How complex stakes uniquely position the Houston Texans this season

Will Davis Mills take the next step? Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Houston Texans training camp is underway, and as it is for most football teams, all the city’s eyes are on second-year quarterback Davis Mills.

Mills, who played in 13 games for the Texans in 2021 and started in 11, will likely be QB1 when Houston takes the field on Sept. 11 against the Indianapolis Colts. For Texans fans that have had to sit through the past two seasons of agony, the near certainty of who the starting quarterback is should bring a sense of optimism around the 20-year-old franchise.

Houston fans know the story by now. The 6-4 quarterback closed the 2021 season with nine touchdowns and only two interceptions after his subpar, and at times, brutal first six career starts.

Let’s look at a possible best-case scenario for Mills. What if the Stanford product leads Houston to eight, nine or even more wins, heck even playoffs, while putting together a 25-touchdown or more season and limiting his interceptions to 10 or less.

That would certainly be enough for the Texans to confidently say they have “the guy” in Mills and go forward with the 23-year-old. He will be 24 by the time the 2022 season ends.

The exciting part for fans is that a 25-touchdown; 10-pick or less season is not that far-fetched either. Mills ended 2021 with 16 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 2,664 yards. Six of those interceptions came against the Buffalo Bills and Colts, two of the NFL’s top defenses in the NFL in 2021.

Now in Year 2, throwing nine more touchdowns in six more starts while holding off on the multi-interception games is not asking Mills to reinvent the wheel. The exciting thing is if Mills does take that next step, it will likely mean the surrounding pieces took a leap as well.

Of course, let’s slow down. There is a worst-case scenario for Mills. He could fail to build on his final five games in 2021; struggle to play a consistent 2022 season; and the Texans win 4 games or less for the third consecutive year. NFL defensive coordinators will figure out Mills’ weaknesses in 2022. He could fail to adjust.

So what? If that scenario plays out then the Texans can cut their losses and go in a different direction in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Texans are in a no-lose scenario.

Even if Mills plays well enough to show improvement but not enough to declare him the next franchise quarterback in a six-or-seven-win season, Houston also has the draft capital to be flexible.

Texans fans struggled to watch the Bill O’Brien-era end with the 24-0 debacle against Kansas City, which was followed by DeAndre Hopkins being shipped out for a second-round pick and running back David Johnson, and well the list goes on. Everyone knows what happened with Deshaun Watson, and even JJ Watt left for greener pastures.

After what seemed like years of not having a first-round pick, or in the case of 2021, what seemed like a punt of a season, the clouds have parted over the city of Houston.

The Texans have the rebuild off the ground. While there is a lot of work left to do, Houston is playing with house money at quarterback, and for that reason, fans should be excited for the 2022 season.

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DeMeco Ryans looks like the Texans' choice as the next head coach. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Houston Texans have been busy interviewing coaches over the last few weeks, and just this week, the team held second interviews with Giants OC Mike Kafka and Broncos DC Ejiro Evero. The Texans have also interviewed Los Angeles Rams tight ends coach and assistant head coach Thomas Brown, Sean Payton, Lions OC Ben Johnson, Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon, and Eagles OC Shane Steichen. Johnson has taken himself out of the mix and is returning to Detroit.

But according to a new report from Ian Rapoport, the Texans may already have their minds made up about their next head coach.

Former Texans linebacker and current 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans appears to be the top candidate for the Texans, and he is reportedly interested in the position, with a second interview likely to take place next week.

Ryans has been the defensive coordinator for the 49ers over the last two seasons. San Francisco was the best defense in the league in 2022.

Ryans is a popular pick for the position in Houston, and fans will be super excited if he eventually gets the job. Let's hope Rapoport's sources are correct, and the Texans have their new head coach lined up.

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