Sowing and Reaping: When you’re 2-7, nobody cares

If you actually read this post, and you’re going to respond to me on Twitter about it in good faith, please use the hashtag #ReadThePiece. I know this sounds silly, but it’s an easy way for me to separate responses that I want to honor with a real answer from people who just want to be mad about everything they read online.

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One of the most hilarious things about Texans president Jamey Rootes writing a book about business leadership and promoting it this season is that there isn’t an easier product to sell than NFL football with a great quarterback. I don’t write this because I’m gloating; I don’t write this because I’m happy that the Texans are a disaster.

But, all you have to do is give people a reason to believe in your franchise and they will take it. The Bill O’Brien Era is a microcosm of this. There was never any reason for anyone to believe that O’Brien’s actual coaching was good beyond letting Watson run his Clemson offense. There was never any reason to believe trading DeAndre Hopkins was going to work out well for this franchise. There was never any reason that the playoff flameouts this team experienced against the Colts and Chiefs weren’t emblematic of this franchise’s future. But I can’t count how many people fought me for presenting these ideas before they came to pass — every time I posted about these things, people vehemently rejected the ideas. The people that care about this stuff — for the most part — ultimately want to believe the best in the team.

This is what has been reaped — a 2-7 season that’s been dead on arrival. It’s been seven weeks since Romeo Crennel has replaced Bill O’Brien and from the moment he set foot to the podium, little has changed. The rookies aren’t playing much and the discourse around them playing has only gotten more defiant. The Texans are trying to win, but they’re not good enough to win. The only good thing that has happened to this franchise for the entire calendar year was signing Deshaun Watson to an extension. Fan engagement is down significantly because, when faced with the truth that there’s nothing to root for, you only really have two options: apathy or anger. Many people choose apathy and I can’t blame them.

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One of the things that Marc Vandermeer said that rang true to me as he was talking about this season in one of the more recent Texans radio hits is that he never takes it for granted when a team is competing for division titles instead of competing for championships because he knows what the other side was like. That spoke to me, but I don’t think it spoke to me in the way that he meant it.

The greater atmosphere of a football team is dictated on a simple premise: That this matters somehow. The NFL has worked very hard on making that circumstance be ever-present. There are seven playoff teams per conference. Bad teams from last year get games against other bad teams from last year. But when you’re 2-7, the games do not matter. You have a 0.5% chance to make the playoffs. The fiction breaks, and the fog dissipates. And suddenly we’re all asking ourselves what we were doing here and what we believed in — what choices we made — that left us talking about this team. The Texans Unfiltered guys led off a show recently with what I will charitably call 15 minutes of straight-up complaining that they didn’t want to do the show and wound up apologizing for it later but noting that there’s not a lot to talk about.

The games themselves have ceased to matter, right? I think that’s pretty clear to anybody who doesn’t have to delude themselves into thinking otherwise for their jobs. And when the games cease to matter, football for the sake of football in a pandemic actually becomes a harder thing to sell. The Texans will try — and, I’ll be honest, I will try — to give you things to talk and think about. But at this point I’m just expecting a dead seven weeks on the field, where the only news that matters is what happens upstairs.

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Deshaun Watson has been phenomenal this year. I put together a video with his best throw of every game this season in my opinion. It got practically no traction. He’s spectacular. Nobody cares:

Watson has developed another level this year. He’s taking fewer sacks despite being in many of the same situations he had last year. His throws and process continue to get better. He hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 5. They took away DeAndre Hopkins from him and he is fifth in passing DVOA and sixth in DYAR. And … it doesn’t matter.

I posted his ridiculous throw to Randall Cobb in the Cleveland game as it happened and a fan said something like “if Patrick Mahomes did this everyone would shit their pants,” and, again, that’s a point, though not the point I think the fan thought they were making. It’s not bias. It’s not that nobody in the NFL thinks Watson is good. It’s not even that it happened in a non-island game. It’s that it happened for a 2-7 team that nobody cares about, in a game where they had scored zero points up until then. If you carefully watch that game, and you understand wind conditions, you know why there’d been zero points scored. But it’s impossible to get excited about watching that throw and pretend that it is going to have a bearing on the rest of the NFL season.

There is no reason to short-term focus on the Texans anymore.

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Lemme share some finances with you. I don’t run this site in a way to optimally make money. Partially that’s because I’m making money on other things, partially it’s because I have some self-worth issues, and partially that’s because I haven’t put much effort into it this season because I had no idea if the season would happen or not in April. The only thing I have done, as I have last year, is link to my PayPal tips at the end of each post.

Last year, the Texans were making a playoff run. I received a little under $600 in donations for writing roughly 2-3 times a week about the team for five months. In the three months this season has gone on, I have made about $250 in donations. Since the Texans fired Bill O’Brien and I wrote the post that day, I have had three total donations. I don’t say this to complain — anything I get out of this is a bonus and I live a comfortable life — but along the way as I’m sharing what I believe to be the truth about the Texans, one of the major pushback themes I’ve gotten is that I’m doing this for the clicks. That I’m trying to get people upset. That it’s in my best interest for the team to fail because I’m “negative.”

But this clearly isn’t in my financial interest either! People read about winning teams. People read about teams that matter! I’m not here to bemoan that fact, I just want to bury an entire line of thought. The Texans being not good is not good for me! It’s not good for the Houston Chronicle. It’s not good for The Athletic. It’s not good for local sports radio. It’s not good for independent content creators. When we get upset at management, it’s because we want the team to matter!

I can’t speak for everybody else, but I cover this brand new team without an established fanbase in a city that is heavily transplant-based not to tear them down, but because I want them to be built up. When I critique them, it comes from that place. It comes from my concern that lackadaisical ownership has invalidated the best years of several awesome players like Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt, and Arian Foster, and left their legacies destitute compared to where they could be. It comes from not wanting the same fate to befall Deshaun Watson.

2-7 should be a wake up call to everybody in a leadership position in this organization. The prevailing logic for 15 years was that they couldn’t win because they don’t have a franchise quarterback. They have one and little has changed.

Maybe the problem isn’t the players, but the grander design of the team. The kind of thing that can only be changed by the architects.

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