If a man wears his heart on his sleeve — or his head for that matter — Ryan Mallett clearly remains all in on the Houston Texans.
The impending free agent quarterback did not just go to Texas Children's Hospital with an impressive gaggle of under contract teammates on Wednesday afternoon. He showed up in full Texans gear — sweatshirt and hat.
Mallett sure does not look — or act like — someone who will be bolting Houston for another NFL city. While Mallett does not technically become a free agent until March 10, he did not have to make this appearance for the Texans. And he certainly didn't have to come wearing the team logo everywhere.
This is another blaring sign why fan concern about Mallett signing with another team largely looms as wasted energy. Mallett and the Texans seem all but completely predetermined. Texans coach Bill O'Brien has gone out of his way to declare that retaining Mallett is the top quarterback priority again and again. And the 26-year-old Mallett would be a fool to leave a coaching staff and system he's familiar and comfortable with just when he finally has the chance to be an unquestioned NFL starter.
Mallett sure does not look — or act like — someone who will be bolting Houston for another NFL city.
To his credit, Mallett did not want to talk much about any potential new contract at Texas Children's, besides saying he wants to be back. Mallett tried to keep the focus on the sick kids the Texans visited with instead. He even displayed some impressive glitter game in one interaction with a young girl — as Texans TV host Drew Dougherty shows in this great Twitter photo.
Mallett's return hardly looks like a question mark. If you think general manager Rick Smith is going to let it get to the point where the Texans are outbid on a player Bill O'Brien truly wants, you haven't been paying attention to the real power structure at Reliant Stadium.
The bigger questions is whether the Texans are making the right choice by entrusting the franchise's fortunes to a fifth-year quarterback with two career starts: One impressive strong-armed one and one disastrous hesitant one (chalking up all of Mallett's struggles against the Bengals to injury is something of a convenient cop out). After hardly rushing to trade for Mallett last summer — and clearly being comfortable with the risk of another team landing him instead — O'Brien is now all on board with Mallett.
Bill O'Brien's Mantra
Ryan Fitzpatrick signing aside, O'Brien did more than enough in a first season in which he deserved to win Coach of the Year honors to have earned the fans trust. O'Brien has clearly seen enough in practice and the film room to be comfortable throwing the keys to Mallett. O'Brien's not one to just whisper sweet nothings in free agency recruitment.
Mallett even displayed impressive glitter game in one interaction with a young girl.
If he calls Mallett a central figure, then the 6-foot-7 quarterback's The Man.
It will be interesting to see who else joins Mallett and presumably Tom Savage, a still intriguing prospect, in the Texans' quarterback fold. Case Keenum, the only Texans QB with a winning record last season and the owner of Houston's most impressive win of the year over Baltimore, and the veteran and clearly ceiling hit Fitzpatrick both remain in the mix.
That won't be answered today though.
On a day when the Texans announced a seven-year partnership with Texas Children's Hospital — a day when a big quarterback showed a large heart for kids — the biggest football statement was made by Ryan Mallett's simple choice of clothes.