SHOW US THE LIE

Here’s how the final Texans game could actually carry monumental weight

The Texans finish off their season against the Titans. Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images.

Sunday’s season finale isn’t a must-win game for the Houston Texans – they were the first team eliminated from playoff contention a distant memory ago.

But it should be a final verdict on whether head coach David Culley lives to coach another year in Houston or gets fired.

Sunday won’t be easy for the Texans as the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans visit NRG Stadium looking to lock up home field advantage throughout the conference playoffs, when it appears likely they’ll have Derrick Henry back. They won't be holding back or sitting key players.

The Titans are 10-point favorites, which will be the 11th time the Texans enter a game as double-digit underdogs, a tribute to their season-long troubles. In fact, the Texans were favored only one time all season. They were -2.5 points favorites over the grounded Jets back in November, when they courageously overcame the odds and lost at home, 21-14.

There is a prevailing view in the media that the Texans already have decided to bring back Culley next season. The view appears to be based on one story based on one unnamed source.

Let’s assume the story is accurate and owner Cal McNair and his brainy trust believe that Culley has done enough to deserve another shot. What does management find so enchanting about Culley?

Is it Culley’s dazed and confused grasp of NFL rules? The head-scratching play calling? His penchant for running the ball up the middle on first down? His repeated mea culpas, “I need to do a better job.” The blowout losses? The -169 point differential? His command of the locker room where players squawk back during team meetings? Suspending Justin Reid, the Texans’ nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award (the league’s good citizenship award) for disciplinary reasons?

Is Culley, whose background is on offense, being rewarded for lighting up the scoreboard with imaginative game plans … his supposed strength?

The Texans are last in rushing and last in total yards and 30th in passing. That’s his background – offense. Prior to being hired by the Texans, Culley was in charge of wide receivers and the passing game for the run-oriented Baltimore Ravens before being hired by the Texans.

Maybe it’s because Culley took over last year’s 4-12 dumpster fire and, if the Texans lose Sunday, produced an even worse record?

Or is it the way fans have rallied behind Culley and, despite all the losing, have remained faithful to the team and continue to pack NRG Stadium on game days?

This year, according to NFL reports, the Texans have averaged 66,822 fans per game, which is 5,000 less than their equally b.s. claim from 2019.

If you believe that 66,822 fans were at Texans games this year …

The NFL bases attendance on the number of tickets sold, not butts in seats. When a camera follows a punt in the air, you can see the upper deck at NRG Stadium is practically a ghost town, and there are empty seats throughout the stadium. An accurate attendance figure would be in the 20,000 to 25,000 range and fading fast. It’s embarrassing.

But you say, why should management care if fans have given up on the Texans? Those tickets are still sold, the team still made the money. Yes, but 40,000 ghosts aren’t paying for parking, they’re not buying Ronnie Killen's delicious brisket sandwiches on the concourse, they’re not purchasing reasonably priced $50 T-shirts and they’re not renewing their season tickets. This was the first year that the Texans didn’t sell out every home game in advance.

You don’t need Stone Cold Steve Austin to tell you that’s the bottom line. This week the Texans announced that they’re “redefining” ticket sales strategy and actually lowering prices for fans who renew their tickets early. Plus there will be “new savings, more flexibility and better benefits,” including discounts on concession food and team merch. Take it from me, the hot dogs ain’t worth sitting through another boring Texans defeat.

At least the business side realizes the Texans are in deep despair. The football side needs a wrecking ball starting with the coach. Culley seems to be a nice guy. So is my neighbor who used to be a season ticket holder but now can’t name five players on the team.

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What will the Houston Texans do in the NFL Draft? What are the options for the Houston Texans with the 3rd overall pick? Sports Illustrated Texans Reporter and NFL Draft Analyst Cole Thompson joined ESPN Houston's Jake Asman, Cody Stoots, and Brad Kellner to discuss on The Wheelhouse.

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