HTX Texans
Savage Outplays Manziel

Tom Savage outdoes Johnny Manziel, but the haters need to chill: Both rookies only require a better chance

Tom Savage outdoes Johnny Manziel but the haters need to see the truth

Tom Savage huddle Texans 49ers
Tom Savage showed enough to intrigue and give Houston Texans fans a chance to dream — if he's healthy enough to finish the season as the starting quarterback. Photo By Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
8 Texans vs. Browns first-half Johnny Manziel November 2014
Johnny Manziel floundered in his first career NFL start. But a game does not make a career. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Bill O'Brien Texans Falcons sideline
Bill O'Brien showed great belief in Tom Savage during the NFL Draft. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup
Tom Savage Texans Falcons close
Tom Savage needs to live up to Bill O'Brien's confidence. He has already shown a strong arm. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup
Tom Savage huddle Texans 49ers
8 Texans vs. Browns first-half Johnny Manziel November 2014
Bill O'Brien Texans Falcons sideline
Tom Savage Texans Falcons close

INDIANAPOLIS — Danieal Manning's seen a lot in the NFL. This nine-year vet's played against Peyton Manning in a Super Bowl. He's signed a big contract and he's been released. He's played for good coaches and overmatched ones. He's been on teams that have come together and teams that have imploded.

Danieal Manning thought he'd damn seen it all.

Then he noticed a rookie quarterback grinning in the midst of a pressure packed emergency appearance for the Houston Texans. And grinning.

"I didn't expect to see him smiling like that," Manning says, shaking his head a little at the image of Tom Savage enjoying the moment even as everyone else freaked out around him.

 Johnny Manziel still has time on his side. For all the hate directed his way, he's still standing. That's no small thing for a quarterback. 

Apparently, no one told the rookie whose own attempt at growing a fierce beard doesn't make him appear any older how NFL newbies are supposed to react. "You expect a rookie quarterback to be nervous and a little jittery," Manning says. "Not smiling."

Oh, Savage shows plenty of nerves too. Like when he walks into the huddle for the first time with 65,000-plus blue and white clad screaming crazies trying to make Jim Irsay proud and needs to be reminded to raise his voice. You know, so the rest of the offense can hear him give the play call.

"Tom, it's loud in here. You gotta speak up," left tackle Duane Brown implores.

Savage starts talking louder. And he even ends up making a few plays downfield. Even though Texans coach Bill O'Brien absolutely refuses to let Savage throw anything down the middle of the field, seemingly limiting the first year quarterback's options to sideline routes.

The Indianapolis Colts predictably still win 17-10, ending any even outside realistic Texans playoff hopes (Jim Mora should pop up and plunk O'Brien over the head if the coach dares mention that the 7-7 Texans are not technically eliminated yet). But Savage posts better second half numbers than the opposing Fawned Over One Quarterback (Andrew Luck). And a much better ones than the historically bad Johnny Manziel manages in his debut start.

Still, the Texans fans lamenting the timing of Ryan Fitzpatrick's broken leg (as if having Fitz for four quarters suddenly guarantees victory) and the professional Manziel haters both need to get a grip. Neither Savage or Manziel is a flop. They'll both be starting more NFL games — and both have shown the potential to be impact players.

Hating Johnny Football

Manziel's thrown into a near impossible situation — made the starter a few games too late with the Cleveland Browns already reeling and drained, facing a very good Cincinnati Bengals defense (just ask Ryan Mallett about Marvin Lewis' defense). Even Johnny Football cannot walk on those waters.

And OK, on this day, he near drowns.

"I feel like it was a fail on my part," Manziel says during a postgame news conference that's heard (and laughed at by petty people) across America.

 Manziel stares straight ahead, seemingly trying to stare daggers right into all those TV cameras out of the shot. He may not smile for another week.

 Jim Mora should pop up and plunk O'Brien over the head if the coach dares mention that the 7-7 Texans are not technically eliminated. 

Yet, Savage does even though he's thrust into action with no warning. One moment, Fitzpatrick's running the offense. The next he's crumpling to the ground, his leg destroyed by a freak hit. Fitzpatrick tries to get back up at first. Then he plops back on his butt. He knows.

"He was so calm," Brown says. In fact, Fitzpatrick is so calm, sitting there with a fractured leg on the Lucas Oil Field, that Brown admits he does not even believe the quarterback is hurt that badly at first.

Fitzpatrick is done though and Savage is suddenly in, the sixth quarterback to have played for the Texans in the last two seasons. He completes a nice 35-yard sideline hugging route to DeAndre Hopkins and an arguably even better thrown 30-yard sideline hugging route to DeVier Posey.

"He throws a nice deep ball," O'Brien says.

Later, Savage converts a third-and-four and a third-and-six in the fourth quarter. His last chance attempt on a fourth-and-three is intercepted as he's hit after being hit on the knee the play before. He is still limping when he leaves the locker room after a quick interview with a media scrum, headed for an MRI on this Monday back in Houston.

If Savage is too hurt to play, the Texans final two games will be truly meaningless — and a huge learning opportunity will have been lost.

Johnny Manziel still has time on his side. For all the hate directed his way, he's still standing. That's no small thing for a quarterback.

Savage is hobbled, but he still had the presence of mind to smile on the field, seemingly loving every minute of the chaos, the sudden responsibility heaped on his shoulder pads. The nerve of this kid.

That's no minor thing either.