STOOTS ON TEXANS

11 observations from Texans' 30-24 loss to Chiefs

Texans lose in OT to Kansas City. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans played hard again but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 30-24. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. The team plays hard for head coach Lovie Smith. Smith said after the game his one-win football team doesn’t play like they have one win. He’s right. Back-to-back performances for the team against opponents who should have outclassed them.

2. Davis Mills showcased some of the abilities that had the franchise invest in him this offseason. He was quick with decisions at times and safely extended a few plays. It was an overall positive performance for Mills who hasn’t had a lot of those this season.

3. The fumble to basically end the game is an ugly ribbon on the day. The Texans needed just a field goal to win, and Davis Mills fumbled the ball away to the Chiefs. I suppose it was trying to do too much, but wasn’t the worst decision ever from a quarterback in Mills’ position. A sack likely means a Texans punt.

4. The Jeff Driskel experiment should be over. It was a surprising novelty last week, but it didn’t work this week.

5. The rushing Driskel experiment torpedoed a drive for the Texans. The team trailed by three and was in the red zone. Driskel hadn’t carried the ball on the drive, in fact, Royce Freeman was having the drive of his life. He’d been mauling defenders. Pep Hamilton inserted Driskel, who lost yards. The Texans would kick a field goal.

6. Where has Royce Freeman been? He was a breath of fresh air on the running back depth chart. He had the most consistent attempts of the day. He’s been with the organization for over a year and he’s just now getting an opportunity. Slightly annoying.

7. Lovie Smith trusted his defense at midfield on a fourth and one. He confirmed as much postgame. His defense allowed a 90+ yard Kansas City drive. His offense needed just one yard to keep a drive alive. Smith might have missed that one.

8. The Texans have no constant feel for their kicking game. Ka'imi Fairbairn has a 61-yard field goal in this stadium. They have passed on 54-yard attempts at home and let him kick 54-yard attempts on the road. Today, with eight seconds left, the Texans opted for a kneel down instead of giving their kicker a long attempt after one play.

9. The offensive line for the Texans kicked ass Sunday. It has been in a groove for the past few weeks. Laremy Tunsil should be an All-Pro. Tytus Howard bumped inside with injuries to the offensive line, and Charlie Heck played fine at right tackle. Good job by this unit.

10. The defense had some solid moments against Patrick Mahomes. They were very aggressive and made him pay for extending plays. Lovie Smith even dialed up a well-timed blitz or two. The Chiefs turned out to be too much, but it was a valiant effort.

11. The NFL is about wins and losses. The Texans have the fewest wins. The Texans have the most losses. The Texans are playing harder, but it is likely too little too late for this group. Frank Ross the special teams coach and his crew have an argument to stick around, but the rest don’t. It’s too little, too late for the current coaching staff.

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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