(SportsRadio 610) -- After quarterback Tyrod Taylor signed as a free agent to become the Texans’ new quarterback in March, about 20 other newcomers gathered at a hotel to be welcomed to their new spot in Houston.
What all of them are looking for is a fresh start, another opportunity to prove themselves in the NFL.
Taylor, 31, is a 10-year veteran and the early favorite to take over for Deshaun Watson at quarterback.
Taylor's record shows he's a winning quarterback. He’s 24-21-1 as a starter from his time with the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Chargers after beginning his career backing up Joe Flacco for the Baltimore Ravens.
Yet Taylor has been supplanted by a younger, rookie quarterback at his previous two stops in Cleveland and Los Angeles.
Last season, Taylor was named the Week 1 starter and quarterbacked the Chargers to a win. But just minutes before Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs, a team doctor administering an injection to reduce pain for Taylor’s cracked ribs ended up puncturing his lung.
Justin Herbert became the starter and never looked back on his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Now, Taylor says he’s more motivated than he’s ever been.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to go out and lead and, of course, go make plays,” Taylor told reporters Thursday from Texans organized training activities. “Last year didn’t go the way that I would want it to. That’s out of my control but it’s an opportunity for me to be able to rebound and still play at a high level, which I know I can do.”
Taylor acknowledged last year was difficult to process, but spoke about taking “the punches and continuing to keep rolling.”
Taylor signed in March, after Watson’s trade request but before 22 lawsuits were filed against Watson alleging sexual misconduct. Taylor's deal was reportedly for one year, $5.5 million.
At the time, first-year general manager Nick Caserio and head coach David Culley were still expressing a commitment to Watson. Signing Taylor could have easily been explained by the Texans not having any other quarterbacks on the roster.
The situation has changed as the allegations piled up against Watson and it became clearer, one way or another, someone other than Watson would be the Texans’ quarterback in 2021.
Taylor said he did not know when he signed what would happen with Watson, but he was drawn by the familiar faces in Culley and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton, who is also now the Texans’ passing game coordinator.
Both coaches have worked with Taylor -- Culley in 2017 as the Bills’ quarterbacks coach and Hamilton in the same position last year for the Chargers.
“I just knew that it was an opportunity for me to be able to showcase what I could do,” Taylor said when asked what he understood his role to be upon signing. “Since I came into the league, I always treated the job -- and I think every quarterback should approach it this way -- to prepare as the starter. Because at our position, you’re one play away. You never know when that opportunity will come.
“So regardless of how the roster looks, you have to come in and prepare as the starter each and every day. That gives yourself the best chance to go out and be successful, but it also gives your team the best chance to be successful throughout the year.”
Taylor is competing with rookie Davis Mills and veteran Jeff Driskel.
It’s clear, though, Taylor expects to be the starter. Just notice how he speaks of leadership, and the way he intends to command the offense.
“This offense allows for sure the quarterback, myself, to get the ball out of our hands fast,” Taylor said. “We’re the general. We run the show. Everything runs through us. But more importantly, we have playmakers at the receiver position, tight end position and as well at the running back position. It’s my job to get the ball to those guys.
“I think we have a lot of great concepts that allow those guys to play free and to get open and get the ball. So, the more efficiently we do that, the better off we are on offense and as far as putting up points.”
The Texans are facing a lot of expectations from the outside. Early betting odds, though subject to change, have them as the underdog in all 17 games.
Watson was the NFL passing leader in 2020, even though Houston went just 4-12.
Taylor has started four games in the last three seasons, with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his starts. Taylor was selected to the Pro Bowl with Buffalo in 2015, when he threw a career-high 20 touchdowns, eight yards per attempt, and just six interceptions.
“Deshaun 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 I look forward to. I’m looking forward to competing with the guys we have in our locker room.
“As far as the pressure, I don’t think anyone will put more pressure on myself than me. I have high expectations for myself. I hold myself to a certain standard. Coming out and performing each day is what that standard is.”