JOHN GRANATO

Hate to say I told you so. No I don't. The Texans are good. Damn good

Deshaun Watson and the Texans are channeling an Oilers team that won 11 in a row. Matt Patterson/Houston Texans

A month ago the Texans were at the halfway point of the season. They had won five straight games. I wrote on this very website that they would breeze through the rest of the schedule unbeaten and be the top seed in the AFC. They are four games away from that.

To get there of course the Texans will have to win out but they will also need the Chiefs to lose twice. That’s not out of the realm of possibility. They’ve got the Ravens this week followed by the Chargers, at the Seahawks and home for the Raiders. The Ravens have the league’s best defense and a weapon no one else has in Lamar Jackson. The Chargers have been playing as well as anyone and the Seahawks are playing well and own arguably the best home field advantage. The Raiders are the Raiders but that’s a rivalry game and you never know.

The Patriots have to lose once. They go to Miami this week where they historically struggle late in the year and they have to go to Pittsburgh next week. That’s never easy. If they haven’t lost by then they won’t. Their last two are at home against the Jets and Bills. Two gimmies.

I’ve heard over and over how the Texans are in the second tier of AFC hierarchy. There’s the Chiefs and the Patriots then the Texans, Chargers and Steelers.

Why is that? Why is a team that’s got the longest win streak in the league thought to be a second tier team?

The answer keeps coming back one thing: Bill O’Brien.

I suppose that’s fair.

In his four-plus seasons with the Texans it’s tough to pinpoint a signature win. The Raiders playoff victory rings a little hollow. Connor Cook was their starter. It was the first time in NFL history that a quarterback made his first career start in the playoffs. It showed.

O’Brien lost his other two playoff games.

In 2015 the Texans went into Cincinnati and beat an 8-0 Bengals team on Monday Night Football. It wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty. Brian Hoyer and T.J. Yates put up 10 points but that was enough to beat the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton. The Bengals went on to win 12 games that year but lost in their only playoff game as they are wont to do.

In 2016 the Texans beat the Chiefs in the second week of the season. The Chiefs went on to win 12 games that year but lost their only playoff game to the Steelers.

Last year the Texans put up 57 on the Titans who went on to the second round of the playoffs but they were still the Titans, not exactly NFL royalty.

This year’s win over Dallas is looking better and better. The Cowboys are 7-5 now, leading the NFC East and it’s always good to beat those people. At the time it didn’t look like either team would be considered very good at any point this season. Times have changed.

The Saints had a 10 game win streak that ended against those Cowboys last Thursday. It’s cliche but on any given Sunday (or Thursday) you can lose in the NFL so to win nine in a row is something of an accomplishment. And like it or not Bill O’Brien is the guy who got you there.

Whether it’s his postgame demeanor, his conservative late game play calling, his clock management, his flag gaffes or the hole in his chin, there’s a reason that Bill O’Brien has not won this city over.

He won me over a couple of weeks ago with this quote.

“I think Thanksgiving is awesome. It’s football. It’s turkey. It’s stuffing. It’s a couple of Coors Lights and watch some football.”

That’s a man I can trust.

But will we be saying that about him this postseason? We’ll get a preview of what that’ll be like this last month. The Colts’ backs are against the wall after that disaster in Jacksonville last week. This Sunday’s game will not be easy. The Jets are the Jets. The Texans should win that one. But then they’ve got to go to Philly who may be playing for their playoff lives. Now that will be a signature win, maybe O’Brien’s biggest ever. If things play out right, it could mean a Texans playoff bye, the organization’s first.

That would be huge.

Of course it could all fall apart. They could lose these last four and finish right where almost everyone thought they would: 9-7.

That’s not going to happen. Bill O’Brien and this team have turned a corner. They’re better than you want to give them credit for. They’re as good as any team in the AFC. That’s right. They’re as good as the Chiefs. They can beat them.

There are two reasons why. They can get after the quarterback and make a young guy look bad (see Baker Mayfield last week) and they have number 4. While DeShaun hasn’t been other worldly like I thought he’d be coming into this season, he’s been pretty darned good. And he saves his best for the biggest games.

This team has turned a corner. It’s about time this fanbase did. You younger readers won’t remember the 11 straight Oilers wins to close out the 1993 season. This city was on fire. All everyone could talk about was that Oilers team. Of course they disappointed us all with a loss to Joe Montana and the Chiefs but it was still one helluva ride.

This one; not so much. I’ve never seen the stadium emptier than at the start of the Monday night game against the Titans. I know it was a work and school day but that was a huge game. The stadium filled up but this isn’t the Rockets. People should be in their seats for the start of  Texans games.

