The Lost Generation of 2018

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.


From 2019-2021, the Texans selected one player in the first round and three players in the second round. Of those high picks, we don’t know where Tytus Howard will be playing in 2021, Lonnie Johnson already moved from cornerback to safety, Ross Blacklock’s first year was essentially a write-off, and we have no idea if Max Scharping will ever emerge from the scrapheap he was placed under in 2020. The team’s commitment to its youth and, I’ll even take this a step further, its plan for developing that youth, seems like it is made up on the spot every day.

Howard was supposedly drafted to be the long-term left tackle, then they played him at guard during training camp and traded for Laremy Tunsil, then they decided he was a right tackle during the third game of the season. Now they don’t know if he’s playing right tackle or if Marcus Cannon is. Since Jack Easterby became part of the organization in 2019, this team has consistently preached the virtues of versatility and delivered on that by never actually taking a stand on what they believe in with their young players. It’ll all get settled on the field, except who gets the opportunity to be on the field is in and of itself a value judgement. And the second there’s a weakness or something a young player needs to work on, he’s expelled from the conversation in favor of the veteran.

The 2018 NFL Draft, the last one the Texans had in the Bill O’Brien era with a real general manager in the building, was a little bit different. Brian Gaine snagged Justin Reid, Martinas Rankin, and Jordan Akins in the third round, along with Keke Coutee in the fourth round, then Jordan Thomas, Duke Ejiofor, and Peter Kalambayi in the sixth round. Every single one of the players picked in the first four rounds were instantly brought into the fold. Reid was a Day 1 player who was a 100% starter when healthy by Week 6. Rankin started three of his first four games as the Texans looked (desperately) for tackle solutions in a post-Duane Brown world. Akins was a rotational receiver right away. Coutee was playing in the slot as soon as he was healthy. Thomas actually played more in the middle of the season than Akins did. Ejiofor flashed some promise until he got on the injury train. Kalambayi was a decent special teams player. Note that not only did these players have instant roles on the team, but that they were not all instant successes, and that the team continued to use them in spite of that.

As we continue to assess blame for the downturn of the team, It catches my eye that O’Brien was able to conduct plans with all these rookies when there was a competent general manager in the building.


I ran a poll on the Twitter about a month ago about this class, and it was an utter vote of non-confidence for the non-Justin Reid 2018 class:

While I can understand that, I think both Akins and Coutee can be part of a good team. Akins has plenty of great snags over the past few years, and he can cut a rug in the open field that few tight ends can. Coutee has had big fumbles and mistakes but creates separation underneath in a way that is unique among current Texans receivers — the way that Randall Cobb would have five years ago. When I think about these two players, I think of them as guys who could be option 3 or option 4 in a good passing game by emphasizing their best attributes.

But the story of these two players is the story of an organization that didn’t believe in them, so I can’t blame the fans for not believing in them. Akins was buried behind Darren Fells and Pharaoh Brown because he’s not a blocker, limiting his snap counts. (Of course, Fells was also a terrible blocker the way the Texans used him.) They never managed to integrate Akins into the offense in an organic way on passing downs, even towards the end of last season when he was probably the best non-Cooks receiving threat on the active roster. They lost Thomas on waivers for no real reason. This is a position that, based on the 2018 promise, you could argue was on pace to be settled in 2020. Instead — listen, I’m rooting for these guys as I rooted for Fells — but you have to call them journeymen. We’re hoping that Brevin Jordan is up to becoming something, but if Kahale Warring becomes something he’s bucking immense odds to do so. The rest of the non-Akins players on this depth chart are journeymen. That’s what they are.

Coutee was buried behind DeAndre Carter because, according to coaches, the latter practiced better. That sounds just as idiotic now as it did then. And I get that Coutee’s been dinged up, and I get that he hasn’t always presented himself in the way that O’Brien would have wished in public, but the carrot-and-sticking he received was eternally stupid. Then to sign Cobb — one of the most underrated free-agent boondoggles in Texans history — to push Coutee out of even making something out of his career. It’s just bad business.

