Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: For Texans, all hope lies in Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson will be the No. 1 key for the Texans. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Texans have mired in mediocrity for nearly all of their existence. Seeing guys like Andre Johnson and Arian Foster pass through on Kirby without much success had left the franchise with flashes of brilliance. Sure, J.J. Watt is still active and one of the team’s all-time greats, but he’s basically missed the last two years because of season-ending injuries. His star has lost some luster and is threatened to be overshadowed by Jadeveon Clowney.

With the exception of about three good years of the Matt Schaub era, there’s been a lot of average to below average play at the quarterback position. David Carr was supposed to ride in on his white horse to help the franchise to start. He was failed by shoddy talent around him, specifically on the offensive line. Heck, Schaub himself was traded for with the specific purpose in mind to run Gary Kubiak’s offense. He ended up falling apart, only to become a caricature of a franchise quarterback.

When the Texans made the move to draft Deshaun Watson, fans were elated. They beamed with hope, optimism, and there was a general feeling of euphoria. FINALLY, there’s a true franchise quarterback whom the fans have faith in to take the team to the Promised Land. In six games last season, he showed the type of youthful exhuberance, leadership, combined with a flair for the dramatic and skill that made fans forget about the previous years of futility at the position.

And then the bottom fell out. Watson tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. Despite going 3-3 in his six starts, mainly due to an inept defense, there was hope abounding. Going 1-8 sans Watson left the team at a paltry 4-12. With no first or second round draft picks in the ensuing draft, fielding a much better team seemed pretty bleak. Yet, the team made good use of the cap space they have and drafted well.

When the over/under win total came in at nine and a half, I was curious as to why. How could a team perform so badly the previous season, still have a ton of questions, filled the holes they had with OK to average players, and have so many key players returning from injury be listed at a nine and a half?

Because Watson. That’s why. They’re going to play a last place schedule for starters. Also, playing the NFC and AFC East (minus the Eagles and Patriots respectively) should help the win total. But even the odds makers in Vegas know the power of Watson.

Raheel Ramzanali pointed it out on the John and Raheel Show yesterday that when you see reasons for the Texans’ successes or failures next season, Watson is universally listed as the main cog in either wheel of the debate. “The Texans will lose eight plus games this year because Watson won’t be able to perform like he did last year.” “The Texans will win 10-plus games this year because Watson is going to start the season and be healthy.”

This year will prove to be pivotal in Waton’s career arc. There’s always a stigma of the sophomore jinx when it comes to NFL players, especially quarterbacks. Dak Prescott took a step back, but that could be contributed to declining offensive line play and missing Ezekiel Elliott for six games. Carson Wentz actually got better and was a league MVP candidate until he got hurt.

The second year for a quarterback can go either way. Watson will have a full offseason as “the guy.” Bill O’Brien has recently come out to say he will be ready to play by the time training camp starts because he’s ahead of rehab schedule. Fans of the team, and some media members, are putting a ton of faith in the youngster. I see no reason why they shouldn’t as I fully expect him to continue trending upward and improve upon what he did last season by leading the team to a .500 or better record this season.

 

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Everyone should be talking about the Cougars! Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images.

You’re burying the lead!

Lately I’ve been watching our local news … “and now here’s (fill in the blank) with sports.”

“Over at Toyota Center, the Rockets came up short and dropped another one to the Jazz or maybe it was the Pelicans or … does it really matter?”

It doesn’t matter. The Rockets have lost 10 games in a row, 15 of their last 16, and they’re in last place in the Western Conference with the NBA’s worst record. They’re on track to finish with an even worse record than last year, when they also had the worst record in the league. Their last three losses were all blowouts, dropping each game by 20-plus points. They’re terrible and getting terrible-er.

Meanwhile in the shadow of downtown there’s another basketball team with “Houston” on the front of their jerseys. That team is a different story, and it should be the lead story.

The University of Houston is 17-1, undefeated in the American Athletic Conference, riding an eight-game win streak, ranked No. 1 in the country and the betting favorite (+550 at Fanduel) to make the Final Four and win the whole March Madness tournament. That’s No. 1 ahead of Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and all the other traditional college powerhouses. The NCAA title clash essentially could be a home game for the Cougars on April 3 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

It all ties into a neat little bow for coach Kelvin Sampson and the red-hot Coogs.

And here’s another reason why the Cougars deserve our support and the sports section headline: every player on the UH team came here because they wanted to play for Houston. Rockets players are in Houston because that’s where they were drafted or traded, or in some cases because they couldn’t get a better deal with any other team.

UH players fell in love with Houston. Rockets players are in arranged marriages.

So why are the UH Cougars relegated to a mere mention before the sports anchor hands it off to the weatherman for a final update on tomorrow’s forecast?

It’s would be understandable why the Rockets hold the media’s attention ahead of the Cougars if this were a typical big market. The pros are bigger, faster and better than college players. But this is Houston, where the local college team is No. 1 in the country and the pro team is dead last in the NBA.

Even if all things were equal, which they’re not, the UH story is more compelling than the Rockets’ tale of woe. UH has a personable, inspirational coach, Kelvin Sampson, one of the most successful figures in the college game. The Rockets coach, Stephen Silas, has a low-key personality and, not entirely his fault, one of the most futile won-loss records in NBA history.

UH has a legit superstar, Marcus Sasser, a first-team All-American pick, a team leader who’s playing in his final season for the Cougars. The Rockets’ top veteran is Eric Gordon, a sourpuss who wants off the team in the worst way and the Rockets are trying their best to accommodate him.

UH is on track to make a lot of noise on the road to the Final Four, like they’ve done six times, the most recent in 2021. UH holds the frustrating record for most Final Four appearances without a championship trophy. Another good storyline. This could be their year, and what better place than their own backyard at NRG Stadium?

It’s not like the Rockets have a serious shot at the NBA Finals, but apples to apples, the NCAA tournament is a bigger deal than the NBA playoffs.

March Madness charges more for TV commercials than any sports event in the U.S. with the exception of the NFL playoffs. March Madness brought in $1 billion in ad revenue in 2021, more than the NBA playoffs and double MLB’s postseason.

Last year’s March Madness championship game had 18.1 million viewers. Last year’s championship game of the NBA Finals drew just under 14 million viewers.

It’s estimated that some 35 million Americans will fill out a bracket for March Madness contests. I’ve never worked in an office where everybody puts down $5 to buy a square in a pool for the NBA Finals. I know a guy who scheduled his vasectomy for the start of March Madness figuring he was due some serious couch time.

March Madness is a national passion. The NBA Finals are a sports event.

Bottom line: the Cougars are the No. 1 team in college hoops, and they’re taking aim at the biggest, most celebrated prize in basketball. They are the pride of our city. So let’s give the UH Cougars the respect they deserve. Give ‘em the top story.

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