Texans coach Lovie Smith was noncommittal Monday on having Davis Mills remain the starting quarterback and foreshadowed potential change at the position one day after indicating the former third-round draft pick from Stanford wasn't being replaced.
The Texans are contemplating having backup Kyle Allen step in for Mills following another lackluster performance Sunday, according to league sources.
Smith didn't indicate anything definitively, citing the need to inform players before making public announcements, but hinted strongly that change is coming.
"Have I watched the video a few times, made some decisions on how we're going to go forward, you can probably understand like all changes and anything we do we kind of talk to the players first before we talk to you," Smith said during a press conference at NRG Stadium. "We're not pleased with where we are. Do we need to do some things differently? Yes, and we will."
And Mills' shortcomings provided another snapshot of his season-long struggles and the problems facing an unproductive offense engineered by offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. The Texans mustered just five yards of total offense in the first half, their fewest net yards in a half in franchise history, during a 23-10 loss to the Washington Commanders. They had eight yards in the first half of a 40-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills last season. This marked the fewest net yards by an NFL team in a half since the Raiders' minus-12 yards in a win over the Denver Broncos in 2015.
When asked for his evaluation of Mills, Smith reiterated that it would be difficult for any quarterback to perform well while being sacked five times. However, he didn't attribute all of Mills' issues to the heavy pressure generated by a talented Commanders defensive line.
"I think he's grown," Smith said of Mills."It's pretty hard when you talk about how much someone has grown after yesterday. Yesterday, you look at the game, at the quarterback position, didn't play as well."
Mills stared down his primary read, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, and was intercepted by Commanders cornerback Kendall Fuller as he undercut the telegraphed pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown on the second offensive play of the game. The miscue, a pick-six, was the first of Mills' two interceptions Sunday. Although the game was sparsely attended, the Texans' ineptitude was repeatedly met with loud boos.
"I have watched that video a few times," Smith said. "It's tough for any quarterback, it would have been tough for them perform. With some of the pressure, we got. Not always, though. We're evaluating what we're doing, what plays we're calling and if the quarterback isn't having success throwing the football. Most of the day that wasn't the case."
Mills completed 19 of 33 passes for 169 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 46.1 passer rating. He rushed for a late touchdown, the first rushing score of his career.
Mills has 11 interceptions this season and 11 touchdown passes. He has clearly regressed since his rookie season when he had nine touchdowns and two interceptions during the final five games of last year.
Allen, a former University of Houston and Texas A&M quarterback who has previously played for the Washington franchise and the Carolina Panthers, has a 7-10 career record. He has passed for 4,318 yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions with a 63.1 completion percentage.
Allen was signed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with a maximum value of $3 million during the offseason. He played in two games last season and completed 12 of 19 passes for 120 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He rushed for 11 yards on two carries.
"Kyle can make all of the throws," Smith said. "He has a history of good play in the NFL. He's a veteran who's been in situations. He gets rid of the ball quickly. There's a lot of things to like about what Kyle has done. When he played in the preseason, with a limited amount of time, I thought he did a pretty good job."
Smith was asked if he believes a team can get a spark from a personnel change. He sounded like a coach who's ready to try something new with the Texanas off to a 1-8-1 start.
"When you've lost as many games as we have, you're searching for ways and things that may get the best out of maybe that person or the team in general," Smith said. "I think there's a place for that. Whether that's a spark or not, if the effort isn't what you want it to be, you look and see if there's a better option. Sometimes, we looked at a better option earlier than others. That's a part of the process. We're in the second half of the season. We should know about what's been put on video is probably who we are now. I acknowledge that."
Texans left offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, defended Mills and emphasized his resiliency after a mistake.
"That's one thing about Davis, he gets ready for the next one," Tunsil said. "That's one thing we appreciate about him. I don't think no change should happen. It's just growing pains."
The pick-six was an example of Mills' lack of progress.
“Good play by the defender," Mills said. "Might have left the ball a hair inside, and he had a really good jump on it and ended up getting away and making a good play. Not many emotions after the play. Got to flush it really fast and go back out there because you're about to get the ball right back.”
For the season, Mills has completed 61.9 percent of his throws for 2,144 yards for a 78.1 passer rating. He's averaging an interception on 3.4 percent of his throws.
"It was tough from the jump," offensive guard A.J. Cann said. "They got the pick-six. When you start a game like that, it's tough. I don't think we were able to figure out how to turn it around."
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.