FAITH RESTORED

How this unforgettable win truly defines the Houston Texans season

Houston Texans CJ Stroud, Will Anderson, Tank Dell
The Texans finally have a team we're excited to root for again! Composite Getty Image.

It’s been a few days, but fans are still playing the big, could’ve-been moments of the Houston Texans’ big AFC Divisional showdown last Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens.

To borrow from legendary football coach T.S. Eliot, that’s how the Houston Texans season ended Saturday in Baltimore: not with a bang, but a whimper.

The top-seed Ravens ended the Texans’ miraculously unexpected charge into the playoffs with a smothering, shackling defense, 34-10, in the Divisional round. Although the score was tied 10-10 at the half, the Ravens pounded the Texans into submission with 24 unanswered points in the second half.

The Texans offense, which had excited fans all season with swashbuckling play calling and electrifying rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, inexplicably played tighter than a gas station slot machine along I-10 in Louisiana.

Texans fans on social media groaned when the Texans started a drive or needed a couple yards on third down by running the ball up the middle for no gain. I’m thinking the team needs a “cussin’ jar” on the sidelines next season. Each time the Texans run up the middle, offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik has to throw a $100 bill in the jar.

Uh, wasn’t it a wide-open offense that brung the Texans to the post-season, including a wild card win at home? What happened? Did the coaching staff forget to take its Prevagen?

What a year

Still, what an amazing season it was for the Houston Texans. Just one year ago, thanks to one of the stupidest coaching decisions in league history by former head coach Lovie Smith, the Texans pulled victory from the jaws of a much-needed defeat and blew the No. 1 pick in the draft. The result was a 3-win season and another last-place finish in the AFC South.

While the Carolina Panthers got their man at No. 1, Bryce Young from Alabama, the Texans had to “settle” for Stroud, who turned in one of the most sensational rookie seasons — ever. Meanwhile, Young is still wandering the Panthers sidelines with his helmet on sideways after getting his brains rattled.

From blown up to blowing up

The Texans blew up the franchise. They started in 2022 by punting vice president Jack Easterby. For a refresher, Easterby was compared to a “pox” and a “cancer” by fans — even an “STD that lingered.” (Ew.)

As I mentioned back then, a Sports Illustrated exposé on Easterby revealed that he brought a “culture of mistrust and constant chaos among staff and players,” arranged for illegal team practices and flouted safety rules during COVID, and reportedly hired private eyes to follow players during their off-hours.

They regrouped and hired new coach DeMeco Ryans — a fan favorite when he played here — who actually faced the field during games this season. They even improved the food at concession stands at NRG Stadium. Speaking of food, name a football stadium anywhere else in America where you can get a smash-hit Trill Burger.

Nowhere, that's where.

Everything that could go right … went right. The team finished with 10 regular season wins plus the wild card victory. Nobody saw any of this coming.

Where do the Texans go from here? Head coach Ryans will get lots of love for NFL Coach of the Year. If Stroud doesn’t win Offensive Rookie of the Year — unanimously — there oughta be an investigation.

Don’t take my word for it. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr., whom the Texans drafted at No. 3 right after they drafted Stroud, were just named Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year — respectively — by the Pro Football Writers of America. In the pro football world, that’s a good precursor to the bigger, official NFL award given announced later.

Offensive coordinator Slowik will interview for head coaching positions because it’s well know that the NFL struggles to find white coaches for these jobs. The Texans will be the favorites to win the AFC South next season.

Rekindling the love

More important, the Texans won back the city and its fans. Last year, and a few more years before that, the only business making money was the company that made the tarp to hide empty seats in the upper deck. The sidewalk game day traders couldn’t give away Texans tickets. Literally had no takers.

Now? And for the future? Texans football is back. It’s fun again. We can root for these guys.

Next season can’t get here soon enough.

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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