ALL THE BLAME CAN'T FALL ON O'BRIEN, WATSON HAS TO STEP UP

How a win in Pittsburgh could drastically shift a popular Texans debate

Franchise quarterbacks win games like this. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Let's be honest, the schedule makers in the NFL didn't do the Texans any favors to begin the 2020 season. They've faced the toughest schedule in football through two weeks opening up on the road in Kansas City against the defending Super Bowl champs and then against a Ravens team that went 14-2 last year with the reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson.

Mix in a global pandemic that eliminated OTAs, most padded practices, and all preseason games and it's understandable why the Houston offense has only averaged 18 points per game. However, It doesn't get any easier on Sunday though for Houston as they will travel to Pittsburgh for a matchup against the 2-0 Steelers. Nobody will feel bad for the Texans though. The time for excuses is over and the Texans need to get a win.

"We've got a long way to go. We've got to get going here this week," head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien said. " We've got to score more points than the other team. We've got to get going, so it's not where we want it to be quite obviously but we're working hard to get it better."

Despite what O'Brien might think, it doesn't take a genius to recognize that the Texans need to 'score more points than the other team.' O'Brien certainly deserves a large amount of blame for the offensive struggles. He's an offensive-minded coach that has never had a top 10 offense in first six seasons as the teams head coach, and he traded away the best wide receiver in football in DeAndre Hopkins but I don't need to remind Texans fans of that.

"Nobody wants to be in this position," O'Brien said about the 0-2 start. "We just have to improve and try to basically let's just everybody, coaches, players alike, try to do the next right thing. Get the call. Execute the call. Make sure we're on top of everything, substitutions, and all that. Eliminate turnovers and line of scrimmage penalties…Same thing offensively, we've got to be more consistent. We've got to stay on the field. We have to work hard to get better."

O'Brien obviously bears a lot of responsibility, but he isn't alone. Deshaun Watson has to start playing better too. Watson was paid a four-year, $156 million extension that averages $39 million annually so even after losing his best weapon in DeAndre Hopkins, the expectation is that Watson even with a shaky offensive line can raise the level of play of everyone around him. Including the new guys at wide receiver brought in to help replace the production of Hopkins.

That's what a franchise QB does. Period.

"We just keep continuing to build chemistry," Watson said. "We didn't have an offseason. It's a whole new receiving core except for (Kenny) Stills and (Will) Fuller (V), but bringing those guys along and just getting on the same page. What are those guys good at? What am I good at throwing with those guys? Just trying to continue to build that chemistry and that trust within each other. That's coming along well. Sometimes it takes time and we've just got to not get discouraged and just keep pushing forward until it actually takes off like we want it to."

Unfortunately for Watson and the Texans, time is not on their side anymore. If Watson doesn't start playing like a franchise quarterback, the Texans very easily could start 0-3. Through two games, Watson has thrown just two touchdowns and has two interceptions. Watson also has a pedestrian QBR of 55.1 which ranks 20th among quarterbacks. Beating the Steelers who boast arguably the NFL's best defense and have a healthy future hall of fame QB in Ben Roethlisberger isn't an easy task but this is why you pay Watson all that cash. You are supposed to have a chance in any game with #4 under center.

"We're just worried about doing what we need to do out there on Sundays and playing our best football," Watson said. "We'll see what the outcome comes. That's all we can do is just put our head down and grind. Just work and try to do what we do and see what the outcome comes like. Of course, we don't want to be 0-3, but that's not the main thing that's on our minds right now."

He's right. You don't want to be 0-3.

It's on Watson to make sure that doesn't happen.


Jake Asman is a national host on SportsMap Radio. You can listen to The Jake Asman Show weekdays from 8 AM - 10 AM Central.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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