While most of the headlines during the Texans training camp have been about quarterback Deshaun Watson’s contentious standing with the franchise, Tyrod Taylor has simply gone about his business as the team’s new starter and offensive leader.
The situation – with Watson not wanting to be there but being present and relegated to essentially the ignored fourth-team quarterback — would seem to be too much noise to deal with. But that hasn’t been the case for a 10-year NFL veteran like Taylor, who understands the business of football better than most after stops in Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland and Los Angeles prior to arriving here in the offseason.
He’s laser-focused on the task at hand.
“I always say each year is a learning opportunity,” Taylor said. “I think the 10 years prior in professional football has definitely prepared me for the moment I have here, the opportunity I have here, but also the years of playing football as a youth. As a kid, high school, college, you go through so many things. You don’t lose memory of them. You just allow them to better yourself moving forward.”
Taylor’s anticipated role with the Texans has evolved immensely since he came aboard earlier in the offseason. The new regime of general manager Nick Caserio and head coach David Culley brought Taylor in with the hope of being Watson’s backup but also with the idea he could be a one-year insurance policy in the event that Watson couldn’t be convinced to back off his trade demands.
Things, of course, have gotten a lot trickier since with the sexual misconduct claims of 22 massage therapists against Watson. Under ordinary circumstances, the Texans would have traded Watson this offseason and started anew with Taylor as the quarterback placeholder while rookie Davis Mills develops.
Instead, it’s been one awkward show with Watson being forced to be around due to contractional obligations and him no longer being part of the franchise’s plans. Caught in the middle has been Taylor and the rest of the Texans players.
Being part of the still small NFL African-American quarterback club, Watson and Taylor not only know each other but they are also friends in real life.
“We’ve known each other for a number of years now,” Taylor said. “We’ve had conversations on the field, off the field, about football, about life. Everything has been a positive conversation, and it will continue to be that way.”
In the meantime, Taylor has gone about the business of being the veteran leader of the offense and the team, in general. He has easily won over the Texans locker room, even if some are understandably torn.
“Couldn’t be a better guy just to take on that role right now, especially with everything going on,” Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus said of Taylor. “With Deshaun, that’s my guy. Love him to death. Hate what’s happened to him. Just bring it for him every day honestly. Man, everything will sort itself out. God got it. I know that for a fact. He’s my guy at the end of the day.”
From the outside looking in, Taylor does seem like the right quarterback during this less-than-ideal time for the Texans. Taylor knows the game having been a starter in the NFL for a number of years now and he still has more than enough ability to be a stabilizer and playmaker for the rebuilding Texans.
“He’s been there and he’s done that,” said Culley, who coached Taylor in Buffalo. “He’s one of our guys right now, he’s been doing a nice job, he’s got a lot of experience. He’s been a starter in his league, he’s taken teams to playoffs in this league and right now with the competition that we are having, he’s right in the mix and doing his thing.”
And Taylor is relishing this opportunity, which may be just a year depending on how quickly Mills develops. Taylor’s last two stays in Cleveland and Los Angeles were short-lived because there was a young rookie waiting in the wings.
Taylor isn’t worried next season. He is in the moment.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” he said. “Every time I get a chance to lace up my cleats and play the game that I started playing when I was 5 years old is a blessing. I don’t take any day for granted.
“I’m excited to be able to go out and lead the group, to be able to go out and continue to make plays. Like I said, it’s a joyful feeling to be able to go out on the field and compete. That’s what I look forward to each day.”