John Granato

I'm feeling pretty good about our Texans. How about you?

Deshaun Watson looks like Deshaun again. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Halfway through the 2018 season what are we to think of our Houston Texans? Rockets fans might want to take note of how they’re bounced back before they give up on their team. I didn’t think it was possible for a good team to start the season any poorer than the Texans did but the Rockets are starting to make me rethink that.

I went into this season with high hopes for this Texans team. I joke about a16-0 or 15-1 season but I seriously believed that they had a chance at dethroning the Patriots in the AFC. What I saw from Deshaun last season made me think that even with all their flaws that that one guy could make that big a difference.

Tom Brady has never had a great supporting cast. He’s played with one, maybe two Hall of Famers his entire career: Randy Moss and possibly Rob Gronkowski. Otherwise he’s had a bunch of guys. For goodness sake, Jabar Gaffney played a big role with them in their undefeated regular season. After what we saw of Jabar here that was a near miraculous transformation.

I still think Deshaun is special and can take them to the promised land but he needs more help and more consistent coaching. Brady has never had a great offensive line but even he would have a hard time getting anything accomplished behind this line.

Has any team ever put less stock in drafting offensive linemen? Their first overall pick in their expansion draft was tackle Tony Boselli who never played a down for the team. Since then they’ve used a grand total of 3threpicks in the first or second round on the offensive line and one of them was a complete and utter bust: Duane Brown, Xavier Su’a-filo and Nick Martin. That’s it in 17 drafts. Three.

No wonder Deshaun can’t breathe. A lesser man might be dead by now. That he threw for 300 yards in four straight games and is on pace for 4,000 yards passing and 30 touchdowns is a minor miracle.

But we hadn’t really seen the real Deshaun until this past week. Yeah he threw for more yardage in previous games but it just wasn’t the same. For whatever it’s worth he only cracked a hundred in the passer rating twice before last week and then just barely. In the Dolphins game he turned in a 156 which is just 2.3 points shy of perfect.

That was vintage Deshaun if vintage is possible in your second season. After his college career though it feels like we know that the ceiling is the roof (thanks MJ) for Deshaun. And he hit the ceiling last week.

Is it sustainable? Is he back to being superhuman again?

Speaking of MJ, the joke was that the only guy that could keep Michael down in college was his coach Dean Smith. It feels a lot like that with Deshaun now. The only guy who can hold him back is Bill O’Brien.

For whatever reason he wouldn’t unleash Deshaun early on this year. In their first three losses he had him running the same offense Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett ran. At least it seemed that way. Where was the play action? Where were the moving pockets? The bootlegs? The RPO’s? Instead it was boring predictable football and it showed in the standings.

The result? 0-3.

But it wasn’t like there was some magic switch they flipped and voilå - great team. Against Dallas he threw for 375 yards but was beaten to a pulp and scored a grand total of 19 points. Against Buffalo he put up his lowest QB rating of the season and needed a pick six bailout to win. Against the Jags when asked about winning when they didn’t play well we got the infamous Bill O’Brien quote about how hard it was to win in the NFL. “Toughest thing in sports” decried BOB. I agree with him. It’s almost impossible to win when you play like crap.

So it’s not like this five-game win streak has been a thing of beauty. It’s been laborious for the most part but it is five in a row which is better than the alternative and it has quieted a fanbase that was ready to throw BOB to the wolves after Week 3. Is he back in good graces with said fanbase though?

Does anyone believe that he and the team have turned the corner? That they’re a contender in the AFC? That BOB will not revert to his staid and predictable ways the rest of the season? That the offensive line won’t get Deshaun maimed or worse? That the loss of Will Fuller won’t be devastating? That the addition of Demaryius Thomas will be fruitful? That they are good enough at corner to withstand the loss of J-Jo another few weeks? That someone will find Whitney Mercilus because he’s been missing thus far this season? These are all legitimate questions heading into the second half.

Looking at their schedule though, it’s almost impossible to find a loss. After easy trips to Denver and Washington they’ve got three straight home games against patsies, then they’re in New York for the Jets (win), at the Eagles (they’re below average this year, win) and home for the hapless Jags who should be down to 15 players because they killed each other by then (another win.)

That makes 13 straight wins, a division title, a playoff bye, home field advantage throughout (the Patriots and Chiefs look like they’re about to fall apart) and a near guaranteed AFC Championship game at home against said Chiefs or Patriots.

