Joel Blank: Rick Smith got one thing right in his checkered tenure - Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson gives the Texans something they have never had. Bob Levey/Getty Images

For Texans fans, the mere thought of having a franchise quarterback is like a breath of fresh air. You didn’t even have to be at NRG Saturday night to feel the energy and excitement surrounding the Texans this upcoming season. After years of struggles, trials and tribulations trying to find the right signal caller, it seems like they finally got it right. Rick Smith made his fair share of mistakes that eventually cost him his job, but his parting gift - the trade that brought Deshaun Watson to Houston - might be enough to forgive all the slip ups and misses.

Sure, Smith signed Brock Osweiler to that horrific deal and had to give up what turned out to be a top five second round draft pick to make it go away. And of course we all are painfully aware that he gave up even more to move up in the draft to select yet another quarterback he only hoped could be the guy. The front office games of musical QB's and quarterback roulette went on long enough that people wondered if the team would ever get it right.

When you look at the quarterback class of 2017 and think about the options the Texans had, there were four guys that the team could have taken. The first was Mitchell Trubisky,  and that thought was quickly erased when the Bears moved up and selected him second overall. Texas Tech gunslinger Patrick Mahomes was also a possible option, but the Chiefs moved two spots in front of what would eventually be Houston's draft position and snatched him up to be the face of Kansas City's football future at 10. The Texans took Watson at 12.  Notre Dame QB Deshon Kizer was also in the class and though he was considered more of a long term project, he would go to the Browns in the second round at number 52. As we look at that list and where they are now, it's safe to say that none of those other guys have shown as much potential or produced as many results as Deshaun.

Trubisky may be the closest to being ready to step up and show he is a capable starter, but he is nowhere near Watson in terms of execution, poise and decision making. Mahomes spent all of last season learning behind Alex Smith in hopes that this year he would be ready to lead the Chiefs. Everything we’ve seen and heard to this point is that he has struggled in camp to grasp the offense, control the huddle and even call the right play. Kizer had a rough rookie year in Cleveland both on and off the field and was traded to Green Bay in the off season, where he’s fighting Brett Hundley for the back-up job. In short, none of those guys come close to living up to the hype they had coming into the league, let alone trying to equal Watson's rookie results and high expectations for the upcoming campaign.

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes telling you for you to realize that Rick got it right where so many others got it wrong. Watson won in college against the best teams in the biggest games and put up big numbers. He ran a pro-style offense and was the clear cut leader of the team. He quickly showed how he could translate those attributes and contributions on the next level and now has the team, city and entire football world waiting with anticipation as to what he can do in year two. The sky is the limit and that's elementary, my dear Watson.

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Thurs, Sept. 24 - HOU: Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33) vs. TEX: Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53)

Fri, Sept. 25 - HOU: Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78) vs. TEX: Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53)

Sat, Sept. 26 - HOU: TBD vs. TEX: Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87)

Sun, Sept. 27 - HOU: TBD vs. TEX: Jordan Lyles (1-5, 7.07)


Season finale - The Astros will wrap up their regular season with their four game set in Arlington at the new Globe Life Field. Houston's magic number rests at two, as the Angels still have a puncher's chance. With Houston's miserable 8-20 road record, the postseason is anything but clinched.

Where's the offense? - The Astros offense has left a lot to be desired over the last few weeks, scoring more than three runs just twice in their last ten games. The bats really need to get going, especially if the team expects to do anything in the playoffs. George Springer has been the only reliable bat of late, with the performances of Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, and, most of all, Jose Altuve, leaving a lot to be desired.

Playoff seeding - If the playoffs started today, the Astros would face off with their division rivals in Oakland. There's an infinite number of possibilities over the next four games, but the Astros can see themselves finish anywhere from the fifth seed to out of the playoffs entirely. Any of Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Oakland, Chicago, New York, and Cleveland could be first round foes depending on how the cards fall.


Lance Lynn has been one of the better pitchers in the game for a few years now, Kyle Cody is an intriguing young arm with good stuff, and Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson gave the Astros fits in Houston just last week. It isn't a recipe for success for Houston. The Astros win 1 of 4, which combined with the Angels and Mariners failing to take care of business, is enough to get Houston into the playoffs.

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