In March 2016, Brock Osweiler signed a four-year, $72 million contract with the Houston Texans. In March 2017, he was traded to the Cleveland Browns, this after throwing 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 15 games with Houston. Somehow, Houston went 9-7 and made the playoffs last year – not because of Osweiler, but in spite of him.
Did the Texans actually believe they could win with Osweiler last season?
“As long as you have a guy that don’t turn the ball over and that can control the game, I think you have a shot with a defense like we had – a top-three defense,” two-time Super Bowl champion and five-time Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “We had a shot. We knew we had a shot. We wouldn’t have went that far if we didn’t knew we had that type of shot. So I think we could have got it done with him. There could have been better plays from all areas, not just his area.
“One thing I’ve learned, win or lose, quarterbacks get the credit or the blame,” Wilfork continued. “No matter how you slice it, no matter how good they play, no matter how bad they play. So it’s up to them. That’s why they get paid the big dollars. But I think he showed ups and downs. It’s one of those things where he came from an organization in Denver, sat behind Peyton, learned from Peyton, and won some critical games for those guys on their Super Bowl run. He came to Houston and it didn’t pan out for him. Whether it was the system or whatever it was, it didn’t pan out.”
Still, it seemed that Texans coach Bill O’Brien didn’t trust Osweiler. Wilfork, who spent the last two seasons in Houston, couldn’t speak to that.
“A lot of people thought that I would never leave New England,” he said. “There was a lot of people that never thought Peyton would leave Indy. So it’s business. So however it happens, it happens. I guess the organization did what they felt was best for the organization. You can never fault an organization for doing that.”
With Osweiler gone, the Texans hope they have found their quarterback of the future. They drafted Deshaun Watson 12th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft last month.
Wilfork loved the pick.
“He played the best, (and) he beat the best (in college),” Wilfork said. “I think that was the biggest pick in a while for the Texans. When you go out and get a proven winner that beat a Nick Saban, Alabama, All-Pro team and just (ripped) them to shreds – when they knew he had to throw the ball – and he performed at the highest level, I think that was a great pickup. I think he will be a pretty good player at this level. You just got to give him time, just like any other quarterback. It takes time with quarterbacks. You might not see it right away. It might take two or three years. But eventually I think he will because he’s a smart player. He understands the game and he knew how to operate an offense. I’m looking forward to seeing his progress in the NFL. I’m a big fan of his. I’m definitely hoping that he definitely pans out.”
Or, put another way, follow in the footsteps of Jadeveon Clowney. The former No. 1 overall pick had a quiet first two seasons but came on strong in 2016, recording 52 tackles and 6.0 sacks.
The Texans have to be thrilled that the 24-year-old is coming into form.
“Well, we all was hoping to see the Clowney from college,” Wilfork said. “I think sometimes it takes guys a little longer than others to get going in the NFL. In his case, he was young and had a bunch of injuries he was dealing with. (Once) that knee got healthy and he started understanding the game, he became who he needed to become – and it was perfect timing because you lose the best player in football in J.J. Watt so we needed people to step up. I think Clowney stepped up big time for us this year, and (Whitney) Mercilus stepped up big time once again. They led that defense. Even with the big names on that defense, those two guys – there were times that we’d look to the sideline and we’d tell them, ‘Hey, we need plays.’ It was scary for our opponents. People didn’t want to be in third-down situations against us because of how good we were. But he came into his own, so now he’s just got to continue to do that, and I think he will. He’s a hell of a player.”
As for Wilfork, the 35-year-old remains undecided on his NFL future.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m in no rush. There’s no team or anybody that’s going to pressure me into doing something or rushing me into doing something I don’t want to do. So this decision, it’s going to be up to me. It’s going to be up to do I want to continue to play? Do I miss it? Do I feel like taking my body through torture another season? It’s going to be up to a bunch of things. But I want to make sure 100 percent that whatever decision I make, that I’m comfortable with it. I’ve never been in a situation like this. That’s why I’m taking it kind of easy. I’m taking it kind of slow and just trying to figure it out to see if I’ve played my last or if I haven’t. I’m just going to take my time with it and be 100 percent honest with myself about what I want to do.”