Vandermeer's View: Mallett stays in Houston

With a contract extension this week, The Texans avoided having Ryan Mallett hit the free agent market as their quarterback picture sharpened into focus.

Mallett is here because he knows the system and showed enormous potential in the way he ran the Bill O'Brien show on a cold day in Cleveland last November.

But it goes beyond that.

As John Harris has pointed out, Mallett is what you would describe in basketball terms as a 'gym rat.' He clearly loves the game. Even practice. In fact, his 6-foot-6 frame was impossible to miss, in the mix of practice late last season, helping Case Keenum on the field as the team was fighting for a shot at the post season.

Working every day at NRG Stadium, I feel like I see Mallett as much as I see the receptionist. He's always upbeat and carries himself like a leader.

It had to be heartbreaking to finally get his shot to start, only to have an injury temporarily derail the dream. But he has worked hard to heal quickly and now he's back in the saddle, eager to take the field and show what he can do.

Before his start against Cleveland I asked former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino about Mallett's leadership skills. Petrino said that Mallett was the leader of his team even as he sat for year after transferring from Michigan. "The team rallied around him," Petrino said.

It's a unique path that the former Texas High School player of the year has taken to get this new deal. He spent three years in the 'the system' in New England, one with O'Brien there. Then he came here and impressed O'Brien and George Godsey enough to get the starting nod.

Now comes the hard part. Anyone who saw the Texans against the Browns saw an offense that was clicking with 54 rushing attempts for 213 yards. And that was without Arian Foster. O'Brien's quarterbacks have to make calls at the line. Apparently Mallett handled things well as he went 20-30 through the air and helped orchestrated the effective ground attack.

The pectoral injury stopped the music the next week against Cleveland but the upside was obvious enough to keep Mallett once free agency hit.

This signing begins a new chapter in Texans quarterbacking. Mallett will get a shot to prove he can sling it with the best in the business. And we'll be there to watch all the drama.

Quarterback Ryan Mallett's 2014 with the Texans, in photos.

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