Were these guys ever going to be franchise stars? I kind of doubt it for one reason or another. But the conversation around them could be much more different if the team had just emphasized youth on the roster instead of all this tough, smart, dependable Easterbese nonsense. Good teams create value from their draft picks and realize that the job is to work with what those players can do and try to develop them further. They get the ball to Akins and avoid his blocking being an issue schematically. Bad teams do what the Texans did and pigeonhole them without really giving them a chance to blossom.


Justin Reid is in a fascinating place as he heads into the final year of his rookie deal. He’s been dinged up in the last two seasons and played through his injuries as long as the team’s been in contention. The Texans moved him to more of an in-the-box safety role in 2020 and it resulted in a pretty uneven year. He finished with 16 broken tackles per Sports Info Solutions, a number that tied him for the eleventh-most in the NFL. Frankly, it seemed like a waste to not use his coverage ability as a deep safety, but you have to admit that when they used Reid as a blitzer it worked pretty well.

I think of Reid as a third-round success story. At the same time, even though he’s gotten nearly 100% of the snaps for the last two years as long as he’s been healthy, you have to think that as someone who is clearly cerebral and was here for the 2018 Texans, he understands the difference in the culture then versus the culture now. He’s been moved around a bit. He’s seen what has happened from the inside.

If I’m Justin Reid, knowing what I know about this organization, there is no home-town discount. At the same time, because he’s been so dinged up, that might create a little opportunity for a deal because there’s a very real downside to Reid hitting the market as the guy who has been injured three years in a row. That kind of guy gets a prove-it deal. I largely expect that it doesn’t make sense for the Texans to offer that kind of deal though, because a healthy Justin Reid season probably doesn’t move the bottom line much for where they are right now. This team as things stand right now simply has much bigger problems than whether their safety play is good or mediocre.

Now, Tyrann Mathieu started a trend with his exodus from Houston where he reeled in $14 million a year. I think Reid probably comes in closer to $9-12 million a season, with something like $13-$25 million guaranteed, if he has a healthy, good year and hits free agency. Youth is very much on Reid’s side as he entered the NFL at 21 and will be a free agent at 25. And I think you also will have teams that say that the poor numbers last year were reflective of the Texans not using him properly and the fact that the 2020 scheme was disastrous. John Johnson got three years, $33.7 million, and $20 million in guarantees in a year where the salary cap lowered. I would consider Reid and Johnson to be fairly close in talent if not results.

It would certainly be a welcome sign of good faith for the Texans to lock up a good player early or try to give Reid so much guaranteed that he couldn’t gamble on himself this year, but my read of the situation is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense for either side to take care of this early. Reid knows he can increase his value, and the Texans know that one more injury will radically change the perception of Reid around the league.

In a year that doesn’t seem to have a lot at stake for the Texans, their players, or their fans, Reid might be a storyline we keep coming back to because there’s a lot on the line for him.


The 2018 draft was the last draft I can remember feeling good about from a value perspective halfway through the season. But I think more importantly than that, the players that have carved out a non-trivial career tell a story about the Texans that they would not want broadcasted.

Because Coutee and Akins should have always been a bigger part of the offense, and that means that there was never a need to sign Randall Cobb. Thomas and Kalambayi were pushed off the roster by veteran special teamer types, but they’re both hanging around the league still. If you count Eric Murray as a 2020 starter, Reid has played with a different presumed starter at safety in every single year of his career.

It’s probably not fair to say the 2018 class were canaries in the coal mine for the dysfunction of the Texans, but that’s mostly because the air raid sirens were already blaring on that the second Gaine was fired. What I take away from them — and a big reason I think Easterby has more power than some people would like to give him credit for — is that the 2018 class is unique in recent Texans history because there was a plan for them.

And then, without a general manager, suddenly there wasn’t.


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Do the emotions in Deshaun Watson’s holdout outweigh the incentives?

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.


What was supposed to be a standoff this offseason between Deshaun Watson and Texans management instead was quickly drowned by several lawsuits alleging assault by Watson. At first it appeared that the Texans would dig in and pretend that Watson was going to be a part of the club long-term.

Not only were the Texans saying stuff like this publicly, but they flat-out refused to engage any of the trade talk that hit them from other teams.

