TITANS 41, TEXANS 38

5 observations from the Texans' season-ending loss to the Titans

Texans lose to the Titans, 41-38. Photo by Getty Images

The Texans season came to a merciful end on Sunday in entertaining fashion, as they dropped a 41-38 decision to the playoff-bound Tennessee Titans. The year may be 2021, but it was typical 2020 Texans; Derrick Henry ran all over them once again, and they played hard but lost in dramatic fashion in the final 20 seconds. At least the Texans showed some heart and made the Titans work for it. Five observations from the season ender:

1) At lest we can stop waiting and look forward to new hires. The season is now officially over, and we can turn our attention to who might take over as head coach and GM. The lone bright spot of the season was the end of the Bill O'Brien era, which at least gives some hope. Now we will see if that hope will be fulfilled. It's a stretch to think the Texans will get these hires right, especially if Jack Easterby is involved at all, considering he signed off on the DeAndre Hopkins deal. But at least the wait is nearing its end. It will be a challenging off-season with no picks and a lot of bad contracts, but maybe the Texans get the GM hire right and a better coaching staff improves some of the underperformers. So at least there will be hope - at least until the hire is made.

2) There were some bright spots this season. Watson finished with a terrific statistical season, even though his team was not very good. With a better coaching staff next year, he should take another big step. He did not have much help. Brandin Cooks was solid, and Keke Coutee had a nice second half of the season and looks like a useful piece moving forward. Tight end Pharoah Brown was a pleasant surprise. We've mentioned Tyrell Adams and Keoin Crossen as bright spots on the defensive side late in the season. None of these guys are stars, but they should be useful pieces moving forward. The Texans don't have a lot of those.

3) Does it feel like there is no leadership other than the players? Someone in the front office should have stepped in and made Watson sit this game; an interim coach with no skin in the game wasn't going to do it. The Jack Easterby stories are a matter of lore, and Cal McNair remains mostly silent. This felt like a ship without a captain, and it hit the iceberg hard.

4) Speaking of leaders...it might have been J.J. Watt's final game as a Texan. It was sad to see, but the truth is the Texans should give him a chance to play somewhere he can win. He has been the greatest player in franchise history, and one of the best athletes to ever play in Houston. He is not what he was, but he can still be a big factor for a good team. It's unlikely the Texans will be that next year.

5) This defense has been bad for a while. Maybe the best news in the coaching change will be a total revamp of the defensive coaching staff. Romeo Crennel's defenses have not been good for a long time, no matter who was actually calling plays. It's time for a new system and a new voice. That alone won't do it; there is a LOT of work to be done. They will have to raid free agency since they have no premier draft picks. But it's been a hard watch for a long time, and Sunday was no exception, especially on the last drive.

The bottom line: Thankfully, this disaster is over. The bigger concern is will the Texans make the right hires? Will the O'Brien stench take years to wash away? They wasted a really good Deshaun Watson season. It was a pathetic effort all the way around, and one with very few positives, especially since they will not get a high draft pick. All in all, it was just a lost season.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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