DENVER -- Calm is not a word one would generally use to describe Texans coach Bill O'Brien. Perhaps that's why when I relayed to Tom Savage that O'Brien intimated he might be a little bit too calm ["sometimes you want those guys to be a little bit more fiery"], Savage smiled.
"I’ve always been calm," Savage said. "It’s kind of my personality out there. Just go out there and stay calm and perform when I have to."
He didn't get much time Saturday night, entering the game with 4:25 left in the fourth quarter. But Savage certainly made the most of the time he got, orchestrating a seven-play, 74-yard drive that finished with a successful two-point conversion attempt. In a position to win the game for his team, the rookie did it.
"He's been getting better every week and every day in practice," O'Brien said. "We put him in a few two-minute situations in practice, but not nearly as much as Ryan and Case, obviously."
That's Savage's role on the team right now. He's a developmental quarterback, competing with Case Keenum to back up starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's in the enviable position of having a quarterback room that supports him through the competition. Later Keenum called it "awesome."
As he learns, he's finding himself in positions that beget stress. For example, learning you'll be playing much sooner than you expect, which Savage did last week. Or going into a game late, needing a touchdown to win, as he did Saturday night. His play improved immensely from one week to the next.
"Really it’s just, you’ve gotta trust the process of how you were prepared," Savage said. "The coaches did a great job of this game especially. Fitz and Case on the sideline were helping me out a ton when they knew I was going in. [Quarterbacks coach George] Godsey helping me out. It was good. You have a good supporting cast here that really wants the team to succeed."
Poise under pressure is a necessary quality for a quarterback to have. It's part of what the Texans liked about him in the draft, and it'll be a boon to his efforts to become the team's starter at some point.
"Overall he's come in and not let the nerves get to him," O'Brien said. "He's improved everyday. Hopefully, he continues to get better."
It showed in the 31-yard touchdown pass he threw to Ryan Griffin. It showed again during the two-point conversion he tossed to Travis Labhart to win the game. It's just a preseason game, sure, but Savage's progress has been evident.