Later, as the reverberations of Watson’s many lawsuits began to compile, the Texans backpedaled pretty fiercely on this stance. The Houston Chronicle’s John McClain has put out there to all who are willing to listen that Watson’s request will be granted when a real return can be had, and would have been moved by the draft if that was plausible. Cal McNair put out a lengthy statement on the Watson situation:

It is evident that both sides are tired of each other to some extent. Watson’s been done with the Texans mentally since the hiring of Nick Caserio, and the Texans now treat every inquiry about the status of Watson like saying his name out loud is illegal:

However, what I’m here to do today is posit an idea around this obvious mess: The incentives speak louder than the emotions of the situation. I’m not saying I’ve cracked the code, and I’m in no way reporting that Watson is showing up. However, if you explore the situation a little more thoroughly, it becomes clear that the two sides might need each other more than they have let on. Let’s start by laying out the situation as a whole:

As long as the lawsuits remain unsettled, Watson will not be traded for what he is worth

This sounds obvious, mostly because it is obvious. The Texans can trade Watson today for a bad return, but that is going to be an extremely poor look for a front office that has been deservedly pillaged the last few offseasons. If they get ripped off for one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, this team may not ever recover. Watson is the only real chip this team has at the moment to buy into a better future, one way or another.

And yes, I know that typing this is just a free license to get a bunch of “hurr hurr have you seen their last few trades,” yeah, I get it. I’m not saying there’s no chance. But this is so high-profile that the scrutiny on the Texans if they bungled a return on this trade would be unbearable and might be the breaking point between the fans and the organization.

The lawsuits themselves seem unlikely to settle any time soon

The court systems are backed up even worse than they usually would be because of COVID, the date we have right now is February. A June posting from Tony Buzbee posited that there will be no settlement any time soon. Rusty Hardin, Watson’s attorney, has downplayed the possibility of a settlement from the start. They seem very intent on proving Watson’s innocence in the court of law unless there are certain public provisions provided in a settlement that paint Watson in a good light.

Barring a major change of heart from either side, it seems almost impossible that this will be cleared up this offseason. If you consider how easily court dates can get thrown further down the docket, and how long these things can drag out, that February date in no way seems to lay out a clean path to Watson’s legal status getting cleared next offseason. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, maybe it will clear up just enough to make teams feel more comfortable with the public perception of trading for him. I’m not a fortune teller. What we can glean from right now, though, is that it’s unlikely that any movement will happen before February.

Watson going on a commissioner-exempt list or getting suspended might be a good way for the sides to not have to deal with each other, but it’s not good for Watson’s legacy

Try to remember the old Deshaun Watson, the one we knew before these lawsuits took over all public perception of him. He spoke willingly and freely about the greatness that he was trying to pursue, from talking about bringing championships to Houston to improving every day on the football field.

This Watson is going to have to carry whatever happens to him as part of his legacy forever. Does he have time to re-write the perceptions that come out of this? Assuming that what turns up isn’t just sadistic, probably. America loves a good redemption story and — let’s be honest — hasn’t met a wildly successful person who they won’t downplay allegations against. But losing this season, losing the statistical compilation, losing the money … none of those things are good for him. His whole brand up until this offseason was clean. Being placed on a list and codifying that he did something bad isn’t something that he’ll look back on and be happy about either.

Because the truth about these lists in the NFL’s arbitrary justice system is that they’re not easy to get off of. They move just as glacially slow as the court system. As of June 20th, they hadn’t even interviewed Watson. That was more than three months after the actual allegations started to surface. A major tenor of the Watson coverage has been about how the NFL has done a disservice to the Texans by not tipping their hand on how this will play out, and it’s one I would mostly agree with. But at the same time, do we really expect anything different from the NFL at this point? This has been an issue time and time again. It was an issue during Ray Rice’s case. The NFL also can’t just magically understand the facts of the situation without due process. When they pretend to assume they can, bad things usually happen.

The Texans may not have a lot of kind words to say about the situation Watson has created, but without him they are entirely pointless in 2021

They don’t have many young players. They don’t have many stars without Watson. I wrote about how bad the situation is for season tickets and how little faith this team’s fanbase has with it. They are not favored to win a single one of their games by Vegas. This is obviously anecdotal — and the people who do this do not cover themselves in glory in my experience — but Watson gets defended a lot harder by fans than the leadership of this team does.

