5 observations from the Texans' loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Expect more heat on Bill O'Brien this week.

There really is nothing positive to take from the Texans 45-7 loss to the Jaguars on Sunday. In most of the post-Deshaun Watson games, they have at least been competitive, at least until the fourth quarter. This one was never close and the Texans never had a prayer. It was essentially over when the Jags went up 14-0. By halftime it was 31-0 and the rout was on. Here are five quick thoughts in the wake of the loss:

Jags one weakness is becoming a strength

The Jaguars’ patience with Blake Bortles is paying off. He has been a negative for almost his entire four-year career, but he is playing his best football now. The coaching change to Doug Marrone was a positive, and the Jags have done a nice job of establishing a powerful running game and using that to set Bortles up with play action. He has eliminated the critical mistakes from his game, especially in the red zone, and the Jags have everything else in place around him. It will be tough to trust him in the playoffs, but it goes to show players can develop with better coaching and being put in a better position. He is playing at a much higher level than I ever expected. Obviously, it helps that he was going up against a terrible defense, but he had a big game against Seattle the week before, too. Bortles got most of the fourth quarter off after going 21 of 29 for 326 yards, three touchdowns, no picks and a near-perfect rating of 143.8. 

Nothing special

The Texans special teams continue to be a complete joke. Three penalties on the first two extra points? Yes, there are players on the field that do not belong in the NFL, but these are dumb penalties, not hustle penalties. And an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on your punter that leads to points before the half? Wow.  And of course, coverage was shaky on punts. It kind of got lost in a game where the Texans had no chance but once again special teams was a negative.

Cover zero

Is there anyone on this defense that can cover a wide receiver? Kevin Johnson continues to regress and is starting to look like a busted pick. He simply has not been the same since returning from last year’s injury. The hope that he would return to form is one of the reasons the Texans did not invest heavily in A.J. Bouye. Kareem Jackson has been OK at times, but Johnathan Joseph looks done. They made it look way too easy for Bortles and the Jags. Some of that has to be scheme, as the Texans were confused the entire game (well, at least in the first half when the Jags were trying). The Texans got very little pressure and forced no turnovers again.

The line has been drawn

The offense figured to struggle against the Jags defense, and it lived down to expectations. The offensive line was simply overmatched by the Jags front seven, and as a result they were unable to run the ball or protect the QB. T.J. Yates was not very good, but did anyone expect him to be? Not much to say here other than they were just flat out bad. The Texans are going to have to totally revamp their OL in the offseason as there is little in the cupboard as the unit is now constructed.

The heat is on

For the first time this season, the Texans were not even competitive, especially on defense. The coaching staff had actually been doing a pretty good job of keeping the players motivated until this game. Expect more heat on Bill O’Brien and Rick Smith in the wake of this one.

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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