How a branding shake-up could be first domino in wholesale Houston Texans changes

How a branding shake-up could be first domino in wholesale Houston Texans changes
Get ready for some changes next season. Photo by Bob Levey/ Getty Images.
Media execs looking hard at former Texans QB in search of ratings redemption

Last week Houston Texans management announced they were considering changing the team’s uniform colors for 2023, and they were asking for suggestions from fans. The decision actually had been in the works for several months, after owner Cal McNair brought up the idea in an “Ask Me Anything” forum before the season started.

The Texans are saying, you spoke and we listened.

New uniforms? That’s what the Texans heard?

Over the last few days, I’ve heard sports talk hosts and callers clamor for a return to the good old days of the Houston Oilers and Luv Ya Blue – let’s bring back the Oilers’ colors of Columbia Blue, scarlet red and white.

One host agreed, that's a terrific idea. After all, he said, he recently visited an Academy store and it had more Oilers jerseys and gear for sale than Texans stuff.

First, that’s not true, not even close. Academy has a few Oilers items and walls and racks of Texans merchandise.

The host also supported bringing back Oilers colors because those were popular uniforms and the most established and best supported pro teams still wear classic uniforms from years gone by.

Again, not true. This year, the New York Giants and Chicago Bears (established enough for you?) introduced new helmets. The Philadelphia Eagles will have new alternate jerseys next season. NBA and MLB teams have more wardrobe changes than Cher on her 20th annual retirement tour.

Some callers argued, since the Tennessee Titans dropped their Oilers name a few years after the Oilers moved there in 1997, why don’t the Texans make the transition complete and change their name to Oilers?

Is that what Houston fans really want? First, not only do the owners of the Titans retain the rights to the Oilers name and legacy, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue officially retired the name Oilers. He did that to prevent future NFL teams in Houston from calling themselves the Oilers.

If the Texans tried to recapture the energy and “luv” affair between Houston and the Oilers, wouldn’t that be like breaking up with your new girlfriend and drunk calling your old girlfriend at 3 a.m. begging for another chance?

Sure the Luv Ya Blue Oilers of the ‘70s won a bunch of games and had some characters like Bum Phillips, Dan Pastorini and Elvin Bethea, plus a catchy song that you could name in one note.

Noteworthy, when the Oilers closed shop in Houston after the 1996 season, the Astrodome wasn’t exactly covered with Super Bowl or even AFC Championship banners. In fact, none. The closest the Oilers came to the Super Bowl was two appearances in the AFC title game in 1978 and 1979, both times losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Between 1970 when the Oilers joined the NFL to 1996 when they left Houston, the Oilers compiled a 181-199 record. Luvable, yes, for a period.

The Oilers, especially owner Bud Adams, weren’t such local heroes starting in the 1980s. Adams consistently threatened to move the Oilers if Houston wouldn’t build him a new stadium at taxpayer expense. After flirting with Jacksonville, Adams finally got a sweetheart deal with Tennessee. Houston fans felt jilted. Did you see the crowd at the Texans’ game Sunday at NRG Stadium? It was Fan Appreciation Day and maybe 20,000 fans showed up. And that’s a charitable estimate…

That’s what the Astrodome looked like during the Oilers’ last season in Houston. Don’t let the door hit you in the butt, Bud.

Here’s a better idea than going back into the past for the Texans. How about moving forward with a new quarterback, new coach, new management, new … everything? The uniform ain’t the problem. Besides, there’s hundreds of thousands of Houstonians who weren’t even here when Luv Ya Blue owned the city.

Houston’s population in 1980 was 1.6 million. Now it’s 2.3 million. Luv Ya … sorry, who?

You may notice that the Jacksonville Jaguars are in first place in the AFC South. The Jags finished dead last in 2020 and 2021. They got themselves high-up draft picks, took a franchise quarterback and hired a coach with a Super Bowl resume. That’s your ticket, Texans. You know what to do.

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The Texans will have to shuffle the o-line once again. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

“Another one!”- DJ Khaled

That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.

The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.

Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!

One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.

As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.

To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.

I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.

The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.

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