Davis Mills remained true to his low-key, even-keel personality Friday following the announcement that the rookie was officially named the Texans’ starting quarterback as the replacement for Tyrod Taylor for the rest of the season.
“It’s pretty cool,” Mills said. “Obviously, I’m in a situation now I guess I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid, being named the starter for an NFL franchise. It’s pretty cool.”
How the rookie from Stanford performs for the 2-10 Texans, beginning in Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, is of pivotal importance for the franchise going forward.
For now, Mills’ focus is solely on one thing: beating the Seahawks and orchestrating the offense rather than worrying about his five-game audition for the starting job.
“I don’t know if I really need to go out there and prove anything,” Mills said. “ Just got to go out there and play my best. It’s a challenge each and every week going forward, but the goal stays the same for the whole team, just going 1-0 every week.”
A third-round draft pick from Stanford, Mills completed 6 of 14 passes for 49 yards and a 52.4 passer rating Sunday in relief of Taylor.
Mills went 0-6 as the starter when Taylor was sidelined previously, but shined against the New England Patriots in a loss.
That game represented the high-water mark for Mills so far as he completed 21 of 29 passes (72.4 percent) for 312 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 141.7 passer rating.
“As an offense as a whole, I thought we just executed the plan really well that week,” Mills siad. “ We got a chance to make some big plays and kind of turned some routine plays into big ones, as well, especially with that Chris Moore touchdown on the right sideline. Really just going out there and doing my job to the best of my ability and then letting the guys play well around me.”
The Texans rank last in the NFL in total offense and scoring offense, averaging 13.7 points per game.
“A lot of it’s just the knowledge of the offense that I’m running, knowledge of the playbook, and then the chemistry with the guys that I have around me,” Mills said. “It’s a lot easier going out there and being able to anticipate, so I guess anticipation would be one of those things, just knowing where people are going to be at.”
It's been the usual up-and-down progression of a rookie quarterback. Mills has passed for 1,406 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Of course, if Mills excels then he stands a good chance to be the starting quarterback in 2022.
“I don’t know if I’ve thought that far ahead yet, but I guess potentially,” Mills said. “Obviously, I’m just going out there and trying to play my best.”
Mills said he will maintain the same approach every week, focusing on improvement.
“I don’t think it changes it,” Mills said. “ I still have the same process week in and week out, just kind of going week to week, figuring out as much as we can about the opponent. Obviously, it’s Seattle this week. The goal stays the same. Just trying to go out there and get a win every week.”
Mills said his interactions with Taylor have been positive ones since coach David Culley informed them of the quarterback change.
“It’s been good,” Mills said. “Obviously, a tough situation, but we both want what’s best for the team. I guess whatever the decision they make upstairs is what we have to roll with.”
Mills’ goals are simple for the Seahawks game.
It’s a matter of playing a clean game and making some crisp throws.
“Going out there and playing efficient back there in the quarterback position, that includes getting the ball out quick to the playmakers,” Mills said. “Obviously, it takes a little pressure off the offensive line and the protection, but it also allows us to really spread the ball out and keep the defense guessing.
“I think just having an emphasis on continuing to spread the ball around with all of our weapons we have on offense, and then just playing a clean game as a whole. Mixing up the snap count, being solid in protection, try to not mismanage any points or pre-snap decisions, and then really just going out and executing post-snap.”
Mills’ family is attending the game, which marks his seventh NFL start and first since Taylor returned from a Grade 2 hamstring strain.
“Everyone’s really excited,” Mills said. “I really haven’t had a chance to talk to them yet because I think the news just broke this morning. I’m excited. My dad’s going to fly out for the game this weekend, so I’m excited to see him.”
Mills replaced Taylor during a 31-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday, and now he will make his seventh NFL start against Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson.
This amounts to a five-game audition for Mills to prove he should be the starter next year. If he excels, then he’ll have a prime opportunity to earn the starting job in 2022. After starting just 11 games in college due to injuries before declaring early for the draft, Culley believes 11 games as an NFL rookie should give the Texans plenty to evaluate.
“I think it will be a tremendous help for him,” Culley said. “The big thing for that is that he’s played six ball games. He got thrown into it in Cleveland and then he had to just go head-first. But I thought if he could do the things he did, and I expect him too, in the New England game which he played very, very well, good decisions, protected the ball, I feel like we will be fine.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s an audition, we’re only looking for this season for him. Right now, all I’m looking for him to do is get us a win on Sunday.”