By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Houston is a football-crazy town, of course, but the Texans have taken so long to get even mediocre that the fans are starting to get testy. If they bumble their way once again to an 8-8 record and miss the playoffs, look for yet another new coach (their third) in the eight-year history of the franchise.
Attendance has grown spotty — late-season games against blah opponents tend to expose huge swaths of empty seats. Talk-show callers who once began each year with optimistic predictions of the playoffs, even when that was a pipe dream, are now grumbling darkly about enduring another crappy year. (Click here to check out predictions from around town.)
The relationship between Houston and the Texans started off so well. What went wrong? We mean, besides terrible performances by quarterbacks, general managers and coaches.
Only history can hold the answer. So let us take a look at The History of the Houston Texans.
Prehistory: Good Thing Los Angeles Is Smarter Than Us
No one needs to be told that Houston once had a glorious football team called the Oilers. They never really won anything in modern times, but they were colorful, with team executives mooning wedding ceremonies at the team hotel, hugely dramatic playoff chokes, the world's worst fight song and an owner who just looked like a skeevy oilfield operator.
It turns out you could judge Bud Adams by his cover. He got taxpayers to renovate the Dome, taking out any of its charm, in return for a Super Bowl that never came. He then demanded a new stadium.
In a rare bout of common sense, Houstonians told him to take a hike. So he did.
That scared everyone a few years later when Astros owner Drayton McLane threatened to move, so we approved a new baseball stadium. The fine print on the referendum included a new football stadium if Houston ever got an NFL team, but no one thought that would happen so they didn't pay much attention.
The NFL, of course, desperately wanted to award its 32nd franchise to Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest TV market. The league tried everything to put a team there, all the while keeping Houston dangling as a backup. We were the safety school, the zitty girl waiting for the cheerleader to turn down our hoped-for prom date. And when L.A. decided against giving away hundreds of millions of dollars to billionaires, we yee-hawed our way as fast as we could to get the money into the fat cats' pockets.
That's just the kind of folks we are.
From then on it was a series of breathless announcements, all leaked first to the Houston Chronicle's John McClain, about potential coaches and GMs and team names and colors. (Among the finalists for team name were the Apollos, the Bobcats and the Wildcatters, so we got off easy.)
How bad did it get? The Texans had a big ceremony (complete with ZZ Top) to announce the new colors, which were — stunningly — red, white and blue. The Chron headlined the event "A Day in the Sun: Texans' Red, White and Blue Draw Raves" and quoted fans loving the colors, in great detail, in four separate stories placed suspiciously near advertisements on where to buy the new gear.
Luckily, columnist Mickey Herskowitz was there to provide some sober, post-9/11 perspective. "The team's majority owner, Bob McNair, and his staff," he wrote, "are to be commended for postponing the unveiling, which had been scheduled for Sept. 12, the day after terrorists attacked New York and Washington."
We're sure such bold, selfless action will be prominent in McNair's obit, should he ever actually die. (Another favorite bit of Chron-McNair lore: The paper published a glowing editorial praising him for naming a (solitary) Hispanic to the team's 11-member board. McNair only did so after complaints that the board lacked any Hispanic, complaints which were never published in the Chron.)
So, thanks to a referendum where the subject of a football stadium never came up, thanks to a California city that discovered it could live without football just fine for the price being asked, thanks to relentless and pathetic slobbering by the hometown paper, we got the Texans.
And things haven't been the same since.
The First Season: A God Walks Among Us
He came from California. He played his ball at Fresno State, incubator to such future NFL stars as...as...well, we'll get back to you on that.
David Carr was the first-ever pick by the Texans in the college draft, and he proved a worthy follow-up to their first-ever pick in the expansion draft, Tony Boselli, who never played a single down for the team because of injuries.
Reporters eagerly covered every practice pass Carr threw; they sat with his family as they watched meaningless preseason games; they informed us all of the stunning career we were about to watch unfold.