Tyrod Taylor isn’t ready for the uphill battle in Houston in 2021

Tyrod Taylor is now the Houston Texans starting QB. Can he help the struggling franchise find some semblance of success in 2021?

With Deshaun Watson unlikely to play for the Houston Texans next season, the starting QB responsibilities fall to Tyrod Taylor. At 32 years old, what can the veteran provide to his new team?

Looking back at Tyrod Taylor’s last significant stint as a starting quarterback

Tyrod Taylor has been in the NFL for 10 seasons now. In many ways, that is an impressive feat on its own. Most players don’t last that long. However, Taylor’s only productive years came during his three seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

You can see his statistics from those years in the chart below.

Passing Yards Passing Touchdowns Interceptions Rushing Yards Rushing Touchdowns
2015 3,035 20 6 568 4
2016 3,023 17 6 580 6
2017 2,799 14 4 427 4

Those are decent numbers, but they aren’t exactly the statistics of a truly elite quarterback. Taylor didn’t necessarily lose his team games, but the offenses he led during those seasons weren’t exactly setting the NFL on fire.

They performed decently well during Taylor’s first two seasons, ranking 13th and 16th in terms of total yardage, but 2017 was a complete disaster. The Bills offense ranked 29th in that category during Taylor’s final season as their starter.

It’s not hard to see why Buffalo decided to move on from Taylor after that year, and why he has largely been relegated to backup status in the years since.

Now, thanks to Watson’s significant legal troubles, he finally has another chance.

Tyrod Taylor’s advanced metrics were subpar

To better understand how Taylor’s performance in Buffalo might apply to his new job as the Texans starting QB, let’s turn to the Offensive Value Metric (OVM).

The OVM is a grading system created by the (Bx) Movement to evaluate players based on how much they influenced the statistics they produced, rather than the statistics themselves.

The OVM database only goes back to 2016, so we can’t examine Taylor’s most productive season. However, we do have data from his other seasons in Buffalo, and the numbers aren’t particularly encouraging.

In 2016, Taylor earned a grade of 24.43, the eleventh-lowest received by any qualifying quarterback that season. The following year, his grade plummeted to 17.11, the fifth-lowest grade.

Those grades indicate that, even back when he was playing significant minutes, Taylor was one of the NFL’s lowest-impact quarterbacks.

And while it is possible that Taylor’s grade from 2015 would have been higher, that is by no means a certainty.

Examining Tyrod Taylor’s weekly statistics

For a more in-depth examination of Taylor’s OVM grades, let’s look at how he performed from each week of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The charts below show Taylor’s weekly grades from those years, marked by the black dots.

For comparison, the league average regular-season grades for quarterbacks from those seasons are represented by the yellow lines.

Tyrod Taylor isn't ready for the uphill battle in Houston in 2021


Tyrod Taylor isn't ready for the uphill battle in Houston in 2021

As you can see, Taylor was inconsistent in both seasons, wildly so in 2017. Most of his grades came in below the league average, often by a significant margin.

The most interesting grade came at the end of 2017. That game was notable for several reasons. First, it was the only playoff game of Taylor’s career, a Wild Card matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The results were far from what he would have hoped. Taylor threw for 134 yards, an interception, and no touchdowns. He also added just 27 yards on the ground.

Additionally, he had one of the least effective quarterback performances on record, receiving an OVM grade of -6, the seventh-lowest earned by any quarterback since 2016. In other words, Taylor’s play actively detracted from the Bills’ success.

In fairness to Taylor, the 2017 Jaguars fielded one of the best defensive units of the 2010s, nearly reaching the Super Bowl despite needing to rely on Blake Bortles to score points on the offensive end.

Still, it is an undeniable fact that — on the biggest stage of his career — Taylor fell flat on his face.

The advanced metrics behind Tyrod Taylor’s OVM grades

If we want to understand Taylor’s OVM grades, we need to examine the advanced metrics involved in calculating them. For the most part, Taylor’s statistics were relatively unremarkable, painting him as a fairly average quarterback.

What held Taylor’s grades back was his performance in one particular area. He was one of the least aggressive quarterbacks in both 2016 and 2017.

He threw into tight windows on just 14.2% of his pass attempts in 2016 and 15.2% in 2017. Those were the third and ninth-lowest percentages in their respective seasons.

Put in simpler terms, the vast majority of Taylor’s passes were thrown to wide open receivers, lowering his offensive impact.

Can Taylor still be an effective rushing quarterback?

One point in Taylor’s favor that I have largely set aside thus far is that, when he was at his best, he was one of the NFL’s most effective rushing quarterbacks.

He rushed for more than 400 yards in each of his seasons as the Bills’ starting quarterback. However, we haven’t seen him produce at a similar level in the last three seasons.

While that is in large part due to a lack of opportunities, you have to wonder if, at age 32, Taylor still has the legs to reach those heights. If he can’t, an essential facet of his game will have disappeared.

Tyrod Taylor is in an impossible situation as the Texans QB

Last season, Taylor was basically a stopgap for the Los Angeles Chargers in wait of rookie Justin Herbert.

In 2021, Taylor might be in an even worst position. Although the starting job seems securely his, he needs to find success as a QB on a Texans team that has an outside chance to become the first 0-17 team in NFL history.

Even if Taylor had a history of elite play, that would be a tough ask. Unfortunately, the data we’ve examined suggests that, even during his prime, Taylor was far from an elite passer. Furthermore, his rushing abilities have undoubtedly waned at least somewhat in the last four years.

Of course, it’s always possible that will find new life in Houston. Unfortunately, the data doesn’t favor that outcome.

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