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.

 

 

 

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Dustin Johnson already committed to play in the Houston Open. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Golfers around the world have been able to enjoy playing 18 holes despite the COVID-19 pandemic, as golf has been deemed a "social-distancing" sport. Houston golfers have been rewarded this year with a newly renovated Memorial Park course that is already being spruced up in preparation for the upcoming Houston Open.

The PGA's adjusted schedule has the tour coming to Houston November 2-8, a week before the Masters.

Current hope is for the Houston Open being played in front of cheering fans, according to tournament director, Colby Callaway. Callaway recently talked with SportsMap about what fans and players can expect when the Houston Open returns to Memorial Park for the first time since 1963.

SportsMap: What is the Houston Open's current position in regard to fans in attendance?

Colby Callaway: Currently we are working on a number of contingency plans and exploring all sorts of options. I wish we could say 'this is our plan' right now, and put that thing in concrete, but I just can't. 2020 is causing all of us grief in all sorts of imaginative ways, and it's certainly creating some chaos when it comes to putting a plan together for us. We're all committed to being as flexible in our planning as possible and will adjust as need be. We do think we'll have an idea very soon, and hope to announce some sort of plan over the next couple of weeks.

SM: What can Houstonians look forward to with the new course at Memorial Park?

CC: Well it's a really fun course. Players can absolutely bomb drives. The key will be their approach shots and how they navigate the sticky rough and very tricky green complexes. Several holes were re-routed and in doing so it provided some great spectator viewing areas. There is a fantastic spot where the Par 3 2nd hole, the Par 5 3rdHole, and the Par 3 7th all come together. It'll be a great area to sit and watch golf all day long. The Par 3 9th will be a great viewing spot for spectators as well. On the backside, lots of risk and reward comes into play on 15, 16 and 17. Water becomes a big factor on all 3 holes so a sense of caution is created, but the temptation to do something spectacular is there as well. It's going to be a very exciting stretch.

SM: What changes to the golf course will Memorial Park golfers find following the tournament?

CC: Two things in particular will benefit Memorial Park golfers. First the range will be fully functional by then. It's been open awhile now, but limited in spots to what you could hit club wise. By the time the event rolls around we'll have expanded the range so you can bring and hit any club in your bag. Yes, the big dog (driver) will now be able to hunt!

The other nice addition is an oversized putting green and chipping area that was created adjacent to the 1st tee and 18th green. It's a much-needed improvement. The finished product will be a great spot for the casual golfer to roll some putts and work on his or her short game.

SM: When will Memorial Park Golf Course be closed to the public before the tournament?

CC: The plan is to close it down sometime during the week before the tournament. We'll be working around golfers for approximately 20 days leading up to the event building our operational needs. As a casual golfer it's a fun time to play. There is definitely a little more activity in and around the course, but it's a lot of fun to watch the progress of the build.

SM: What special COVID-19 safety precautions will be in place during the tournament?

CC: We'll have a plan above and beyond what is required per the rules and guidelines we are given. We are currently working with our operational partners to make sure we're all on the same page when it some to these regulations. I can promise we'll error on the side of caution, and make sure our patrons feel safe when they enter the grounds. The positive is we have over 250 acres of green grass and fresh air to socially distance on. A golf course truly does have its advantages.

SM: Are you under any pressure to bring fans to the tournament because of its placement a week before the Masters?

CC: I don't think so. Speaking for our team, I know they don't feel any pressure. Maybe if this was a different year, and we didn't have all of the uncertainty swirling around, there would be some. It's just not something we are going to put any energy into worrying about this fall. We have enough on our plate.

SM: In prior years, Golf Club of Houston made efforts to replicate conditions at Augusta National. Will you be doing the same?

CC: No. Honestly even if we wanted to we couldn't. With the time of year we are in it's really impossible to over-seed, and that's the only way to create those iconic Masters-like conditions. Now we'll do everything asked of us by the TOUR to make it the best 2020 Houston Open course condition wise. They ultimately put the competition plan together. That plan includes among other things: required rough height, green speeds, and tee to green yardages. I know Jason Harsh, Director of Golf for the Houston Parks and Rec Department, will have his team prepare the course to the best of their abilities. One plus when you are a course that hosts a PGA TOUR event is you receive year-long plans and assistance from the PGA TOUR Agronomy Department. That's big for the event, but also a nice plus for all of us who enjoy playing Memorial year around. Following these plans course conditions will continue to get better and better each year.

SM: You have a lot of experience managing golf tournaments, most recently serving as the tournament director of AT&T's PGA Tour Champions event in San Antonio. How will your experiences help you to execute a successful Houston Open?

CC: It's crazy to think this is my 20th year being a part of a team that manages professional golf events. Even crazier to think that less than a year ago I felt like I had seen it all when it comes to things that could affect golf tournaments. I've worked events since 2000 that have experienced tornadoes, floods, hail, high winds, sleet, drought, dead greens, etc… but no one ever said we'd deal with a pandemic. Good Lord, maybe I've stayed in the business a little too long!

Kidding aside, fortunately I've spent most of those 20 years working for and with some of the best in the business. I've kept my eyes and ears open, and maybe most importantly learned to adapt to the situation at hand. Concrete plans do not exist in the professional golf world as Mother Nature will always have the last say. You put a plan together, but always must remain fluid and have contingency plans in your back pocket. Of course, this is unlike anything I've ever had to deal with. We will, however, figure this out and do our best to put on a really successful, and safe, Houston Open.

SM: The Astros Foundation is well known to support youth baseball and softball programs, how will the new partnership between the Foundation and the Houston Open bring more opportunities to junior golf in Houston?

CC: Junior golfers will benefit greatly from the Houston Open moving to Memorial Park. The Astros Golf Foundation is finishing up a par 3 course, which sits adjacent to the 1st fairway and 18th fairway, that will allow participants in the First Tee program an opportunity to hone their skills year around.

The Astros Golf Foundation will continue to support the First Tee financially as well with a yearly donation of $500K. The First Tee is an incredible program and I know our team loves being a part of their growth.

Also via a generous partnership with Chevron, the Astros Golf Foundation is building the Chevron Center for Education & Kids. This classroom style space will be housed in the new Astros Golf Foundation building currently under construction behind the 9th green at Memorial Park. This center will be open year around and will host students from all over the Houston area teaching them skills within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) academic disciplines.

The best way to receive information about the event is to follow socially. Our social handles are located below.

www.houstonopengolf.com

@houopengolf on Twitter / Instagram

Houston Open on Facebook

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