Let’s imagine a scenario where Watson plays 17 games for the Texans in 2021. It sounds incredibly unlikely, but follow me for a second. The Colts are anchored to Carson Wentz. The Jaguars were worse than the Texans in 2020. The Titans spent a lot to try to overhaul their bad defense and have put a ton of tread on Derrick Henry’s tires over the past two years. You can absolutely make an argument that a better defense than the Texans played in 2021 and Watson gives them a puncher’s chance at a playoff spot. The media perception appears to be that the Titans are the easy No. 1 team in the division — and maybe that winds up being true, I’m not totally off-board on that — but there are seven playoff spots. Just having the 2020 version of Deshaun Watson is a big enough step towards one that it doesn’t matter how bad the rest of the roster is.

And this team desperately needs that kind of goodwill right now. You think if they don’t go 9-8 there won’t be some spillover benefits for the McNair/Easterby/Caserio club? Think again. There will absolutely be people willing to re-write Caserio’s offseason as something along the lines of “we knew we had Deshaun all along.” Fans will show up for games with playoff odds and all of the sudden there will be truthers coming out of the woodwork to yell at people for being “reactionary” or “negative” for assuming the worst of the team after last year. That is the great cycle of fandom. There’ll be some people who are out on the Texans for associating with somebody who allegedly did what Watson did, but a) allegedly does not mean “it happened” and b) they very much do not speak for the rank and file.


Now, is this me saying or reporting that Watson is coming to training camp? Again, and in bold because I don’t want to read a bunch of aggregator accounts telling me what I’m reporting: No.

I can’t tell you that I believe that’s happening. But if you examine not what the sides actually want but the situation that has been dealt to both of them, I think there’s a certain method to the madness of the two of them coming to an uneasy compromise. The Texans would probably like to trade Watson, and Watson would like to leave. But until the cases are settled or resolved, he has no trade value. In talking to people to put together an idea for how bad the return would have to be for him to get dealt now, I think we might be talking about a single first-round pick, or maybe a 1 and a 2. That’s a non-starter for the Texans.

So would Watson playing for the Texans this year be weird? Would it be awkward in pressers and as he rolled his eyes at David Culley? Would it be awkward for him to be interviewed? Probably a little bit. But this entire year is going to be forcibly awkward either way. Watson’s only direct way of raising his trade value is by balling out, and while it may not logically matter, the recency bias of him rolling over some defenses would be a welcome emotional change to the current news cycle around him. I think he absolutely has the bigger emotional block here, and to be fair I would understand and not blame him if he didn’t show up. But, simply put, I think you look at this situation from a 30,000-foot view, there’s more upside in him playing than him sitting. Statistics, money, trade value potentially intersecting with emotion. Maybe he gets suspended and maybe he doesn’t — really hard to say how the d20 from the NFL Arbitrary Punishment Council will go — but either way it would seem he has more to gain than to lose. If he gets hurt, barring something catastrophic, it’s really no different than sitting out the year anyway. Dak Prescott just got a massive contract following a devastating injury, and Watson is in that stratosphere of player.

For the Texans, any sort of trade to a place Watson would actually want to go before camp would create a situation where those draft picks would automatically become less valuable by virtue of that team having Watson. They could try to sell Watson on their culture face-to-face, which is something they’ve wanted since January anyway. And, well, would their draft picks become less valuable with Watson games? Sure. Does that matter to them? I don’t think so. The emphasis they’ve put on youth on the roster is non-existent. I think they’d be thrilled to not have to think about that.

Emotions overrule logic often in today’s world. The language that reports of Watson’s thinking have showcased — him not ever wanting to set foot in the building again, etc. — is extremely emotionally charged. But the way the stasis has settled in, his options at this point may be to lose a year of his career or play nice until the circumstances resolve. Maybe the distrust of Easterby and McNair is simply too deep to be overcome, and again, there is no judgment from me if that’s the case. But assuming nothing is changing on the settlement front, and if it was Watson would probably know it before we would, it would be idiotic for the Texans to trade him right now and no amount of rabble-rousing, leaks, or holdout is going to change that.

