Should the Texans Bench Brock Osweiler?
When analyzing the NFL, sometimes names can skew results. Two players can be playing similarly, but we might think there's a big gap between them because of their names.
Sometimes, we give players passes for bad performance because of who they are.
So, let’s start this with a table full of blind résumés.
The table below shows the performance by Net Expected Points (NEP), which indicates performance relative to expectation level, in four quarterback seasons -- both in total and per drop-back. It will also list the amount of drop-backs in the given season and the Success Rate, which is the percentage of plays that positively impact NEP.
|QB||Drop Backs||Passing NEP||Passing NEP per Drop Back||Success Rate|
Now, considering the title of this article, it’s easy to conclude one of those quarterback seasons is from Brock Osweiler. Also because of the title of the article it would be fair to assume his season is the worst one of the group. Both of those guesses would be correct -- to an extent.
Osweiler is represented as two of the quarterbacks above, and his seasons are the two worst listed.
Quarterbacks B and D are also represented by one person: Brian Hoyer. Quarterback B is Hoyer in his time as the starter for Houston, Osweiler’s current team, in 2015. Quarterback D is Hoyer this year as the starter for the Chicago Bears.
In the offseason, the Texans moved on from Hoyer after an awful -- and let’s not understate how awful -- playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs. In an attempt to shore up the quarterback position on a roster that was already a playoff contender, the Texans gave Osweiler a four-year, $72 million contract with $37 million of that guaranteed.
At the time of the signing, we mentioned Osweiler statistically wasn’t much of an improvement over Hoyer and through seven weeks of the season, and that’s proven to be the case. Hoyer is now likely out for the remainder of the season with a broken arm suffered this past Thursday, but when he was on the field, he has been better than Osweiler.
Pay More, Get Less
The Texans might still be the favorite in the AFC South -- they’re the highest ranked team in the division by nERD and still have a 71.6 percent chance of making the playoffs -- but they haven’t gotten there on the shoulders of the offense.
Houston currently ranks 28th in Adjusted NEP per play overall and 28th in Adjusted Passing NEP per play. Last year, the Texans were 27th in Adjusted Passing NEP per play with the mix of Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden all starting at least one game. That one-spot drop is not exactly what the Texans were hoping for after going on their spending spree during the offseason.
Osweiler has been inconsistent at best during his stint with Houston this season. He’s thrown touchdowns at the same rate as interceptions this year -- 8 apiece on 3.0 percent of his throws-- and among qualified starters, he has the worst yards per attempt in the league at 5.7.
Before Week 7, he was the third-worst in that category, but a 3.2 yards-per-attempt performance Monday night against the Broncos cut that down even further. In that game, Osweiler became just the 12th quarterback since the merger to throw at least 40 times and for fewer than 150 yards.
By Passing NEP per drop back, his -0.06 mark ranks 31st among 32 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs on the season. He’s better than only the benched Blaine Gabbert and right below the probably-should-be-benched Case Keenum. That mark is also worse than three of Houston's four quarterbacks last season. Only Mallett was worse with a Passing NEP per drop back of -0.12 on 147 drop backs before he was released.
There was a small sample on Osweiler in Denver before he signed with Houston, and he's just about reached the extent of that sample during his time with the Texans. So far, he's been a significantly worse quarterback without a drastic difference in the supporting cast around him.
What’s also disappointing and puzzling about Osweiler’s performance is that he’s failed to do what every Houston quarterback since 2013 has been able to do -- throw the ball in the general vicinity of DeAndre Hopkins and let the receiver make up for bad throws.
Last season with the rotating case of quarterbacks, Hopkins still gained 1,521 yards, scored 11 touchdowns and was worth 0.75 Reception NEP per target, which was 12th best among 32 receivers with 100 or more targets.
This season, Hopkins has been worth just 0.55 Reception NEP per target, which is 67th among 95 receivers with 20 or more targets through seven weeks.
Hopkins has been the leading target-getter in just four of Houston’s seven games this season. In one of the four, he was tied for the team lead with Jaelen Strong, who is the 95th-ranked receiver in Reception NEP per target among those with 20 or more targets.
Throughout his career, Hopkins has been basically quarterback-proof. He survived the last of the Matt Schaub era, made it through a Ryan Fitzpatrick stretch, and still thrived in last season’s quarterback carousel. But now, with the most the franchise has invested in the quarterback position, Hopkins has been relegated to middle-of-the-pack efficiency.
Houston’s next game is against the Detroit Lions, who have sported the worst pass defense in the league through seven weeks by Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
If the Texans can’t get Osweiler, or Hopkins, going against that defense, it might be time to assess the position, especially with a bye in Week 9. However, the other two quarterbacks on Houston’s roster are Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden, who don’t exactly inspire confidence for better play.
It’s unlikely a change will be made after what the Texans have invested in Osweiler, but something will have to be different if the team wants to act as a contender late into the season.
With the way Osweiler’s contract is structured, the Texans could technically move on from the deal after Year 2, but they never would have thought they’d be thinking about the clause and the future of the position midway through Year 1.