David Culley collaborated successfully with veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor with the Buffalo Bills as his position coach.
With Taylor signed by the Texans this offseason to a one-year contract with a maximum value of $12.5 million, Culley still sees the same positive qualities in the former Pro Bowl selection.
That’s why Taylor is expected to be the Texans’ QB1 for the foreseeable future with rookie Davis Mills learning behind him. Because embattled Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson has issued a standing trade request, has no intentions of ever playing for the Texans again, according to multiple league sources not authorized to speak publicly, and is contending with 22 active civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, the Texans have effectively moved on by adding Taylor, Mills and Jeff Driskel.
The Texans will lean heavily on Taylor to provide stability at a quarterback position in flux just one year after signing Watson to a blockbuster $156 million contract extension and leading the NFL in passing yards. Culley hasn’t announced that Taylor is the starter, but it’s clear that he’s headed for that status, barring an extremely speedy development from Mills or a change of plans from he organization.
“As a quarterback, you always want that guy to be the first guy in and the last guy out,” Culley said of Taylor during an organized team activity. “He’s that guy. He’s been that guy his whole career. He was that guy when he was in Baltimore as a backup. He always worked like he was the starter.
“When he became the starter, there was nothing any different. He’s a leader, he’s a winner and he is exactly what you want taking snaps from the center and leading your football team.”
Reunited with Culley and former Los Angeles Chargers quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton, hired this offseason as the Texans' quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator, Taylor passed for 2,799 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions and rushed for 427 yards and four scores in 2017 in Buffalo with Culley on Sean McDermott’s coaching staff.
A former Baltimore Ravens sixth-round draft pick from Virginia Tech, Taylor, 31, has the third-lowest interception rate since 2011 with interceptions thrown on just 1.4 percent of his throws with 20 interceptions during a decade in the NFL. Taylor is a multidimensional quarterback who can beat defenses with his feet and his arm, rushing for 1,850 yards and 16 touchdowns and passing for 9,770 yards and 54 touchdowns.
“Tyrod has outstanding leadership qualities,” an NFL executive said. “He’s smart, competitive, tough, very experienced and extremely mobile. He takes great care of the football and he can spin it. You can’t rattle him. He’s a very high-character individual.”
Taylor backed up Joe Flacco on the Ravens' Super Bowl-winning team in 2012. Taylor made the Pro Bowl in 2015 with the Bills before being traded to Cleveland in 2018.
Taylor earned the starting job with the Browns and Chargers, but got hurt and was replaced by Baker Mayfield in Cleveland. Then, Taylor was replaced by Chargers rookie standout Justin Herbert last season due to a rib injury.
Taylor completed 16 of 30 passes for 208 yards in a season-opening win over the Bengals last fall, but was hospitalized after a Chargers team doctor accidentally punctured his lung while administered a pain killing injection to treat the rib injury. Herbert was named the starter for the remainder of the season and was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, passing for 4,336 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Taylor, who has an 89.5 career passer rating. passed for 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2015 with Buffalo as he rushed for 568 yards and four scores. Taylor was named a team captain for Los Angeles last season before the rib injury and the medical mishap.
Taylor has trained away from the Texans’ training facility for the majority of the offseason, but has since joined the workouts at NRG Stadium.
“He is here at this time right now and basically he’s starting to get in the program,” Culley said. “He’s been a guy that I’ve known. I’ve worked with him before and I expect him to kind of fall right in with the theme that we’re having right now is competition. He’s been there before and been in those particular situations and I expect him to fall right in and become the same Tyrod Taylor that I’ve known when he was in Baltimore early in his career and then when I was with him in Buffalo.”
As for Watson, he is training independently with a private trainer and recently posted workouts on social media. His civil cases are unresolved (he has denied wrongdoing) and the Houston Police Department investigating along with a parallel NFL investigation led by Lisa Friel, a former head of the Manhattan sex crimes unity.
Watson isn’t at the organized team activities and is not participating in the Texans’ Zoom meetings. He is concentrating on his workouts and addressing his cases, with a defense team led by veteran attorney Rusty Hardin.
On Thursday, Culley reiterated an organizational stance to not discuss Watson beyond previous statements and interviews from general manager Nick Caserio and Texans chairman and chief operating officer Cal McNair.
“We have nothing more to say,” Culley said. “We’ve talked about the Deshaun situation with Nick (Caserio) and I both, and with Cal and nothing’s new on that.”
Culley was asked if Watson had been to the facility and if he had participated in Zooms, stating: “I have nothing to say about Deshaun at this point.”
The early impressions on Mills, a strong-armed third-round draft pick from Stanford have been encouraging. Although Mills only has 11 career starts, several NFL general managers and executives said they believe he would have been a first-round draft pick if he had returned to school for his final year of eligibility instead of declaring early.
“You talk about a guy, right away getting in here, kid is smart,” veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks said. “I mean, gosh, he went to Stanford. It doesn’t matter if you’re on scholarship or not, you’ve still got to go to school over there.
“He’s a smart kid. Picking up the offense pretty fast. The guy can sling it and he’s confident and you love to see that from a young guy.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.