In the absence of the viability of a trade, what’s the best lemonade that can be made out of the situation that Watson has created? That’s the question that the Texans and Watson’s camp have to be asking themselves. And I think there’s a pretty strong argument for both sides that the answer is to patch this up, maybe with a good-faith guarantee that Watson will be traded once all this is over if he still wants to be traded, and get back to the table in 2022 after Watson’s legal status is on solid ground.


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You can go wrong doing what’s right


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.


“We believe you can’t go wrong doing what’s right, and ask our fans to trust we know what’s right,” were Cal McNair’s words to the fanbase when given the podium without a question to introduce Nick Caserio. In the nearly six months since that presser, the only thing that has crystallized is how little trust the fans have for the leadership of this organization.

There will always be a section of the Texans fanbase that is raucously pro-team regardless of the circumstances that they are going through, and I respect the commitment to the bit that they have. I tend to write about the Texans in a way that irks that segment of the fanbase, because I try to traffic in reality as I see it and reality as I see it isn’t always a happy, smile-smile sunshine place. Trades can go wrong, signings can be bad in advance, draft picks can be low-upside, it can be a problem to keep someone who doesn’t know anything about running a football team in a major position of power with said football team. But as much as there’s a clash inherent in our points of view, I don’t begrudge people like this their optimism.

Even as someone who has been, broadly speaking, “right,” about how the last two years have gone, I don’t try to rub it in anybody’s face. I don’t get the same right extended to me, because a blue checkmark is a target, and being negative about a team gets psychologically compared to insulting the fan themselves. Fair enough. But I try not to go diving for old optimistic Tweets about Gareon Conley or whatever else to pile drive some 400-follower fan named Texans4Eva23. I don’t want this optimism to always be wrong! I would love it if TexansThoughts’ massive Jacob Martin stanning led somewhere.

But as someone who understands the various bubbles in the world and tries to deal with how people are thinking, it’s kind of undeniable that there is a large slice of the fanbase that doesn’t comment on the internet much at all, doesn’t call into radio stations — I’d call them low-engagement fans. That group doesn’t care about the negative/positive hoopla around the team, and just decides how things are going based on their own read of the situation. That group is also pretty hard to lose, because those are the kinds of fans that will believe, say, that Whitney Mercilus is a star because they watched him get two sacks in a game once. These are the people who teams have lured to the park by signing big-name free agents for the better part of a century. Those are the fans that know J.J. Watt is the best player on the planet and don’t think about his age or injuries, because he’s very handsome and, of course, why wouldn’t he just still be the best?

When you start losing those kinds of fans, it’s undeniable that there’s a problem. And that’s right about where the Texans are right now.


Basically every NFL team sells the majority of its tickets for next season in free agency and at the draft. This is a graph of search interest in the Texans since Jack Easterby took over. Note the massive crash after the Kansas City Chiefs playoff game. Note that there are small bumps in March and April each year. The Texans actually spiked in interest this offseason simply on the sheer spectacle of the amount of free agents signed. But since then, they’ve settled into a very comfortable rut.

If you go to the Texans’ PSL marketplace, there are (as of Tuesday morning when I’m typing this) 3,633 seats available. That’s just what we officially see — there are ways around this if you’re clever. For the club level seats, which actually cost a decent chunk of change to renew, you can get a Texans PSL for under $75 easily. There are people who paid, at the time, thousands and thousands of dollars to secure that PSL. They are practically giving them away. If you’ve ever wanted to buy on to tickets with real money, this might be the best opportunity you’ve ever had … unless things just get worse from here.

The Texans have never had to really try to get season tickets renewed. Selling football in Texas is like pulling an ice cream truck up to the community pool. The banner they’re currently running that leaks out to this form showcases a lot of desperation. There are countless stories that have run or been mentioned on radio of the team straight-out depleting the season ticket waiting list, though perhaps the most famous one is Jerome Solomon’s. My wife had been on the waiting list since 2012, and never cracked the top 10,000 until 2020. Obviously, she hasn’t bought, but even if she’d wanted to, she’s a good enough researcher to figure out what’s going on here.

