Hiring DeMeco Ryans would be a good first step. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.
The Cincinnati Bengals are heading to its second straight AFC Championship game. After making the Super Bowl in 2022, it’s hard to believe the team is just four seasons removed from being in the bottom of the NFL with a 2-14 record.
The Houston Texans find themselves in a similar position to the Bengals a few years ago. Houston is in a transition stage following the loss of quarterback Deshaun Watson, JJ Watt and the flurry of other talent that defined the Bill O’Brien-led era.
The Texans are currently near the bottom of the league, but here is why they could be not that far off when it comes to turning the corner as the Bengals did over the last few seasons.
In 2019, Cincinnati was still led by Andy Dalton at quarterback. It was the first year under head coach Zac Taylor and the team had a lot of holes to fill.
After finishing with the worst record in the league, the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. They used their second pick in that same draft to take a key playmaker in receiver Tee Higgins and used the third pick in linebacker Logan Wilson, who has started in every game he has played in for the Bengals this season.
In the 2020 season, Burrow showed flashes of being a star QB, but suffered a season-ending knee injury that once again saw Cincinnati picking toward the top of the draft. In 2021, it used the No. 5 overall pick to draft Ja'Marr Chase.
With the key pieces in place added on to other hits they made in free agency and in previous years’ drafts, such as selecting Joe Mixon in 2017 and signing former Houston defensive lineman D.J. Reader, the Bengals quickly became one of the top teams in the league, and Burrow has become the only quarterback not named Tom Brady to have a leg up on Patrick Mahomes.
While it is much easier said than done, the Texans are in position to do just as the Bengals did beginning in 2019. Houston has an abundance of draft capital, even more than Cincinnati had when it went through its rebuild, including six in the first two rounds of the draft for 2023 and 2024.
It will be on Nick Caserio to put together the best roster with those picks to put the Texans back into relevance, and it begins with the hiring of the head coach. Could DeMeco Ryans be the answer in Houston?
We have completed an interview with DeMeco Ryans for our head coaching position. pic.twitter.com/OYH2I5UNII
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) January 21, 2023
The Bengals were patient with Taylor after two seasons of just two and four wins. Whoever Houston hires this go around will need to have stability. Taylor has proven he was the right man for the job even after the shaky start.
The next two drafts will define what the next decade looks like for the Houston Texans. They are at a crossroads when it comes to which direction they will take. Even at its best over the last decade, Houston’s ceiling was the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs.
Choosing the right quarterback and surrounding him with elite talent on both sides of the ball will be key. No pressure Caserio.
If he plays his cards right, it just might be the Texans competing against Burrow and the Bengals or Mahomes and the Chiefs on Championship Sunday in 2025.