Caveat ahead of the rest of this column: So much is trivial relative to the life and death and other critical Covid-19 pandemic issues, but sports matter as passions of so many, as multi-billion dollar businesses with impact on many other businesses, and beyond. All things in context.
The Texans acquisition of wide receiver Brandin Cooks from the Los Angeles Rams doesn't undo the dim-bulbness of the DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals deal, but Bill O'Brien made a reasonable though hardly risk-free deal in getting Cooks. It nets out that basically Emperor O dealt Hopkins for Cooks, running back David Johnson, and a 17 slot move up in the 2nd round. That's not a good exchange for the Texans, but not as bad as the Hopkins trade by itself.
It is amusing that Cooks is in the middle of a five year 81 million dollar contract, the exact length and dollar figures of the Hopkins contract O'Brien chose to unload. Cooks makes eight million in 2020, then has zero remaining guaranteed dollars left over the remaining three seasons of his contract. If kept on with that deal Cooks would average 13 mil per season covering 2021 through 2023. Hopkins averages about 13.3 mil over the three remaining seasons on his deal.
The Texans give up the lower of their two second round picks for Cooks, so they still have the 40th overall selection in the draft two weeks from now. With Cooks, Randall Cobb, Will Fuller, and Kenny Stills the Texans have their primary wide receiving corps settled, so their top draft pick can now be earmarked toward a pass rusher, a guard, or the always popular "best player available."
What does it say more about a player who is traded three times in just over three years: bad that teams feel like they're better off moving the guy, or good that there's been consistent interest in acquiring his services? Cooks was a Saints first round pick in 2014. After the 2016 season they dealt him to the Patriots, after just one season in New England Cooks was dealt to the Rams, and now the Rams deal him here. Cooks comes to the Texans off of his lowest reception total season and lowest touchdown catch season of his career. Oh, he's had at least five concussions during his six seasons in the NFL. However, before missing two games last season to a concussion Cooks played all 16 regular season games four consecutive seasons. In the last three of those he topped 1000 yards in receptions and averaged at least 15 yards per catch.
Had a little fun with this on the radio show Thursday: uniform number 34 for Houston is the overwhelming iconic pro sports number (Hakeem Olajuwon, Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan). What's the second greatest number in Houston sports annals? What cities can even remotely rival Houston 34 with numbers of their own? Three athletes, three different sports. Thoughts below in Buzzer Beaters.
Forbes magazine this week released its annual valuation estimates for the 30 Major League Baseball franchises. It ranks the Astros 11th at 1.85 billion dollars. That's right about triple what Jim Crane and his partners paid for it less than nine years ago. The Yankees top the list as always, at five billion. Four other teams are worth more than a billion more than the Astros: Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, and Giants. Forbes's call on the most profitable franchise for 2019? The Astros, at 99 million. Crane was denied in his prior effort to buy the Texas Rangers. Before Covid-19 this was to have been an Astros at Rangers weekend, the Astros' first visit to the Rangers' new retractable roof ballpark.
So, ESPN is televising a two hour Horse competition among four NBA players, two former NBA players, and two WNBA players. Sunday's quarterfinals will be a two hour broadcast. Two hours for four games of Horse? Four games of Hippopotamus shouldn't take two hours! Four games of Parastratiosphecomvia stratiophecomyioides? Maybe. That's the longest named animal species. A type of fly. I can't see Horse holding my attention much longer (which is not long at all) than the NBA 2K video tournament ESPN is showing. Tough being the Worldwide Leader In Sports without any real sports.
Buzzer Beaters: 1. Modern Family had its series finale this week. Top 10 sitcom of all-time. Maybe top 5. 2. Number 2 Houston uniform number is number 1. Warren Moon, Tracy McGrady, Carlos Correa 3. Best other city sports numbers: Bronze-Atlanta 21 (Warren Spahn, Dominique Wilkins, Deion Sanders) Silver- Chicago 23 (Michael Jordan, Ryne Sandberg, Devin Hester) Gold-Los Angeles 32 (Magic Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Marcus Allen)
- In a week that is in large part about being thankful for the good things we are fortunate to have in life, Texans’ fans can have an extra helping of glee. After three years of enduring an absolute turkey of a franchise, it is certainly a football blessing to have the Texans gobble up three straight wins to get to 6-4 and make it a legitimately big game Sunday versus 7-3 Jacksonville at NRG Stadium.