They are having David Culley drop in on new season ticket holders. They are running family packs. 610 advertises the benefits of company luxury box tickets often. To use a Gary Kubiak-ism since he’ll be brought up again in a little bit: They’re battling out there.

There is not a single game, viewing the SeatGeek listings for the Texans, that you can’t get into for less than $50. Those prices will likely fall further before we’re all said and done. Fans from other teams are going to use these Texans home games as affordable get-togethers. And to people who do want to renew tickets but have concerns about the environment, the Texans have not exactly been welcoming:

Any team that loses the kind of star power that the Texans have lost over the years would have problems selling tickets if they didn’t replace the stars. And to be fair, COVID has made this world a lot less certain for many people who might be on the fence about this sort of purchase. But the fact that you can get into season tickets for about the cost of an Applebee’s dinner for four says a lot about how desirable those tickets are in the first place. These are the seats that low-engagement fans have been dying to get for years! And, well, there’s still plenty of them available. I don’t judge you in the slightest for picking them up, and in fact am kind of hoping you do. A little-known secret that the people who like to say “clickbait” and such don’t know about is that writing about a team is more widely-read when the team is good and fans are engaged. But if you buy, it’s pretty inarguable that you know what you’re getting into at this point.

More importantly, it says a lot about something that we haven’t really touched on much over the past few months: How poor of a job the Texans have done at actually resonating with fans in the post-Amy Palcic era. It is hard to work on public relations when you don’t really want to publicly relate with the present.


Please don’t blame the social media employees that this team has for what they’re being asked to post. But yes, it is embarrassing that unless the team has a message that is basically impossible to not mess up (wishing someone a happy birthday, donating to a charity), they get swiftly ratioed with anywhere from 8-30 comments of GIFs of them getting flipped off and pleas to fire Easterby.

Internal team PR has been given an almost impossible task. When they have to talk about today’s team, they absolutely can’t give any useful football information. Trying to be optimistic about this year’s roster amounts to useless buzz phrases like “I’m really interested to see how this backfield shakes out” or, the standby that I’ve heard a lot, “We don’t really know how it will turn out yet, it’s all pretty much brand new!” Trying to talk about them in 2016 brandspeak, where Laremy Tunsil runs out of a tunnel and we talk about how it is the weekend, just tries to pretend that fans are engaged with the team positively when they aren’t.

The only exciting player on the roster is Deshaun Watson, who a) doesn’t want to be here and b) can’t be talked about in any real terms right now because of pending litigations. Instead of segments about the players that this team has — most of which haven’t even been put on a podium yet — the Texans PR team has mostly taken to trying to groom the history of the franchise. Yes, the history of a franchise that started in 2002.

Now, for someone like me, who dug the 2011 Texans a lot, talking to Gary Kubiak holds some small amount of interest. But in the end the fact that it’s being pushed tells you a lot about the state of this franchise’s history and present. This team has done deep film dives into Cecil Shorts throwing a touchdown pass in 2015, Justin Forsett’s five-yard run that turned into a touchdown due to official error on Thanksgiving 2012, and Jonathan Joseph pick-sixing Nathan Peterman in 2018. That’s the level of history we’re working with here.

I have diligently listened to the Texans’ in-house radio bits all offseason. These guys can’t talk about anything, which means they talk about nothing. They’ve talked about the Friends reunion. They’ve talked about Sam Houston State’s championship. They’ve talked about the 1996 NBA Draft. And when I say these things, I don’t mean they’re asides late in the show or something — they literally talk about this stuff in the first segment, lead off the show with it, and eventually get to actually begrudgingly talking about the Texans. The last show the Texans did before the July 4 weekend led off with Marc Vandermeer and John Harris talking about Boston and Los Angeles fans for 10 minutes. There’s not a lot positive to say in the first place, and even if they wanted to say something positive, they have to run it through the Nick Caserio algorithm to see if they’re allowed to actually say it without creating a massive competitive advantage for all the NFL teams that monitor this stuff. (I would bet that there’s not a single non-Texans NFL team employee that listens to Texans All-Access regularly.)

