McClain: Brock Osweiler stands between Texans and 5-3
The Brockster is coming back to Houston, and what a fun and interesting Thursday night it could be for the Texans and a sellout crowd at NRG Stadium.
Brock Osweiler and the Miami Dolphins stand in the way of the Texans elevating their winning streak to five games, remaining alone in first place in the AFC South and reaching the midway point of the season with a 5-3 record, not too shabby for a team that started 0-3.
The nationally televised, prime-time game will be Osweiler’s first appearance at NRG Stadium since the 2016 AFC wild-card game when he helped the Texans defeat Oakland before they were eliminated at New England in the divisional round.
Expect the fans to start booing him the moment he steps off the Dolphins’ bus.
Fans haven’t forgotten Osweiler’s tumultuous 2016 season when the Texans didn’t get much bang for their bucks after signing him to a four-year, $72 million contract that included $37 million guaranteed.
Osweiler, still only 27, wasn’t a good fit with the Texans and coach Bill O’Brien. His combative relationship with O’Brien, including shouting matches in meeting rooms, was well-documented.
Osweiler and O’Brien will make nice this week and say all the right things, but being as competitive as they are, you know they want to win this game for a multitude of reasons.
The Texans’ highly publicized pursuit of Osweiler in March of 2016 generated a lot of attention around the NFL. They thought he was the answer to their quarterback problem that had existed since 2012 when Matt Schaub had his last productive season.
Denver general manager John Elway wanted to keep Osweiler, but the Texans outbid the Broncos, and his performance was disappointing, to say the least.
The Texans were 8-6 in Osweiler’s 14 starts. He threw 15 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions, completed 59 percent of his passes and compiled a rating of 72.2.
After that season, the Texans wanted Osweiler gone so bad that former general manager Rick Smith worked out a unique trade with Cleveland.
Smith sent Osweiler, a sixth-round draft choice in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018 to the Browns. The Texans received a fourth-round selection in 2017 in the trade that also relieved them of the remaining $16 million guaranteed on his contract and freed $10 million in salary cap space.
Osweiler’s odyssey has taken him from Denver to Houston to Cleveland, back to Denver and now Miami, where he may have finally found a home.
In March, Osweiler signed with the Dolphins to back up Ryan Tannehill. Because Tannehill has been out with a shoulder injury, Osweiler will start his third consecutive game Thursday night.
In two starts and one appearance off the bench this season, Osweiler has played better than any time during his career.
Osweiler ignited a 31-28 victory over Chicago in his first start two weeks ago. The Dolphins lost 32-21 to Detroit on Sunday. For the season, he is 54-of-80 (67.5 percent) for 654 yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions and a 107.0 rating.
His average per attempt is 8.6 yards, so much more impressive than his 5.8-yard average with the Texans.
Even though the Texans ensured Osweiler would be set financially for the rest of his life, you just know he wants to beat them desperately.
“(He’s) playing really well right now,” O’Brien said Monday. “He has a great history with (Miami head coach) Adam Gase. They’re doing a great job with him. Brock’s a very talented player, and he’s a having a really good year right now.”
Kill him with kindness is one way to approach this game. Considering the way the Texans have dominated defensively in the last three games, the defense should be able to take care of the physical part against Osweiler.
O’Brien was asked if Osweiler’s one season in Houston is an advantage in preparing and playing against the quarterback?
“That was a long time ago and was just for one year,” he said. “When you look back to 2016, I’m not sure that has any bearing at all.
“It’s a different system, different players around him. He’s got a lot of different types of players (with) different skillsets than what we had here, different personnel groupings. I don’t think that means anything.”
In Sunday’s home loss to Detroit, Osweiler threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns. His rating was 114.9. The Dolphins didn’t lose because of Osweiler.
“When you look at their team and the way he’s playing, he’s a very bright guy (and) he’s got great command of their offense,” O’Brien said. “He knows what Adam Gase wants him to do. They have a great relationship.
“He’s got a lot of weapons, and he’s doing a great job of distributing the ball and using all of his guys.”
The Dolphins are as desperate to win as the Texans are. While the Texans are coming off a 20-7 victory at Jacksonville, Miami suffered the home loss to the Lions. Both teams have a chance to be 5-3.
Osweiler doesn’t want to lose this game, especially to the team that embarrassed him by cutting ties with him after one season.
And the Texans darn sure don’t want to lose to Osweiler.
Here’s one way to look at it: If Osweiler had fit in better, bought into what O’Brien was selling and played more consistently, the Texans wouldn’t have drafted Deshaun Watson.
Obviously, the Texans — not to mention their fans — are grateful at the way it turned out.