3 headlines, 2 questions, 1 bet

Plenty to fix as loss resets Texans

Jadeveon Clowney was in the spotlight. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

The win streak is over but there is still plenty to play for in Houston. The Texans try to restart the streak and I have three headlines, two questions, and one bet for you on this Monday.

"Our first down offense was terrible"

Bill O'Brien isn't wrong about that.

"Our first down offense was terrible," he said Sunday. "I mean, it was awful. We lost yards on first down, I mean, probably between eight to 10 times today."

The Texans saw 34 first downs in this game. They lost yards on seven of those plays and had one pre-snap penalty on first down. They gained no yards on five of those plays. They gained between 1-3 yards five times as well. So, half the Texans first downs went for less than three yards and 12 went for no gain or negative yards. That, is indeed, terrible.

The Colts had one hell of a plan to stop the run on first down and executed it well. The Texans had some success late in the game with rushing the ball, but by then the clock is working against them to a large degree. Credit to the Colts, they made the Texans offensive line struggle in both facets of the game. It was a game film the Texans will want to burn, especially when they had so much success against Cleveland and even the success earlier in the year against Indianapolis.

This just isn't an offense explosive enough to handle playing behind the chains consistently.

Clowney's Bad Penalty, Good Game

People are going to be upset, rightfully so, about the penalty late by Jadeveon Clowney which allowed the Colts to run the clock out and secure their win. It wasn't likely the Texans would stop the Colts, Indianapolis seemed to have the answers on Sunday, but they didn't get the chance. It is a bad moment for a player who can't win in the court of public opinion with Texans fans.

Bill O'Brien wasn't pinning it all on Clowney.

"JD's a very aggressive player," he said. "He's made a lot of plays for us, we're not going to – we didn't lose the game because of that."

Clowney had a good game though. Make no mistake about it. He was the only player credited with multiple hurries (according to Pro Football Focus) and had many near sacks and tackles for a loss. He drew the running back's attention on Watt's sack and he destroyed an escape lane for Luck on Covington's sack. The way the Texans use Clowney will never earn him eye-popping numbers. He destroys rushing attacks and makes the job of other pass rushers easier.

He's always going to be highly criticized. He's a former No. 1 overall pick who was billed as a pass rushing monster and just doesn't light up the box scores with sacks. Until he puts those up, fans will zero in on the mistakes and what isn't there. It will be an interesting stretch for Clowney and the Texans with free agency looming for him.

Luck the Class of the Division, Again

The Texans very well may never have the best quarterback in the division. Ever. The Colts had Peyton Manning for years and then ended up with Andrew Luck. Despite the emergence of Deshaun Watson, he has a tall mountain to climb to claim the crown of best in the AFC South.

Luck, is again, a superstar at the quarterback position. He's healthy. He's going to finish with career highs, or close to it, in almost every signifigance passing category. I'm also not convinced their team is even that good. Their running back situation is average at best. T.Y. Hilton is the only premier wideout for them. Eric Ebron is a great player with Luck and the Colts. Their offensive line has been very solid this season. The defense hasn't done them a ton of favors but at-times, are good enough. With Luck already paid, and huge cap space this offseason, the Colts will be a tough out in the AFC going forward.

What the hell is going on with Aaron Colvin?

Aaron Colvin signed a four year $34 million deal this offseason with the Texans with $18 million guaranteed. On Sunday, back from injury, he played 10 snaps on special teams. If he is healthy enough to play special teams he is healthy enough to help on defense. The Texans invested in him, one of the bigger free agent contracts in recent memory, and it simply hasn't worked out. Before the injury, Colvin hadn't been good. It isn't like the Texans were perfect in the secondary against the Colts. Surely something Colvin brings to the table could have helped. It is a strange situation and should be worth monitoring. Colvin had plenty to prove getting out of the shadow of the cornerbacks in Jacksonville so I can't imagine he's taking the special teams relegation well.

What are the chances the Texans lose the three seed in the AFC?

Low, but it isn't impossible. The Steelers loss to the Raiders helps a ton in establishing a lead and keeping it. Pittsburgh and Baltimore both have seven wins. The Steelers have games with the Patriots and Saints left while the Ravens take on the Chargers as their lone playoff-bound opponent. Stranger things have happened but with the Jets and Jaguars as two of the remaining opponents for the Texans, it seems likely the Texans could lock up the three seed and avoid the drop to four. Catching the Patriots gets tougher as the Texans will need to play one weekend where they win and New England loses.

I bet Texans handle their business with authority Saturday against the Jets. The Jets are going to fire their head coach at the end of the season. They may fire their general manager as well. They are poorly coached and make far too many mistakes to hang around with a good team. Sam Darnold has been a nice rookie, but he's just that, a rookie. I am not saying I feel like I need the Texans to blow out the Jets to make a statement, but a sound win would go a long way. Something similar to the Cleveland win or event the Miami win would inspire a lot of people who were skeptical of the win streak.

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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