Why the time has finally arrived to shift focus to the positive with Houston Texans

The 2023 season is a new beginning for the Houston Texans. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images.

And so the Houston Texans’ year of redemption and regained respectability begins Sunday on the road against the Baltimore Ravens.

Before the first coin flip, It’s already been a winning season for the Texans, finally unshackled from controversy, shameful publicity, paying off women alleging sexual assault by the quarterback, lurid headlines, mindboggling dumb trades, divisive front office weirdos and dumb choices as head coach. Oh, and three consecutive disastrous seasons drove fans out of NRG Stadium. I’m usually a half-full guy, but those stands sure looked empty.

But hope springs eternal this fall. The Texans dispatched a coach nobody else wanted and landed a bright young coach that everybody admires. Ownership went all in on last year’s draft and landed two of the top 3 picks, including a franchise quarterback and defensive monster. Ownership appears to have a vision for better days.

Suddenly the Texans are being taken seriously, not yet as playoff contenders, but no longer the dysfunctional patsies they were under fired head coaches David Culley and Lovie Smith. If you throw hot-tempered Bill O’Brien in the mix, the Texans had three head coaches the past three seasons, none of whom was offered another head coach job in the NFL.

DeMeco Ryans makes it four over four, but he’s got a six-year contract and the hopes and prayers of Texans fans, so he’s sticking around.

It’s up to Texans fans to forgive the team enough to show up on Game Days. The home opener is Sept. 17 against the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans used to have a waiting list for season tickets in the tens of thousands. The past two years, Texans staffers were using the evaporated waiting list as a Rolodex to call fans like telemarketers selling timeshares in Orlando.

It may be a long road back to winning, but the Texans appear on the right path. Vegas oddsmakers still need to be convinced, though. The Texans are Week One’s longest longshot on the board, 10-point underdogs to the Ravens. Vegas puts the Texans’ win total at 6-½ games. In early wagering, the Texans are underdogs each game except against the Colts (Week 2), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 8), and the Arizona Cardinals (Week 10). The Texans odds of winning the Super Bowl are 20,000 to 1. Only the Arizona Cardinals have longer odds, 40,000-1. If Mattress Mack thinks up a promotion, it would have to be that customers get free furniture for their life and the lives of their next 10 generations if the Texans win the “Big Game on Feb. 11, 2024 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.”

Just when you thought that the Texans were back on the road to respectability there’s always room for a little reminder of their snakebitten and unintentionally humorous past, like …

Fox Sports national talk host Colin Cowherd recently made a dismissive comment about Texans rookie quarterback and No. 2 overall draft pick C.J. Stroud. Cowherd said he didn’t think Stroud was “athletic” enough to be a top star in the NFL. OK, he’s entitled to his opinion, but really, who cares what Cowherd thinks?

I’ll tell you who, a Houston sports talk host. And don’t ask me which one because, hey, we all make mistakes and I don’t like to criticize my fellow media mates. It’s not my nature.

The local host got his panties in a bunch over Cowherd’s comment and decided to do an on-air segment about it. The host said that Cowherd didn’t know what he was talking about.

But he pondered what if Cowherd’s right? And that’s when the show went off the skids and had me screaming at my car radio.

The host suggested that if Stroud plays poorly, the Texans might be inclined to give up on him and look in another direction. The next several minutes of the show were devoted to what the Texans might do with their first-round draft pick next year. And, hoo boy, what if the Texans get the No. 1 overall pick next year?

The host said, if they get No. 1, the Texans absolutely must draft Caleb Williams, the Heisman-winning quarterback from Southern Cal. Williams is that good, the host exulted. Then the Texans could trade Stroud to a team that needs a quarterback, perhaps the Las Vegas Raiders.

Or if Stroud plays well, the Texans could trade their precious first-round pick for a lower pick and other assets.

It was a very informative and lively radio segment about what to do with the Texans’ first-round pick next year. Except for one small detail.

The Texans do not have their first-round draft pick next year. The traded it to Arizona. Houston only has the Browns' first-round pick in 2024. The host said listeners eventually called with that bit of information and he offered a “nevermind.”

That Texans-sized mistake was nothing, however, compared to the boner my cable company U-Verse made recently. The on-screen guide listed:

“ABC Channel 13: Houston Texans Countdown to Kickoff. Host: Bob Allen.”

Again, not to criticize, but Bob Allen retired from Channel 13 in 2012 and passed away in 2016.

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The Houston Astros managed to win the AL West once again, and while things got a little nerve wracking toward the end of the season, when it mattered most, the 'Stros took care of business.

It certainly didn't hurt to get a little help from the Mariners, beating the Rangers 1-0 on Sunday, paving the way for the Astros to secure the division. Rangers fans and members of their broadcast team were none too pleased with the Diamondbacks resting some of their starters on Sunday.

But let's be real, with the division on the line, the Rangers couldn't even manage to score a single run on Sunday against Seattle. That's why they're playing in the Wild Card series, not because of how Arizona approached Sunday's game.

So what did we learn during these must-win games over the last week? A lot was made of GM Dana Brown's comments on the team's flagship station. Brown was hoping manager Dusty Baker would put the best offensive lineup on the field. Yainer Diaz did not start a single game of the Diamondbacks series. But Chas McCormick played every game of the Mariners and Diamondbacks series, except for the finale against Seattle, after being hit in the back with a fastball the night before.

Michael Brantley played in two of three against Arizona, so he appears to be an option Dusty will turn to moving forward. And with the Astros only scoring 1 and 2 runs in two of the three wins against the D-Backs, the Astros need every bit of offense they can get.

Plus, we discuss how getting extra rest for Michael Brantley, Jose Abreu, and the bullpen could pay huge dividends for the club. And don't look now, but Jose Abreu is getting hot at just the right time!

Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion.

And be sure to watch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportMapHouston's YouTube channel.

Listen to ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 FM for Houston's best sports talk.

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