We only get two, maybe three calls a show about the Texans. Maybe.

Come on people. Where’s the excitement for a nine game win streak?

We’re not known for being a great sports town but I’ve always said that this city will get behind a team if we think it’s got a chance to win it all. We have for the Rockets and Astros.

Time to get behind this Texans team. It can go where no Houston pro football team has gone before: The Super Bowl.

That’s right. I said it.  

If not it’s still a great building block season, kind of like the ‘15 Astros. They got to the postseason but just weren’t ready to win it yet. That would be fine. It gave them that experience they took advantage of two years later.

It feels like there’s been that kind of culture change with these Texans. Games they would have lost in the past they are winning now and that’s all that matters. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Remember: all’s well that ends well and these games have been ending well.

And this team looks like it’s built to last. With Brian Gaine calling the draft shots now it just feels different. They actually found three third round draft picks who can play; Justin Reid, Martinas Rankins and Jordan Akins. In years past they cut their third rounders before the season started. Let’s see what he can do with first and second round picks.

All in all this is turning into a great season. Let’s put the 0-3 start behind us. I know that’s still a wound that won’t heal for a lot of fans.

Get over it people. This team is 9-3.

Let’s start acting like it.



 

Cheerleaders are supposed to be hot. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In this age of safe spaces and emotional support animals I understand the plight of the modern day cheerleader and power dancer. They shouldn't have to hear hurtful words.

Longtime Texans cheerleader director Alto Gary was accused of calling her cheerleaders crack whores and porn stars when they wore too much makeup. This week a MIlwaukee Bucks cheerleader said she was locked in a dark closet and had to endure jiggle tests and fat grabbing.

These methods are probably unnecessary. Are they lawsuit worthy? That's for smarter people to decide. The Bucks did settle a suit for $250,000 because they underpaid their cheerleaders. That's something I can get behind. But that's arguable as well.

Exactly what are we looking for in our cheerleaders as 2018 comes to a close?

There are two main priorities in the cheer game: looks and dance-ability. We've gotten away from the gymnastics aspect. In high school competition it's still important but in the pro game we've gone to more synchronized dancing.

What we haven't gotten away from is how important it is to look good. As politically incorrect as that might be, it isn't going away anytime soon, maybe ever. We want our cheerleaders to look good. Sorry. Call me a neanderthal. Political correctness will never overcome a guy's pentiant to look at pretty girls. It just won't.

What we have here is the issue of how the cheerleaders are being treated and paid. Are the hurtful words necessary? No. But guess what. Stuff happens when livelihoods are on the line. You know what coaches call their players when they gain weight and get out of shape? You don't want to know. It's ugly. Body shaming? You bet. Happens every day in locker rooms all across the country at every level.

Some coaches are just mean and will pick at any inadequacy. Others use it as a motivational tactic. Who wants to be shamed publicly? No one but if I stay in shape I won't catch the coach's wrath so I stay in shape.

Let me make this perfectly clear though. I am anti-eating disorder. I like a little meat on the bones. That cheerleaders have to be Victoria Secret models is a thing of the past. Nothing wrong with some muffin tops in my book. I would be a great cheerleader director. After practice we'd order a few pizzas.

I'd be the only one who would do that but OK. Maybe I would change the game. Probably not but maybe.

As far as the inferior pay goes, I'm not sure that will change anytime soon. I don't want to be mean but let's be real. Cheerleaders are part of the game. They are not the game. Unless you are extremely perverted (and there are much better ways to get your perv on) the only people that are there just for the cheerleaders are their family and boyfriends/husbands.

The players are the product and they're expensive. Periphery attractions have to be affordable or the business plan doesn't work. Cheerleaders can and should make more than the miserly owners have been paying them but they're never going to get rich cheering. They're just not.

My cousin was a Honey Bear back in the day. She didn't make squat but she loved what she did and no one can ever take that away from her. There's a certain pride that goes along with it, not only for her but for the whole family. My cousin was hot enough to be a Bear's cheerleader. None of my friends had family that hot. I lauded that over them.

Let's not relent to political correctness on this. We just can't. Should directors lock cheerleaders in closets? Grab their fat? Wrap them in cellophane? Probably not. Should they at least make minimum wage and maybe more? Sure.

But we can't lower our hotness standards. They have to be smokin' hot and dance well.

I want my mechanic to know engines and fix my problem. I want my doctor to diagnose and cure my ills. I want my pilot to take off and land without incident and I want my cheerleaders and/or power dancers to be hot and dance well. That's the job. Period.

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