Last night, as the nation watched, employment decisions concerning young men and executives were so engaging that not one but two different networks televised the proceedings. The first decision to be made involved the Houston Texans, who opted to hire Jadeveon Clowney, the consensus best player in the draft, to rush quarterbacks for them over the next several years. The possibilities that accompany that decision—which will see the physical marvel that is Clowney charging after passers alongside the physical marvel that is JJ Watt—are tantalizing for Texans fans.
But for every door that opens, another closes, and when the Texans opted to pass on hometown favorite Johnny Manziel to fill their currently-vacant quarterback slot, that left the team with a big hole at the game’s most important position. As we prepare to enter the draft’s second round this evening—a televised spectacle in which the Texans once more have the first choice of the remaining players—the three best quarterbacks who were available yesterday have already been selected by other teams: Blake Bortles, the towering, hilariously-named QB from Central Florida, went #3 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars; Johnny Manziel slid all the way down to the 22nd pick, where he will compete for the chance to start against a promising afterthought named Brian Hoyer and, somewhat less likely, former Longhorns hero Vince Young; and, in a surprise move at the end of the night, Louisville standout Teddy Bridgewater—who deserves at least some credit for helping place his former college coach, Charlie Strong, in a position to be hired by UT—was selected by the Minnesota Vikings, who traded with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in order to leapfrog the Texans for the passer.
Houston presumably would have been overjoyed to take a quarterback as gifted as Bridgewater at the start of round two, after securing Clowney’s services at the top of round one—it would have been a heck of a draft haul, scoring two players who were both suggested as potential #1 overall picks not long ago. But, alas, it was not to be. Houston, meanwhile, still desperately needs a quarterback, and there is one more player on the board at the position who would be a valuable pick with the first selection in round two. But Texans fans aren’t all that excited about hearing his name called.
That player is Derek Carr, the strong-armed Fresno State quarterback. ESPN the Magazine noted last week that “teams might now consider Derek Carr the top quarterback in this year’s draft, if not for one unshakable liability,” and it’s a liability that resonates more strongly in Houston than anywhere else: Derek Carr is the younger brother of David Carr, the first overall pick in the 2002 draft, who was the first player ever drafted by the Houston Texans.
David Carr’s name is one that still elicits involuntary shudders from Texans fans (try reminding them that Carr, who was cut by the team after five disappointing seasons, earned a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants for backing up Eli Manning in 2011), and seemingly every list of the biggest draft busts in recent memory features Carr prominently.
Derek Carr, in other words, might be the best remaining quarterback in the draft (in fact, it’s not even really all that close), but don’t expect a run on jerseys if the Texans pick him. While there would be a certain romance in seeing Carr attempt to redeem the family name in Houston, the disappointment brought on by his older brother, who never posted a winning season with the franchise, probably makes the notion of a Carr playing quarterback for the Texans a hard one to swallow for most fans.
Team management, though, is dramatically different from Carr’s day. General Manager Rick Smith is responsible for firing Carr before beginning his first season with the team—securing the services of the recently-released Matt Schaub instead—and current head coach Bill O’Brien is two regimes removed from the Dom Capers/David Carr era of the Houston Texans. Texans fans might have a bad taste in their mouth surrounding David Carr, but for Smith and O’Brien, he’s a distant memory of someone else’s mistakes. Owner Bob McNair, meanwhile, surely does remember Carr and the disappointment that accompanied him, but he’s not the sort of hands-on owner who makes decisions based on what homeless people tell him on the street (nor, in fact, on what billboards around town advise him to do).
In other words, Texans fans might want to place some faith in the team’s leadership, if Derek Carr dons red and blue next year—which, at the moment, seems like the absolute smartest play the team could make.
It’s possible, of course, that the quarterback situation in Houston will be resolved differently before the day is out: Houston could opt to trade for one of the young, gifted backups it reportedly covets, like New England’s Ryan Mallett (whom O’Brien coached during his time with the Patriots) or Washington’s Kirk Cousins, sparing the team’s fans the ignominy of having to once more wear jerseys with the name “Carr” on the back.
But it’s hard to understand, ultimately, why the team would make that call, if it’s thinking with the dispassionate eye toward improving the team that it appeared to be when it let Manziel slide and slide all the way to #22 last night. Mallett may be a good player, but he was a third-round selection of a team with the most solidified quarterback position in the game for a reason, and it wasn’t so he could be traded a year before the end of his rookie contract for a high draft pick. Cousins, meanwhile, flopped late last year when he was assigned starting duties as a result of a weird coach/owner spat in Washington, in relief of former Baylor star Robert Griffin III.
All of which means that the Texans have a major need at the most important position on their team, and somehow a round-one caliber talent has fallen to them with the first pick in the second round. And if his name weren’t Carr, that would be cause for celebration. But—barring a strange decision from leadership that is not prone to them—we’ll find out how Houston’s fans feel about it in a few hours.
(AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)