"Where would we be without T.J. Yates?"
It's a question that Bill O'Brien asked aloud on his Monday radio show. In his short two months with Houston this year, Yates has forever changed the trajectory of the team's success. From a 2-5 record to within reach of the playoffs, the 2015 has been unpredictable, tumultuous, and yet exhilarating.
The Texans were in need of a backup and Yates, familiar with the system, was available. Yates arrived in Houston on Oct. 28, joking that he was just sitting on his couch waiting for the phone to ring. The fifth-year quarterback was released by the Falcons, who traded for Yates in June 2014.
Two weeks after he arrived, he'd be stepping in for Brian Hoyer at Cincinnati. Yates led the team to victory against an undefeated Bengals team. He followed it up the next week with a win over the Jets, throwing two touchdown passes.
His season abruptly came to an end in the second quarter at Indianapolis on Sunday, when Yates tore his ACL and was out for the remainder of the year.
"I feel terrible when those things happen," O'Brien said. "He's a great guy. He meant a lot to our team. Where would we be without T.J. Yates? Cincinnati and the New York Jets and getting us off on this game in Indianapolis."
Even in Indianapolis, Yates was starting to make some big plays as he led the offense down the field.
"He started that drive that Brandon finished with his scrambling and throws and things like that so I feel terrible for the guy," O'Brien said. "I just think the world of him and I was glad he was here."
As a rookie, Yates stepped in as the third-string quarterback and helped clinch the Texans first division title in 2011. He was so focused on his preparation, he said had no idea the importance of the game at the time. Still, Yates passed for 300 yards and tossed two touchdowns, earning AFC Player of the Week honors and NFL Rookie of the Week honors for his performance.
In the 2011 postseason, Yates led the Texans to their first playoff win in history in the AFC Wild Card Playoff game on Jan. 7, 2012. He completed 11-of-20 passes for 159 yards and a 40-yard touchdown pass in the win.
Fast-forward four years later.
Yates returns to Houston in a backup quarterback role but helps the Texans turn around their season with solid performances in the absence of Hoyer.
Yates, who will undergo surgery on Monday, is happy to have been a part of the story.
"I was so grateful to them for bringing me in here and then to go in there and help this team get back in position to make a run at it, it was huge and I respect everybody on this team so much, coaching staff included," Yates said.
Yates has contributed not just to the 2015 Texans, but to the history of the team. With just two games remaining, the Texans are within reach of a playoff appearance for the third time ever. If it happens, Yates will have been a part of all three seasons.