KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED

Houston Texans are entering the minefield portion of the rebuild

The Texans are trying their best to get the No. 1 draft pick next April. Composite image by Jack Brame.

What are the Houston Texans waiting for? They’re sitting at 1-8-1, last place, the worst record in the entire NFL (by a lot), the head coach is getting into squabbles with the media at press conferences, the stadium is pessimistically half-empty, the mopey quarterback seems to get worse each week, and the only player who’s made headlines recently is disgruntled current employee, star receiver Brandin Cooks.

What is Cooks' beef? Is he complaining that he’s been cut from the team? Making too little money? Benched?

No, Cooks, the best player on the team, who recently signed a two-year $39 million contract, is unhappy because the Texans didn’t trade him earlier this month. Now he’s stuck starting in the NFL, and making more than a million dollars every time he takes the field. Tough gig.

If the Texans are headed for their seemingly annual rebuild, why not start now? Top to bottom, a total house cleaning, like the last 15 minutes of the TV show Hoarders.

Let’s get it on, starting with firing coach Lovie Smith and benching quarterback Davis Mills and taking a good hard look at general manager Nick Caserio. What do the Texans have to lose, except the remaining seven games of 2022, which the late Queen Elizabeth would describe as “annus horribilis.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. At the beginning of the season, football “experts” were predicting that the Texans could win five or six or even seven or eight games. Las Vegas had their over/under win total at 4.5. Easy money taking the over, right?

You can look it up right here on SportsMap, I predicted that the Texans would be underdogs all 17 games and lose ‘em all. The Texans are sitting at 1-8-1. I’ll be close when the dust settles.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the Texans hit rock bottom last Sunday. The NFC East’s Washington Commanders visited NRG Stadium and clobbered the Texans into merciless submission. The Texans had only five yards of offense at the half, an achievement of historic lousiness. You can fumble the ball forward six yards.

At least fans in the stadium were still practicing social distancing. Fans posted photos of wide swaths of empty seats, asking “does anybody care if the Texans win or lose?” The answer is a whispered no. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. And it makes no difference to Texans fans these days.

Why, just a few years ago, the Texans roster boasted nationally admired superstars like Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and folk hero J.J. Watt. Now, other than Cooks, the roster is mostly filled with underperforming, unrecognizable “big toe guys,” as ESPN 97.5 talk host John Granato calls them. You wouldn’t know them if they were standing on your big toe.

Two years ago, J.J. Watt hosted Saturday Night Live. Now there isn’t a Texans player who could get hired to demonstrate Vitamix blenders on the Home Shopping Network.

After Sunday’s crushing loss to the Commanders, columnist Brian T. Smith asked coach Lovie Smith (no relation) what he thought about the home crowd jeering the Texans, why doesn’t he bench quarterback Davis Mills already and does he realize that trotting out the same players with the same game plan each week is, as the saying goes, the definition of insanity? All perfectly valid questions. The coach seemed at a loss to explain the loss.

To make matters worse, if that’s even possible at this point, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, also not related, accused the columnist of going too rough on the coach and wondered if the press conference would have gone differently if Bill O’Brien were still the coach.

Actually the columnist did get into a public disagreement with O’Brien a few years ago. So there.

The only thing O’Brien and Lovie Smith have in common these days is they’re both being paid by the Texans. Add last year’s coach David Culley to the active payroll, and you have the Texans currently paying three different head coaches. If Smith gets fired, that will be four different head coaches in four consecutive years. Is this any away to run a business?

Remaining Texans fans argue there’s a silver lining to all this futility. The Texans have one win, a Week 5 victory over the Jaguars, everybody else has at least three W’s. The Texans are trying their best (translation: worst) to get the prized No. 1 draft pick next April.

They’ll most likely select a quarterback and it looks like there will be a bumper crop available, including Bryce Young of Alabama, C.J. Stroud of Ohio State, Will Levis of Kentucky and Tanner McKee from Davis Mills’ alma mater Stanford. What did Abe Lincoln say, fool me once …?

Spending the No. 1 pick, or even Top 3, on a franchise-saving quarterback is a crapshoot at best. For every Joe Burrow there’s a Mitchell Trubisky. Let’s look at some of the quarterbacks who were drafted in the Top 3 between 2010 and 2020, when they presumably should be in the prime of their careers.

Sam Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick by St. Louis in 2010. Cam Newton was drafted No. 1 overall by Carolina in 2011. Robert Griffin III was selected No. 2 by Washington in 2012. Blake Bortles was taken No. 3 by the Jaguars in 2014. All four are out of the league.

Jameis Winston was No. 1 overall by Buccaneers in 2014. Mitchell Trubisky was No. 2 by the Bears in 2017. Baker Mayfield was No. 1 overall in 2018. Sam Darnold No. 3 by the Jets in 2018. None of them is still with their original team.

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Deshaun Watson will make his Cleveland Browns debut this Sunday against his former team at NRG Stadium. Watson has completed his suspension from the NFL for alleged sexual misconduct with dozens of massage therapists, and this Sunday will be the first game he has played in 700 days.

The Browns sit at 4-7 hoping Watson will be the spark the team needs to stack some wins and get into the Wild Card race. The Texans are still searching for their second win of the season, and many believe the team will be hiring another head coach come January.

With this in mind, who has the worst reputation? The Texans or Deshaun Watson?

It seems like an easy answer with Watson's legal troubles, but upon further review, the answer has to be the Texans. The Texans have hired two consecutive coaches that no other NFL team even interviewed. It seems like no quality candidates have any interest in coaching the Texans. Watson, however, had teams lining up for his services when the Texans decided to trade him.

Be sure to check out the video above as we dive into this topic and make a convincing case, as crazy as it sounds, that Watson is perceived to have a better reputation.

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