Should the Texans beat the Jaguars for a second time, they sweep the season series and take over first place in the AFC South. Raise your hands if back in early September you had this as a likely scenario. Hands down liars! With six more games to play after Sunday it’s not as if the Texans clinch the division with a win, but it clearly positions them to take the division and go from last to first as the Jaguars did from 2021 to last season. Among the Texans’ final six games, only Cleveland is an opponent currently with a winning record. The Broncos have won four in a row to enter the wild card race at 5-5, but that game is in Houston. Then the Texans play at the offensively impotent Jets and the dead in the water Titans. The Deshaun Watson-less Browns are here Christmas Eve before the Texans get their second game with the Titans, ahead of the season finale at the presently 5-5 Colts. That is a very favorable schedule. With a win over the Jags Sunday, the Texans finishing 11-6 becomes very plausible. That would force the Jaguars to win five of their final six games, which include playing at Cleveland and a home date vs. the Ravens. Jacksonville’s other four games project as wins: home games vs. the no-Joe Burrow Bengals and the horrible Panthers, road games at Tampa Bay and Tennessee.
On the flip side, if the Jaguars come here and win Sunday, they come relatively close to putting away the division. The Jags’ would leave with a two game lead, and a split with the Texans would give the Jacksonville the tiebreaker via better divisional record, unless they somehow lose at Tennessee in their season finale.
Beating the Jags again doesn’t figure to be as easy as it turned out to be for the Texans in Florida back in September. The Texans won 37-17 despite being outgained 404 yards to 366. After getting out to a 17-0 lead, the Texans saw Jacksonville draw within 17-10 with 4:35 to go in the third quarter. Then Andrew Beck shockingly rumbled 85 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return. Thereafter the outcome was never in doubt. The Texans were turnover-free in the game, the Jaguars coughed it up twice. With C.J. Stroud coming off of a three interceptions game you know taking care of the ball is a point of re-emphasis this week.
The Jaguars are a perfect 4-0 on the road, one of the road games being a road trip not a true road game. They beat the Buffalo Bills in London.
If C.J Stroud opted to take the rest of the season off, he’d still have the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award just about sewn up. Fellow freshman Texan Tank Dell is in the hunt for runner-up. The dynamic 165 pound former Houston Cougar has six touchdown catches. That equals the rookie TD haul total of Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins combined. Johnson had four TD grabs as a rookie in 2003, Hopkins just two as a rook in 2013. Dell is on pace for 10 touchdown catches. The schedule being 17 games now impacts this stuff of course, but Dell missed the Saints game while in concussion protocol. In the Super Bowl era, only nine first year wide receivers have cracked double digits in TD receptions. Randy Moss blew away the field with his epic 17 TD catch rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings in 1998. Next with 13 are Ja’Marr Chase two years go with the Bengals and the begoggled John Jefferson with the Chargers in 1978. Odell Beckham and Mike Evans caught 12 apiece as rookies, Mike Williams 11. Calvin Ridley, Daryl Turner, and Sammy White each snared 10. White did it in a 14 game schedule.
Rams rookie fifth round pick Puka Nacua is Dell’s chief competition for rookie wideout of the year. Nacua is on pace for a whopping 117 receptions for more than 1500 yards.
A Thanksgiving-related note/quasi prediction. If the Texans ultimately finish second in the division, here’s a guess that they play at the Arlington Cowboys Turkey Day 2024. The Texans next season will play a game at the NFC East team that finishes in its division this year in the same place the Texans do theirs. The Cowboys are going to be second behind Philadelphia in the NFC East. C.J. Stroud’s arrival means no more zero nationally televised games for the Texans. A Texans-Cowboys holiday tilt makes sense. The Texans have played two Thanksgiving Day games, both at Detroit.
Looking for more Texans coverage?
Texans on Tap is the weekly Texan-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule a first video segment goes up Monday on the SportsMapTexans YouTube channel.