4th and Mile with Paul Muth

Three reasons I punted the Texans

In 2015 when the Dallas Cowboys made the controversial decision to sign convicted domestic abuser Greg Hardy, I wondered to myself what exactly it would take for me to stop being a fan of a team I grew up watching.

Monday I learned just that, only instead for the Texans.

Wednesday was validation.

No, it wasn't a singular egregious act. Instead, it was a slow burn. It was year after year of incompetent ax swinging to the trunk of my fandom that finally compromised its integrity, causing the whole thing to come crashing down.

I didn't come to the decision easily. I've been a fan since before learning that they had chosen the dumbest name in professional football. I even remember watching game one against the Cowboys in my room as a kid on a little 13" tube TV, trying to read out player names in between static caused by my rabbit-ear antenna. But just like any relationship that's gone on longer than it should, instead of noticing a need for change, I found it easier to ignore the stack of issues, continue being a fan, and hope for the best.

"Maybe they'll change!"

"They didn't mean to let the greatest player in franchise history leave unceremoniously for our rival!"

So let's examine the three biggest strikes that led to this public breakup:

17: "Tom's the starter."

After giving up two first round picks (and then some) to move up in the draft and claim collegiate star quarterback Deshaun Watson, you would have thought Bill O'Brien was being forced to work with a brother-in-law with body odor. He seemed thoroughly hesitant on trusting the rookie QB, and an actual competition between him and incumbent starter Tom Savage seemed unlikely. Watson hardly touched the field, and when he did that glimmer of brilliance would show through. Even still, come week one O'Brien had handed the keys to Savage, who immediately drove them into a brick wall.

Now, I didn't think Savage was better than Watson, but I also understood not starting Watson from the outset. There are cases all throughout league history that show that letting your quarterback sit his first year and study the game has a lot of merit. But if you're going to do it, you need to stick to it. So how long did O'Brien stick it?

Less than one game.

That's about the time I really started perking my ears up to the issues with the Texans. Any coach that honestly thought Savage brought more to the table than Watson is beyond worthy of skepticism. To then fold one half of a game into the season on a stance you had taken for the past four months prior should make you wonder just how quick he is to abandon game plans when they go awry.

2020: Bill O'Brien, General Manager

The Texans have always come across as a team seemingly content with being merely decent. Another perception is that ownership is simply loyal to a fault, and willing to give a coach and/or GM time to fully realize their plan. So when the nobly fired Gary Kubiak mid season just weeks after collapsing on the sidelines of a game, I turned a blind eye to the callousness and did my best to be optimistic with the team's potential. The Texans pounced on former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien at the first chance they had and his fiery nature initially had me pretty pumped.

That was 2014.

That fiery nature has since morphed into simple pettiness, be it with refs, the media, the fans, and his players as well. O'Brien sports a disappointing 52-44 record in one of the most perennially disappointing divisions in football, and is constantly exposed as a fraud in the postseason. This was no more so apparent than this past season's divisional round, where the Texans not only blew a 24-0 lead but were beaten by 20 points.

So what do you do with a guy like that? Promote him, obviously. And what does a guy like that do once promoted? Fired people he didn't like, obviously.

The pettiness is palpable and yet despite the ineptitude and awful image problem, ownership stopped looking loyal and started looking content.

March 16, 2020: The trade

We were all expecting something questionable to come from O'Brien's first full offseason with full control, we just didn't realize how immediate it would be. But through their own draft failings and questionable trade machinations, the Texans headed into the 2020 offseason strapped for cash and in what is affectionately referred to as "draft hell."

So the Texans made a trade. The initial report?

"Texans trading for Cardinals RB David Johnson."

"Ok," I'm thinking. "He's kind of a retread, but they got a lot of value out of Carlos Hyde the year before. Not a bad pickup."

Then the other shoe dropped.

"Cardinals to receive WR DeAndre Hopkins."

That was it. When I realized it wasn't a joke, I was done. In no way did that trade make the Texans better, relieve noticeable cap space, or provide draft capital. It was the only example left that I needed to prove just how poorly managed the Texans are from top to bottom.

So I declared that day that until Bill O'Brien is gone, I will take my fandom elsewhere. And that's what it's going to take from everyone.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of [terrible coaching/ownership] is for good [fans] to do nothing."

-Edmund Burke, sort of.

It's true though. I've been called a quitter and a fake fan (of 18 years I guess) since I made that announcement. But if anything is going to ever actually change, it's going to need to come from the stands. Only when the McNairs see a change in their balance sheet at the end of the season will they consider removing O'Brien from the obscene amount of power he currently holds. If you truly love your Texans, the best thing you could do is not "weather the storm," but walk away. Most wont, though, and that's why Grumpy Bill will keep his job.

In the meantime, I'll be planning an awesome road trip to our sister city to watch my new team in the Big Easy.


Four Downs of the Week (from hell):

1st Down: Every athlete and organization pledging money toward stadium workers

That doesn't include our own billionaire Rockets owner Tillman Ferttita, who's actually slashing benefits at the moment. But in the most extraordinary time in most of our lives, it's heartwarming to see people and organizations banding together to help those most affected by the circumstances.

2nd Down: Using technology for good.

Once again, it's refreshing to see acts of kindness in crumby situations. The following are a few examples of organizations doing wonderful PR moves to our collective benefit while we're all spending a little more time at home:

From the NBA

From the NFL

And, my favorite, a collaboration with Netflix and Google

3rd down: Test shortages, but not for athletes apparently

Does anyone else find it convenient that a league of millionaire athletes in peak physical form managed to get their hands on desparately needed coronavirus testing kits, while the rest of the country waits for hours in hospitals?

4th down:

We all know what fourth down is. Stay safe, everyone.

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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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