Most NFL teams have put together a pretty cool insider video reel of what’s going on inside at this point. The Jaguars have “The Hunt,” the Colts have “With The Next Pick,” the Cardinals have “Flight Plan,” these are, you know, 12+ minute shows that are well-produced with a lot of internal content talking about draft prospects, OTAs, showing their players and so on. The Texans got through five “Building the Texans” episodes this offseason that don’t tell you anything about who is building the Texans, why they’re building the Texans that way, or do anything but provide empty David Culley smiles into the void. You can watch those episodes and — outside of the draft picks — not learn about a single player that plays for the Texans. They are attempts to sell the organization. Nobody’s buying.


McNair’s riff about the fans trusting that this team knows what right was probably the most important public statement the team gave all offseason. It has also been answered. The fans have voted with their wallets. The team leadership is going to tune that out to the extent that they are able to — with the same internal righteous indignation that has been an Easterby trademark — but it seems increasingly likely that a team that basically had unprecedented levels of fan support no matter what it did wrong is going to run into some empty seat problems this year. Once that happens, it won’t get any easier to fill those seats. I’m a believer in NFL turnarounds being possible much faster than people expect them to be, but from where this roster is today, I have a hard time understanding how this team will be good before 2024. If they remain devoted to the plan in the building instead of having a firing spree and real culture change, I’d take the over.

This is going to get called a shitty football town again, and to be fair, even when the Texans were solid the last few years there were still plenty of tailgaters who weren’t in seats before kickoff. But that in and of itself just speaks to the lack of collective belief this town had in this organization after it clung to an antagonistic and nihilistic Bill O’Brien long past his expiration date. That should have led to a real regime change rather than running back Easterby. When the optimists carp up with something like “they’ll be good again, and you’ll be back,” well yeah, but … when? That’s the major question. This isn’t some sort of Astros-esque intentional tanking program — that would actually be a rational plan. This is one of the oldest rosters in the NFL built in service of maintaining egos and nothing else. Fans show up when winning happens, but they don’t usually come back overnight the minute the team hits 3-1. The lack of fan support is going to put a lot of spotlight on Houston for not supporting the team, but a lot of that should be directed at the people who created this I Can’t Believe It’s Not A Football Roster product and keep talking about David Johnson’s last two games as a reason for excitement.

I don’t feel like I am as down on this team as I could be. I’m pulling for the individual players to win their bet on themselves and get something out of it next season. I think they could get three or four wins. They have the parts for a great special teams unit. If they run into some good turnover luck they should be a mediocre enough offense with a positive game script to hold a random 10-point lead here or there. I’m not out here yelling 0-17 from the rooftops. But what young players am I supposed to be pulling for to get better that we know are starting? Tytus Howard at right guard, Lonnie Johnson at safety, and maybe Jon Greenard or Ross Blacklock? Who is this team getting to six or seven wins good for? And there’s almost no upside of this team in the playoffs unless David Culley is literally 17 games of Danny O’Shea’s best.

When I talk to people about the Texans these days, we talk about them like I would talk about my mother when she was in a medically-induced coma after her stroke. I try to remember the happy times, I say it’s a shame that she couldn’t give up cigarettes, that she couldn’t reach out to her father with the truth of how bad her health was sooner. That she never told me she had bladder cancer in those words. But, you know, she was stubborn! She sort of gambled on herself in that way, and she never thought she would die until the day before she did.

It’s a shame that the Texans couldn’t just let Deshaun Watson get the culture change he wanted, and it’s a shame that even if they’d done that, we’d all still be drowning in the sexual assault allegations and what that all means for when he can play again. It’s a shame the other two best players on the 2019 Texans are Arizona Cardinals for reasons nobody in the organization can actually explain logically without outright saying that Jack Easterby is in charge and he drove them away. It’s a shame that the entire vibe of the franchise is now hooked into nostalgia-holing the 2011 Texans, and that even if someone in PR wanted to get the fans excited about this team, they can’t say anything. The extremely successful Patriots Veil Of Secrecy is now up and John McClain has to complain to even get roster numbers.

The difference is that when someone dies, the funeral is usually something people attend.


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