T.J. Yates is the starter for now, but it might not be long before Jake Delhomme gets a chance to lead the Houston Texans offense.

Wait, “lead” might not be an appropriate word. Manage? Nope, still too strong.

Oh, I’ve got it. Assist. Yeah, Delhomme will have a chance to assist the offense. Eventually.

After all, no one expects the rookie Yates to lead this team to where it wants to go. Can he manage to avoid mistakes often enough to get the Texans into the playoffs? Probably, but that’s a job that you or I or my grandma or even Brady Quinn could probably do at this point.

The Texans feel as though they have the defense (ranked first in the league), the offensive line (only 16 sacks allowed), the running game (ranked third in the league) and the receivers (Andre Johnson…’nuff said) to win in January, and they’re right. But is Yates — a 24-year-old fifth-round pick out of North Carolina — capable of winning playoff games with this team, or any team? All signs point to f— no. And that’s why the Texans added Delhomme today.

OK, they’ll tell you that they believe Yates can get the job done, and they might even sort of believe it. This is a team that is sure to give its backups regular practice time throughout the year, which means that Yates is actually up on what he’s supposed to do. He doesn’t need to learn anything new. And in his defense, he actually brings something else to the table in that he’s more mobile than Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were.

But ultimately, there’ll be growing pains. And right now, Houston can’t afford that.

The way media and fans have reacted to the Delhomme signing, you’d swear the guy was 57 and suffering from polio. He’s only 36, and he was 2-2 as a starter in Cleveland last year, completing over 60 percent of his passes to a group of receivers better suited for, I dunno, the McMaster Marauders. (Full disclosure: Delhomme did have a dreadful 2-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but again…those receivers! That offense!)

Here’s what matters most: Delhomme’s career playoff record is 5-3, and he’s been to a Super Bowl as part of another run-first offense featuring a superstar receiver and a stellar offensive line. I understand that he’s struggled quite badly dating back to the end of the 2008 season, but he’s never been on a team this good, and he won’t be asked to carry an unmanageable amount of the load.

Yates might be the starter for now, but for the Texans to stand a chance in January, it’ll have to be Delhomme before long.

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