Photo via Houston Texans/Facebook
Every season when pro teams are eliminated from the playoffs, they have exit interviews where the head coach and/or front office speaks to different players about their season or what to do in the off-season. I guess that's what they talk about. I have no idea.
To be honest, I don't really know what happens in exit interviews. No idea. So let's do this… I'll play out the exit interviews I would have with a variety of Texans starting with the head guy.
Lance: Hey Coach O'Brien, sit down.
OB: I'll stand, thanks.
Lance: Well, okay. Solid season, coach. I was really happy with the run you guys put together after such a bad start and I think it showed that guys keep on playing for you despite you getting a little surly sometimes.
OB: Surly?! Look, I'm not surly, I'm honest. If you can't handle honesty, then get out of this business. And I'm not going to sit and listen to some media guy grill me about the season. What's the best thing you ever did in football in your entire life, anyway?
Lance: I made a one-hand touchdown catch in street football on a perfectly placed throw by James Martinez near a mailbox.
OB: That's what I thought. I'm not staying here for this stupid sh*t.
Lance: I probably wouldn't either, coach. Three division titles in the last four years. Keep it up, but I would probably hand over the play-calling duties to someone else just so you can fine-tune clock management and your work with Deshaun Watson.
OB: And I would probably hand over your radio duties so you can work on writing bad draft reviews about players you will never draft or coach.
Will Fuller and KeKe Coutee
(Fuller and Coutee both come in on separate wheelchairs)
Lance: Hey guys, thanks for coming in today, but why the wheelchairs?
Fuller: They want us to be super careful because, you know, we tend to get injured. I've ended up on the injured reserve pretty much every year I have ever played with Houston. We have to be careful.
Keke: Yeah, and even though I played in the last game, my hamstring could snap at any second so Brian Gaine told me to just stay in the wheelchair this off-season because I can be really good if I can just actually play in multiple games in a row.
Lance: Man, when you guys are on the field, it's a different offense! Well, you were on the field and they scored 7 in their last game, Keke. But still, you are great for PPR fantasy leagues when you are on the field. And Fuller, wow! You and Deshaun have a great chemistry. It's like the offense just hits a different level when you are on the field.
Fuller: Thanks, man. Yeah, I'm just trying to get my body right and get back on the field because I feel like me, Hop, Keke, and Demaryius Thomas can all have special years next year.
Lance: I mean… I guess. You end every season on the IR, Keke hardly played, and Thomas is coming off of an Achilles injury. If you guys are all healthy, I think this is a super explosive passing game…
Fuller: Hold up. Aren't you the same guy that tripped over a curb at the Senior Bowl last year and cracked your foot when you were falling forward trying to catch your balance?
Keke: Oh damn! I heard about that! Yeah, man I heard scouts were clowning you because you had to get put into a walking boot and then you had it on for like 3 months… because you tripped over a curb. Injury prone, hatin' ass.
(they both shake their damn heads and roll out of the exit interview)
Lance: Hey, Deshaun! Thanks for coming by to talk. So overall, you came back down to earth a little bit from that crazy start last year, but I thought you had a solid year. Your offensive line wasn't great and you had a bunch of injuries at receiver, but you lowered your interception percentage and I felt like you had some special flashes.
Watson: Please keep that same energy next year.
Lance: I don't really know what that means. What energy do I have?
Watson: What else.
Lance: I would like to see you continue to grow and improve at getting rid of the football a little earlier and recognizing blitzes so you can beat defenses for bigger plays.
Watson: (chuckling) Like I said, keep this same energy next year. We had a great year this year and I still have to deal with doubters and haters.
Lance: I don't know about all that, but maybe if y'all stop letting the Colts be your dad here in NRG, we can buy in a little more.
Watson: Wait a minute. Who are you? Like, I seriously don't know you or who you are?
Lance: I'm glad you asked, I host the top-rated morning show from 7-9 AM every day.
Watson: You work two hours a day and you're in here telling me how to be a quarterback?
Lance: Yes, but it's a hard two hours. I also gave you a late first round draft grade on NFL.com in my draft profile.
Watson: I have to go work out and keep building on an 11-win season. After that, I'm going to donate my playoff check to people in need. What are you going to do after this?
Lance: Well… I… I'm probably going to play some online poker and get into a YouTube rabbit hole of Karma videos and rope swing fails.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.