FALCON POINTS

Texans dismal performance on offense leads to 16-10 loss to Panthers

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The Texans offense was awful on Sunday, and it led to a 16-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Here is how it all played out:

Offense

The positives: There were none. Well, OK, they did have a decent run game, putting up 136 yards and averaging 6.2 per carry. It was almost useless considering that Deshaun Watson played one of the worst games of his career, including a late fumble that ended all hope. The offensive line was bad, allowing six sacks. The receivers could not get open. Untimely penalties were everywhere. Simply put, this loss was on the offense.

The negatives: Trick plays can be game changers both ways. Having DeAndre Hopkins throw a pass wound up being a massive fail. Hopkins was picked, and it led to the Panthers first half touchdown. Was it a bad call? It was certainly a bad result. The Texans had some momentum going after Whitney Mercilus forced yet another fumble. On first and 10 from the 24, that might not have been the time to do it. The play was supposed to catch Carolina off guard, but it didn't. Meanwhile, the old problems of protecting Watson were back as he was sacked three times in the first half, six times in the game. Watson was off all game. He missed on two deep passes that could have been touchdowns. Since the first game against the Saints, where they scored 14 first half points (none in the first quarter), they scored six in the first half against Jacksonville, seven in the first half against LA, and 3 against the Panthers. When you prep all week, you have to think your offense will be ready to produce early. That has not been the case.

Defense

The positives: The Texans forced three Kyle Allen fumbles. The offense did not capitalize until J.J. Watt forced one that led to the Texans first touchdown.

The negatives: Christian McCaffrey is a tough matchup for anyone, and the Texans did their best to contain him. Still, he had a big day, as he has against almost everyone. The Texans always struggle covering running backs in the passing game, and McCaffrey is as good as it comes. He had 8 catches for 83 yards. They weren't perfect, but the defense played well enough to win the game, even though Watt missed a chance to get his offense the ball back late in the game when Kyle Allen ducked a sack and completed a pass that iced the game. It's not like the offense would have done anything anyway.

The bottom line

The Texans continue to play inconsistent football. When the offense is playing well, the defense struggles. When the defense plays well, the Texans offense plays poorly. It has been the exact opposite of "complimentary football."

Bill O'Brien's trick play is debatable. What isn't is he had yet another ill advised challenge in the fourth quarter on an amazing catch by McCaffrey. It was clearly a catch and challenging made little sense. Little decisions like that can lose football games.

It left the Texans no timeouts to stop the clock and the Panthers were able to run out most of the clock.

The Texans are that "almost" team; they "almost" made big plays several times on Sundays. But they came up short. The Panthers made plays to win the game - McCaffrey's juggling catch, Allen's great escape - and that was the difference.

The good news? At 2-2 they are still in the hunt in the AFC South. The bad? You just can't win football games consistently playing like this. Watson has to be much better for this team to have a chance. It was a shame to waste such a solid defensive performance, but that's what happened.

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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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