Pat Mahomes is so young he won’t be able to handle the pressure of the moment. Brady is so old he won’t be able to handle the pressure of the moment. Deshaun has been there and done that on the biggest college stage so it’ll be just another game for him.

I’m thinking this team is headed to Atlanta for the city’s first ever Super Bowl appearance. I don’t want to be overly optimistic or get ahead of ourselves but I don’t think the Rams or Saints stand a chance against this Texans team.  

So how should we feel about our Texans at the midway point of the season?

Pretty good I’d say. Pretty good.

 

 

 

Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Often times, sports can be a copycat forum. Whether it's trying to replicate an offense, defense, philosophy, or outright style biting, we rarely see anything original. Sports sometimes take their cues from Hollywood. How many remakes of old movies and ideas have we seen? Or, how many different iterations of a successful movie franchise will we continue to get shoved down our throats? (I'm looking at you Fast And Furious. But I'm going to see the new one anyway.)

Every so often, we'll get the pleasure of a trailblazer. Someone who stands out against the crowd and prefers to do something so out of the box, we may choose to fully embrace the different approach, or, we may choose to mock the out of the box ideas. The Texans have chosen to blaze their own trail and go with a general manager by committee for the upcoming season. They came to this conclusion (forced into it) after a failed attempt to woo Nick Caserio away from the Patriots amidst tampering charges. Bill O'Brien, Jack Easterby, Chris Olsen, and Jamey Rootes will all play a part in fulfilling the role of GM. I go back and forth as to whether they've made the right decision and whether or not it'll work. Let's take a look at a few reasons to support both sides of the argument:

Will Work: Three or four heads better than one

Texans Chairman and CEO D. Cal McNair

houstontexans.com

Think back to when you were in school. I know that may be difficult for some of us that are long removed from those days. What was one of your favorite type of assignments? Typically, group assignments were fun because you got to collaborate with others on a project. It worked best if you chose your own group because you knew everyone would pull their weight. This may be the case here, as long as there are clear cut lines in which each person will operate and how tough decisions will be made.

Won't Work: Too many sheriffs, not enough cops

Texans EVP of Team Development Jack Easterby

houstontexans.com

Those same group projects have also been known to cause division, friction, and make getting a good grade nearly impossible. All of the guys on this committee have primary responsibilities. Now they have to take on extra duties. This can lead to some lacking in areas of each of their jobs. We've all experienced a collaborative effort gone wrong. Whether someone didn't pull their weight, or someone was a control freak, there's always a chance of something going awry when multiple people have to come together for a common goal, especially when you're dealing with a bunch of alpha males used to being the in charge of their own lane but forced to cooperate and collaborate with others.

Will Work: Everyone's seats are hot

Texans President Jamey Rootes

houstontexans.com

I grew up respecting the knowledge older people could pass along. I may not have always listened to what they said, but I most definitely absorbed those lessons. One saying I remember and still hold onto is "pressure can make a diamond or crack a pipe." The former is why I think this setup will work. When former GM Brian Gaine was fired late into this offseason, it put everyone on notice that their jobs are also on the line. If this group can feel that heat and use it to fuel them positively, this GM by committee thing can work.

Won't Work: No blueprint or copycat source

Texans Senior VP of Football Operations Chris Olsen

houstontexans.com

Like I said previously, sports are a copycat forum. Usually, there's someone somewhere that's done it before that you can get a few pointers from. Hell, the Texans organization has been trying to replicate what the Patriots have done for almost their whole existence! However, there hasn't been an example that I can think of in which any sports franchise has had a committee of people fill the role of GM instead of a single person. When you have an example to follow, it's similar to having directions on assembling a toy you've bought for your kid. Next time you try putting something together, do it without the instructions and see how easy/difficult it could be.

While the draft and the bulk of free agency has come and gone, there's always work a GM is doing that will help his team. There are always players on other teams to watch in case they're cut. There's also college players to keep an eye on for the upcoming draft, as well as a multitude of other duties an NFL GM has on a daily basis. Information funneled through one person and sent out to others is much more concise than being funneled through several and sent out to many.

Signals can get crossed. Critical steps or info can get missed and/or overlooked. However, we don't know if this will or won't work because we have nothing to base it off of. We will have to wait and see how this plays out. Who knows? We may be on the verge of something new and innovative in sports. We could also be seeing a disaster the likes of which we've never seen. Let's wait and see what happens before we pass judgement.

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