It didn't qualify as a surprise at all, but Texans coach David Culley acknowledged the status of his starting quarterback Monday morning.
Tyrod Taylor is officially QB1 for an overhauled Texans team as the replacement for Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson, who remains on the roster and has a standing trade request and is facing 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints and hasn't been charged with a crime.
"Tyrod Taylor will start for us at quarterback, for sure," Culley said during a press conference at NRG Stadium in advance of Sunday's season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. "He will start for us on Sunday.”
Culley praised Taylor's work ethic, emphasizing that he's routinely the first player to arrive and the last to leave
Taylor has an understated leadership style and is naturally quiet, but Culley said he's seen more of a vocal approach from the 11th-year quarterback, former Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl selection and Baltimore Ravens sixth-round draft pick from Virginia Tech.
“The thing about him is that he has always not been a very vocal guy but, as a quarterback, he is the first one in here and the last one to leave," Culley said. "Our players see that with him and that’s what you expect out of that position. I haven’t been with him the past three years and seeing him go into his 11th year, I am seeing him a little more vocal than he has been. He has gone through some things the past two years and I think those experiences have helped him get to this point where he is able to lead this football team as he did three years ago when I was with him in Buffalo.”
Signed to a one-year contract with a maximum value of $12.5 millionon March 16, Taylor is a mobile passer with a calm demeanor and strong leadership qualities. If he’s feeling any stress in succeeding the NFL passing yardage leader from a year ago and one of the most dynamic players in the game, he certainly hasn’t shown it. If anything, Taylor exhibits a ton of poise.
“He has a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge in different systems, what different coaching staffs bring," center Justin Britt said. "Someone like that who’s been around and knows a lot, you want to listen to him. You want to give him your attention. Kind of any quarterback that steps into the huddle, they demand your attention and they deserve that attention.
"But the way Tyrod goes about it – it’s me and him and Marcus Cannon trying to be the first ones here in the morning. Kind of a race without it being a race. I think Tyrod is more lenient with it than me and Marcus are. I feel like Tyrod is kind of the epitome of our attitude on offense and as a team.”
Taylor lost his starting job last season when a Los Angeles Chargers team doctor accidentally punctured his lung while administering a pain-killing injection. That led to Justin Herbert replacing him and eventually emerging as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
As much as that hurt to lose that status, Taylor is reflective and upbeat in his perspective on what happened.
“I always say each year is a learning opportunity,” Taylor said. “Whether it's good or bad, you're able to in the offseason, you're able to reflect on the year previous and the years prior and working on how can you become a better player?
“How can you become a better student of the game? How can you be better overall? And reflect on all those things. 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.”
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.
Taylor 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 passer 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.
“I think that he’s a threat in three places, three areas," wide receiver Chris Conley said. "He’s a threat with his arm, his legs and with his mind. We fully expect him to make whatever plays are available to him. In terms of a game plan and game planned runs, that’s not my job. We don’t have all of the game plan put in right now, anyway. But I’m sure that he’ll be ready to affect the field in a bunch of different ways.”
Britt played for years with Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson. Now, he's getting accustomed to Taylor's style.
“At the end of the day, it’s football," Britt said. "I need the same information from Tyrod that I get from Russ. I played with Russ when I was a right tackle, when I was a left guard and when I was a center, so I got to know him really well in different aspects.
"I feel like I was one of the first free agents to sign, and then I saw they signed Tyrod and I texted him and just kind of forced my hand on him and said, ‘We’re going to be friends.’ All jokes aside, yeah, it’s been pretty easy. I feel like the center and quarterback relationship is kind of a given. As long as each person is not an asshole, if you will, it’s going to go well.”
When Taylor initially joined the Texans, it wasn’t exactly clear how the offseason was going to unfold in terms of the Watson situation. However, Watson had already submitted a standing trade request this offseason due to displeasure with the organization after signing a $156 million contract extension last September and had privately told associates he had no intentions of ever playing another down for the Texans.
From the 2011 NFL draft, 12 quarterbacks were selected. That included Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Taylor, Nathan Enderle, T.J. Yates, Ricky Stanzi, Ryan Mallett, Greg McElroy, Colin Kaepernick, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker.
From that group, only four are still playing: Taylor, Newton, Dalton and Gabbert.
And Taylor, through these unique, unprecedented circumstances, is now the Texans’ starting quarterback.
“It's a wonderful opportunity,” Taylor 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. 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.”
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.