HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – If someone had stated publicly in August that the Texans will only have two wins by late November, they would have been a laughing stock. Houstonians would have defended their team with all the energy available and shouted loudly that this team will compete for the AFC Championship and possibly the Super Bowl in New York City. We did!
Quite frankly, if you weren’t challenged by, what was then, a naysayer and put in position to defend your hometown team, you’re in a class by yourself because everyone has at least one friend who doesn’t always believe. Well, unfortunately today they get to gloat not just because of what seems to be the Texans fate this season. It’s because they can say – I told you so. But, for those who believed otherwise, logical progression to the AFC Championship en route to the Super Bowl seemed reasonable.
That was the prevailing thought coming out of training camp. Seemed as though most believed the City of Houston was set for uncharted territory. At minimum, the Texans were expected to finish 8-8. No way could a team as loaded on offense with the likes of Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Ben Tate, Owen Daniels, first round draft pick, DeAndre Hopkins, and a decent offensive line, miss on a final regular season record of either 11-5, 12-4, or 13-3.
The defense, most figured, would pick up where they left off in 2012. J.J Watt made mention of matching or exceeding his sack total of 20.5 from a year ago and the Texans defense would rank in the top 5 once again with linebacker Brian Cushing as the leader and main man of four in the second layer. Antonio Smith would anchor the defensive end spot opposite Watt and continue taking on double teams. Undersized nose tackle Earl Mitchell would control the middle in the Wade Phillips 3-4 defense.
The secondary with Jackson and Joseph at the corners would be air-tight. All they needed was a quarterback in the secondary. So, the Texans sought the services of future Hall of Fame free safety Ed Reed and signed him to a three-year, one-year guaranteed deal.
The Texans won the first two games at San Diego and versus Tennessee. Since, they have lost 9 consecutive. Worse, at 2-9 with 5 to play, salvaging an 8-8 finish is impossible. Going forward, the big question is how do the Texans twist and turn themselves out of this mess.
Here’s what we know – nothing has worked including the change at quarterback from Matt Schaub to Case Keenum. More disturbing, while Keenum dazzled at Kansas City, versus Indianapolis, and at Arizona, he didn’t look like the same Keenum against Oakland and Jacksonville. All 5 games were lost by 7 points or less.
The question still begs – what happened? How could the Texans have lost that winning feeling so fast? It’s hard to explain 2-9. The injury to Brian Cushing last season did affect the team. They lost his pro-bowl style play along with his leadership. However, they were able to struggle to 12 wins only to fizzle out and loose the final 2, only needing one win, which cost home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Cushing was lost again this season to injury and once again the defense has struggled. Losing safety Glover Quin to free agency in the off-season affected the team in hindsight as the Texans signed an aging Ed Reed only to cut him mid-season.
Key players have missed valuable playing time such as defensive back Kareem Jackson who the Texans desperately miss. Brice McCain is not the answer even on a short-term basis as he has been exposed consistently. But, the lack of good depth crosses many positions.
The running game is without pro bowler Arian Foster and Ben Tate is playing admirably with broken ribs. Tight End Owen Daniels is out. Backup Garrett Graham has had a chance to make his presence felt but not to the point of being a threat to Daniels. Griffin is going to be good but he’s a year away.
What happened prior to the Texans’ game in Kansas City regarding three players cut from the team for violating team rules adds more wood to the fire. Undrafted rookie running back Cierre Wood, along with rookie linebackers Willie Jefferson, and third round pick Sam Montgomery, were cut for allegedly smoking marijuana.
Rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins showed flashes early. However, he was benched during the Raiders game for not totally understanding his route assignments. Regardless, Hopkins has limitless talent and needs to work more closely with Andre Johnson to learn how to become a great receiver.
Speaking of Johnson, he and Schaub exchanged words as time expired during the Raiders game which led to his exit from the field to the locker-room before the end of regulation. It’s safe to assume that the two have worked out their issues, maybe. When asked if he wants to remain in Houston after the loss, his response was “I have to play my contract out.” After Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville, Johnson said “we suck” in reference to the offense.
WHAT TO DO
Those are items that have contributed to 9 consecutive loses. The Texans must find a way back to victory lane. Finishing 2-14 would be total disaster. Next, they desperately need a quarterback because it’s clear that Schaub nor Keenum are the answer. There will be plenty in the draft. Third on that list, key players must get healthy and four, solid backups are needed. However, it’s probably reasonable to look to 2014 for key players to return.
Gary Kubiak is still the head coach. He’s a good man in a tough situation and owner Bob McNair has supported him mightily. Fifth, It will be up to McNair to make the decision on Kubiak’s future. Sixth, General Manager Rick Smith will also be graded by McNair. Whether or not he’s retained is a big question as well.
Thing is, Bob McNair is also a good man who must decide whether or not Kubiak and Smith are part of the problem or part of the solution. Add to this list a huge fan base to please. Until some decisions made to help the team win, the Texans can’t and won’t be able to move in a positive direction as a franchise in the present or long term.
Good luck with nine and ten Mr. McNair. One thru eight will be tough enough for you to solve.