along with an injury to key defensive player JJ Watt, highlighting the impressive performances of the team along with excellent coaching from Bill O’Brien and his staff.
Houston were handed a gift in the wildcard round of the playoffs, facing the Oakland Raiders and third-string quarterback Connor Cook following injuries to Derek Carr and Matt McGloin.
As a result, they eased past the AFC West outfit, but were then beaten soundly by the New England Patriots one week later, despite putting forward a strong effort at Gillette Stadium.
The Texans have moved Osweiler on and now have a chance to build around a new man at quarterback to mount a challenge to push for the Super Bowl in the 2017 campaign.
The Texans had high expectations for Osweiler after signing him on a four-year $72m deal. He got off to a decent start, playing a solid role in guiding his side to a win on the opening day against the Chicago Bears.
O’Brien’s men had been knocked out of the 2015 post-season by the Kansas City Chiefs in a 30-0 hammering, and revenge was on the agenda in their week two clash.
The Texans prevailed recording a seven-point win over the AFC West side to head into Foxborough to face the Patriots without Tom Brady and backup Jimmy Garoppolo.
However, Houston were trounced as third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett led the Patriots to a 27-0 victory, with Osweiler struggling immensely against Bill Belichick’s side.
He did bounce back along with the Texans to record a comfortable victory over their divisional rivals the Tennessee Titans back on home soil, although one week later the 26-year-old endured a torrid game in a defeat to the Minnesota Vikings.
Houston appeared to be falling to their second defeat on the spin against the Indianapolis Colts until Osweiler responded with his best display of the season.
He led his side to two touchdown drives in the final four minutes of the contest before Nick Novak kicked a match-winning field goal.
Osweiler’s former club – the Denver Broncos tormented their ex-quarterback, limiting the Texans to only nine points in a heavy defeat on the road.
Matters improved just before the bye as an early strike from the quarterback to CJ Fiedorowicz proved to be the decisive score to steer them past the Detroit Lions, leaving the Texans 5-3 at the bye.
Houston moved to 6-3 on their return to action, defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars with ease, although Osweiler was only able to throw for 99 yards in the contest.
O’Brien’s men then allowed a late lead to slip against the Oakland Raiders, although two poor spots by the officials were to cost them in the contest, leaving their head coach fuming after their loss.
Osweiler was in the firing line against the San Diego Chargers as he put in a putrid display, throwing three interceptions on 37 throws to allow his team to slip to an eight-point defeat.
He improved slightly in the snow against the Green Bay Packers, although his defense battled manfully to keep their side in the game. However, their efforts were vain as the home side held out for the win at Lambeau Field.
The defense put on another clinic against Andrew Luck and the Colts to stifle their opponents’ offense, while Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue dominated on the ground to drive their side to a vital win – clinching the double over their divisional rivals.
O’Brien’s patience with Osweiler was finally lost in an inept outing against the Jaguars when he threw two interceptions in the first half, and was replaced by Savage, who led the team to victory.
Savage kept his mistakes to a minimum against the Cincinnati Bengals, playing a clean game – which allowed the rest of the Texans side to help deliver a two-point win thanks to a late score from Blue.
An injury to Savage allowed Osweiler to return against the Titans, only to lose the contest. The Texans had already secured the AFC South title and a home game in the playoffs, but further progression was not guaranteed.
Fortunately for them, the Raiders were forced to play rookie Cook, making his first NFL start at NRG Stadium. Even with their problems at quarterback, the Texans were able to see out the win with relative ease to set up a showdown with the Patriots.
The defense put an outstanding effort against Brady and company, with Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney dominating the line.
However, Osweiler could not put enough points on the board to give his side a fighting chance before Brady clicked into gear to take the game away from Houston.
The Patriots game alone was probably enough to convince O’Brien and the front-office staff to sacrifice a second-round pick to rid themselves of the quarterback and his contract to the Cleveland Browns.
Now the club can move on and find a player that can actually not be a hindrance to the team going forward. Given that the Texans are well set in so many positions on their roster and boast one of the finest defenses in the NFL, adding a veteran quarterback would make a great deal of sense.
Tony Romo has been heavily linked with the club due to the close proximity the Texans have with the Dallas Cowboys. The 36-year-old will reportedly be cut by the NFC East outfit after being ousted by Dak Prescott in the last campaign after suffering an injury during pre-season.
O’Brien could plug Romo into his side and immediately have one of the best quarterbacks in the AFC to attempt to dislodge the Patriots from the top of their perch in the conference. He would bring the best out of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, making Houston a fearsome prospect to face.
The Texans have lost a few pieces from their defense, including cornerback AJ Bouye, veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker John Simon.
Bouye gradually rose to become a star player for the club last season, and although the team have sufficient depth – it might be worth spending a draft pick to bolster their secondary.
Wilfork’s depature will be offset by the development of DJ Reader, while Simon should be replaced in the draft – with the Texans in need of an injection of further youth in their linebacking corps.
Should the Texans add Romo then they will automatically become contenders to be the AFC’s representative in Super Bowl.
They gave the Patriots all they could handle in the divisional round on the road and with a competent quarterback in place they may have been able to defeat Belichick’s men.
Since Houston are the favourites to land Romo then it might be prudent to back them at +750 to win the AFC with TopBet sportsbook before the price comes down.
It would not be out of the question for them to challenge for the Super Bowl at +1500 , especially with the return of a healthy Watt along with a new quarterback in place.
Houston Texans To Win AFC Conference
Houston Texans To Win Super Bowl