That’s the question every Houston Texans fan is asking.
It's one thing for rebuilding teams to have questions at quarterback. It’s quite another when a legitimate contender has a glaring hole at the position with no obvious way to fill it.
This is where Houston stands following ESPN’s report that Tony Romo will walk away from football and pursue a broadcasting career.
The Texans were not only considered the clear frontrunner to land Romo as his Dallas Cowboys days came to an end. He also was the best —and perhaps only —hope to fix Houston’s long-standing QB problem for at least the 2017 season.
Romo could have provided the boost needed to reach Super Bowl 52.
That possibility is now gone, along with the chances of the Texans getting there.
Not to completely write off Houston for 2017 with so much time left this offseason, but let’s be realistic about the remaining options.
A rookie can’t be expected to lead the Texans to a title. Neither can the two QBs currently on Houston’s roster: Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden.
Those remaining in free agency —Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and ex-Texans starter Ryan Fitzpatrick among them —aren’t anywhere near the same caliber as a healthy Romo.
And because of the compensation issues involved from both a draft pick and financial standpoint, the odds of pulling off a blockbuster trade to acquire someone like Washington’s Kirk Cousins or New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo are remote at best.
Despite all his medical issues, Romo was clearly the best fit for a team that desperately needs more offensive support for its dominant defense. Romo didn’t start in 2016 because of another back injury and emergence of rookie replacement Dak Prescott in his absence. But when healthy late in the season, Romo looked like his old self in a brief Week 17 showing against Philadelphia and on the practice field.
Don’t take my word for it. That was the assessment of teammates like cornerback Brandon Carr, who played with Romo the past five seasons in Dallas before leaving this offseason for Dallas. Carr told co-host Phil Savage and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Romo had plenty of zip on his passes and could still play at an elite level.
"Elite” and “quarterback"are two words that have never gone together since the Texans began play in 2002. Matt Schaub was the closest thing to it during his seven seasons in Houston —and he really never was that close.
Even if he played for just one more season, Romo could have proven the difference in getting Houston over the top after three straight years of 9-7 records and passing offenses ranked in the bottom half of the league. Romo also would have bought the Texans time to groom an heir apparent selected in the draft.
From his standpoint, Romo would have gotten one more legitimate chance at reaching a Super Bowl before his 36-year-old body finally failed him for good. The fact that Houston wasn’t an opportunity worth pursuing —especially considering Romo’s ultra-competitive nature —speaks volumes about his current mindset and maybe his feeling about the folks running the Texans.
The same ones who have put the club in this unenviable spot through years of bad decisions related to the game’s most important position.
The latest problem started when Bill O’Brien became head coach of a downtrodden franchise that had the No. 1 overall pick in 2014. In retrospect, the decision to select an edge pass-rusher (Jadeveon Clowney) over a potential franchise QB (Blake Bortles) may be proven wise. Clowney is starting to become a defensive force after battling injuries his first two NFL campaigns. Bortles now faces his last chance in Jacksonville to prove he can effectively man the position after posting an 11-34 starting record along with far too many interceptions (51).
Where the Texans erred was missing on other quarterbacks they could have taken. Houston passed on Derek Carr (Oakland) and Garoppolo before selecting Savage in Round 4. Cincinnati’s A.J. McCarron, who, like Garoppolo, is a backup believed to have starting potential, went to the Bengals in Round 5.
The quarterbacks Houston started in 2014: Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and Ryan Mallett. Savage would have gotten a shot, but he got hurt.
Injuries and performance-based decisions led to four more QBs starting in 2015. Thattime, the Texans reached the playoffs, but a 30-0 first-round home loss to Kansas City with Hoyer at the helm again exposed how much Houston needed a difference-making quarterback.
Thatled to the 2016 offseason move that continues to haunt the Texans: Signing Osweiler away from Denver to a four-year, $72 million contract that included $37 million guaranteed.
How much blame to place directly on Osweiler or O’Brien for the former’s failing is debatable. What’s indisputable is how poorly Osweiler performed in a 15-touchdown, 16-interception showing that led to his late-season benching.
The Texans were so desperate to rid themselves of Osweiler and his contract, especially following a halftime confrontation between O’Brien and the QBin Week 17,the playerwas packaged with a 2018 second-round pick and shipped to Cleveland. The move cleared the kind of salary-cap space Houston needed to sign Romo.
The room is still there, albeit with nobody worthy of paying on the horizon and no young prospect to feel good about after failing to draft a quarterback the past two years.
MOCK DRAFT: Texans find new QB
The best thing Houston can hope for isa better veteran option becoming available or Romo changinghis mind in the coming months. Neither is expected, which means another year of wasting a defense that can’t keep the championship window open forever.
It also raises questions about how much more patience Texans owner Bob McNair will have with O’Brien and/or general manager Rick Smith to find an answer under center.
"It’s a quarterback league,"Smith proclaimed in 2015.
You wouldn’t know it based on how badly Houston has botched the game’s most important position.