January 3, 2018
Divorce, Texans Style
by Bob Hulsey
The Texans expected 2017 to be a difficult year but they expected much of it to be about breaking in a new quarterback. Once rookie Deshaun Watson took a couple of games to learn, he turned out to be the best thing about the future of the club. Unfortunately, he also snapped his ACL and became a spectator after seven weeks, leading Houston to drop eight of nine to close a 4-12 nightmare season.
The defense resembled a M*A*S*H unit with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus going down in the same week. Brian Cushing sat out his second PED suspension. Many names showed up in the Texans’ defense that had casual fans asking “who’s he?”.
The season began with the pall of Hurricane Harvey glowering over them and finished with a rift the size of the Rio Grande between head coach Bill O’Brien and General Manager Rick Smith. While O’Brien was long rumored to be headed out of town, he received a critical endorsement from Watson. Meanwhile, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer so owner Bob McNair worked out an agreement that kept both men in the organization without putting either in the other’s way.
Smith is taking leave to tend to his ailing wife and we wish the best for their household. Health is the most important thing and cancer can be both a daunting and expensive challenge. Smith is doing the right thing and McNair is doing the right thing by allowing Smith to stay and be covered by the team's insurance.
O'Brien, meanwhile, gets the chance to help select a new general manager (who may or may not be interim) and work towards rebuilding the roster in his own image.
At least the Texans won't have to scout any players expected to go in the first day of the draft. They lost their first and second round choices to Cleveland in separate deals but, cry not, since the second deal is what landed Watson who is going to be the lynchpin of the rebuild effort.
Houston is in the top third of available cap reserves and, if they shed Cushing's contract, they'll be able to turn next spring into their own personal Christmas season. They'll have a lot to shop for, especially linemen on both sides of the ball. Perhaps they'll start by extending the contracts of DeAndre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney so they can focus on football instead of paychecks.
Two special teams coaches and the running backs coach were relieved of their duties on Tuesday while defensive coach Mike Vrabel and quarterback coach Sean Ryan are both getting interviews from other clubs.
Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers was fired after a long, successful tenure up north. He was the first head coach in Texans history and still widely respected in the league. Landing him in some capacity could breathe new life into the Texans defense.
Next year's schedule looks especially soft despite a resurgence by Jacksonville and Tennessee. If the club can keep key players healthy and if Watson continues his development, Houston's lapse out of the playoffs could be a brief one.
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