It was a brutal afternoon of football. Knile Davis immediately staking the Chiefs to a 7-nothing lead. Brian Hoyer playing the worst game anyone could fathom at quarterback. Using JJ Watt, a defensive lineman, on a direct snap during a crucial first and goal play. Travis Kelce racing through the Texans defense as if he taken the baton from his own ghost in Week 1. Watt, for the first time in his NFL career, getting hurt to the point that he had to leave a game.
In all, a 30-zip embarrassment that sent Bill O’Brien’s team tumbling out of the playoffs. I think it’s a good thing for the long-term success of this franchise, as long as the coaches, front office, and owner put it in the right perspective.
For me, nothing that occurred on Saturday changes my overall thought process on the team. They need a franchise quarterback. They’ve needed a franchise quarterback since halfway through the 2013 season. The owner says they need a franchise quarterback. The 2016 offseason is when a significant move will be made on that front.
Of the 12 playoff teams this year, the two with the lowest point differentials were the Texans (+26) and the Redskins (+9). It’s not surprising that both lost home games during wild card weekend. They’re not at the same level as the other teams in the bracket. These other teams are in a different class. The AFC South and NFC East were the two weakest divisions in the NFL this year, and that was borne out over this past weekend.
Despite that reality, I give O’Brien a lot of credit for getting this team to the playoffs. You don’t get to choose your division; the only thing in your power is to win it, which the Texans did with the depleted AFC South. O’Brien turned a 2-5 grease fire into a solid football team that reeled off 7 wins in 9 games.
However, the most dangerous thing you can do with that type of success is to think it demonstrates that this team has somehow arrived. It hasn’t. The offense ranked 24th in overall efficiency on Football Outsiders: 26th in rush offense and 22nd in pass offense. The special teams finished dead last in the NFL, one year after finishing 28th.
How many players on the Texans offense would start for a majority of NFL teams? Let’s go through the list: DeAndre Hopkins. Duane Brown. Probably Brandon Brooks. Maybe Ben Jones or Derek Newton, depending on the team. Of the 11 starting spots on offense, the Texans have 3 players who would start on most NFL teams. How do you win at the top of the NFL with that? You can’t.
Even if Houston had shown up and played an outstanding game and beaten KC, that wouldn’t change any of this. A massive influx of talent is needed on the offensive side of the football. This team desperately needs a feature back, with the continued injury issues that Arian Foster has dealt with. This team desperately needs more youth and speed at wide receiver. Tight end? I’m demolishing that house and rebuilding from the ground floor.
If this team had advanced farther, and somehow sprung a shocking upset in the next round, all of this stuff might be easier to ignore. I had somebody ask me on MaD Radio last week about how the Texans could move on from Hoyer if the team reached the AFC Championship Game. Seriously.
O’Brien and GM Rick Smith should use the 30-0 loss as a significant data point and an indication about where this roster is. They can’t pretend that winning 4 games a year against the Jaguars and Titans and compiling 9-7 records are a springboard to Super Bowl contention. They aren’t. The Texans have a very good defense that should improve moving forward, with some caveats on the injury front. This team has one of the bright stars offensively in the NFL, and Hopkins is only 23 years old. O’Brien has made some significant mistakes, both in-game and with the roster, but I believe he has a chance to be a very good head coach. However, the Texans weren’t a Super Bowl contender on Friday, and the events on Saturday demonstrate that they have a long way to go.