HOUSTON -- When David Culley was hired by the Houston Texans, Deshaun Watson made it clear he wanted. For weeks, Culley and the staff stood behind the 25-year-old, stating they would not trade him before the start of the 2021 season.
In case you were wondering, Culley now has found a new track to listen to. The artist? Tyrod Taylor, a 31-year-old journeyman who by all accounts will be the 17th starting quarterback in Texans franchise history.
“His leadership and his experience in the league is invaluable," Culley told reporters Thursday. "It’s invaluable for not only just those guys at the quarterback position, but just for the guys on this football team in general.
"He knows what winning’s supposed to be like."
Taylor been here before. He knows the role of replacing a can't-miss starter. Last season, he was expected to replace Philip Rivers for most of the 2020 season in Los Angeles while teaching rookie Justin Herbert.
Replacing a talent like Watson? Even Taylor knows what a challenge that will be.
"Deshaun played at a very high level and has played at a very high level throughout his career," Taylor said. "I’ve been a fan of his and I know him personally, but the opportunity to be able to start here is something that I look forward to. "
Watson's time in Houston is on life support. Currently, he's facing 22 civil cases of sexual assault and sexual misconduct that is expected to go to court next spring. Following the legal issues being resolved, it's expected he will be traded for the highest price.
Get ready, Houston. It's the Taylor Show now at NRG —a role that will come with pressure, but one needed for a franchise without a direction.
"I think the exciting thing about it is that guys want a fresh start," Taylor said. "Guys want to be able to come in and compete. Guys want to be able to show what they can do, myself included."
As expected, Watson did not report to Thursday's voluntary OTA's. The Texans are scheduled to begin mandatory minicamp June 15-17, a place where Watson is not expected to be.
So be it. More reps for Taylor to stabilize his role with the offense.
It's a new team for Taylor, who enters his 11th season since coming out of Virginia Tech. As a starter? He has plenty of snaps to at least earn his keep as the long-term option in 2021.
Taylor started three seasons with the Buffalo Bills, helping the AFC East franchise end a 17-year playoff drought. He went 22-20 as a starter, but wasn't viewed as the "it" guy.
Early season injuries have cost Taylor the opportunity to start for the long haul. A concussion with the Browns in 2018 and a punctured lung with the Chargers in 2020 both led to the franchises turning to rookie quarterbacks.
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Baker Mayfield set the record for rookie touchdown passes after coming in Week 3 against the Jets. Herbert broke Mayfield's record following his first start in Week 2 against Kansas City. Herbert also took home NFL Rookie of the Year honors.
Taylor isn't looking in the past, but rather excited for his chance now in Houston. Still, the injuries serve a purpose as he looks to improve in OTAs.
"I definitely use it as a motivation, Taylor said of the past. "There’s no bad feeling towards like whatever happened in the past. You learn from it, you move forward. I don’t believe in holding on to things.
"Like I said, just thankful for the opportunity”
Culley is content with Taylor taking control as the season approaches, stating there's a comfort level between both sides.
“He knows what we’re all about, he knows how we go about things, he knows what we expect," Culley said. "That’s important because he has a comfort level with us, and we have a comfort level with him."
It might be a new city for Taylor, but the offense should be second nature. Culley worked with the veteran during his final season in Buffalo. Pass-game coordinator Pep Hamilton served as the Chargers QB coach last fall. New offensive line coach James Campen also was with Los Angeles in 2020.
“Last year, didn’t go the way I would want it to, but those are out of my control," Taylor said. "It was tough to process a little, but it’s the reality of our game. You have to take the punches and continue to keep rolling."
Will 2021 be any different?
Taylor should be the starter in Week 1 against Jacksonville as of now. For the season? All that will be based on third-round selection Davis Mills' progression.
Time will tell if Mills can be a star at the next level. According to David Shaw, should the former No. 1 QB recruit have stayed, he likely would have been in play for the No. 1 pick next April.
It's a competition, but Taylor isn't viewing Mills as a threat. Instead, he's a mentor to a hopeful rising star.
"I don’t hide any information," Taylor said. "If there’s something that I can share with the younger guy, younger quarterback, younger whatever position it is, then I share it."
The 6-foot-1 quarterback prides himself on his mobility to keep drives alive outside the pocket. In his 11 seasons, he's recorded 1,850 rushing and 16 touchdowns, including three seasons where he tallied at least 420 yards on the ground.
Still, QBs need to throw — an area Taylor still needs to develop.
Health has taken away the opportunity for Taylor to reach new heights. In Houston, he gets a second chance.
It's now his show to run. Best believe he understands what this means for his career.
"They say the average NFL career is three years," Taylor said. "If you probably go back and look at my draft card, no one probably would’ve predicted I would be one of the four quarterbacks that were drafted that year that are still in this league.
"I know what I can do. I know what I’ve done in this league and I know the players respect it and know what I can do, but each and every day it’s my job and it’s my duty to be able to show them and to show the coaches and when we get a chance to start playing against other teams, to show them as well.”
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