2012: Year of the Texans

Assessing all their strengths and weaknesses, we could be looking at a repeat or better.

2012: Year of the Texans

Check out our Texans 2012 Season Bingo Card/Drinking Game.

"I've said this many times and I think we can win any week right now and that's very encouraging. I love the way our players came in here today. It was different than it has been. It's almost like they would've loved to have gone right back to work tomorrow on next year. That's important because I feel like they think they belong now...I think they're excited about the future and excited about the team."

That's a quote from Texans head coach Gary Kubiak in his press conference following the final game of the season. Reading between the lines (hell, reading the

Any hopes of bringing a Super Bowl championship to Houston hinge on the health of quarterback Matt Schaub.
Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher
Any hopes of bringing a Super Bowl championship to Houston hinge on the health of quarterback Matt Schaub.
Linebackers Connor Barwin (left) and Brian Cushing (right) are two of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips's fiercest "Bulls on Parade"
Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher
Linebackers Connor Barwin (left) and Brian Cushing (right) are two of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips's fiercest "Bulls on Parade"

lines themselves), you can sense the confidence in Gary Kubiak's words.

We can win any week right now. Those are the words of a coach who has that twinkle in his eye, that cautious excitement that he is presiding over the foundation of the future envy of head coaches and general managers leaguewide. I think many Texan fans and league experts would agree with Kubiak's assessment were he using the words above to describe his team looking forward to 2012.

There's only one problem — that quote is from January 4, 2010. That was the day after the Texans wrapped up a 9-7 season in 2009 with a four-game winning streak and a victory over the New England Patriots.

And we all know what that cockeyed optimism coming off 2009 led to in 2010 — a horribly disappointing 6-10 record (including a 1-8 stretch after a 4-2 start), a "highlight" reel consisting of several near comebacks and numerous shots of the back of Kareem Jackson's jersey, and a defense that was so historically bad that its coordinator was spotted in a bar across the street from the team hotel in Denver in Week 16 at about two in the morning the night before the game. Witness!

Indeed, the Texans followed up their then-best 2009 season with the most disappointing season in franchise history. So when Gary Kubiak says things like the following the day after their new best season ended in 2011, with a 10-6 record and a playoff loss in Baltimore...

"I've never been around a group of guys who talk more positive about each other, about their teammates, how good a locker room we had, what type of football team we had, how they can't wait to go back and play with that group of guys."

...Why should we believe him this time?

In trying to predict the future for any entity — an athlete, a team, an actor, a musician, a share of stock — that just reached its new apex, the question you have to ask yourself is this:

Aberration or trend?

The graveyard is full of knee-jerk overreactions doused in delusions of grandeur for what wound up being a one-hit wonder. For every Star Wars fan who predicted Mark Hamill would be the breakout star after the first movie in the trilogy, there's a gloating Harrison Ford fan cackling in his face (possibly wearing a Chewbacca T-shirt, and definitely not in the presence of a woman).

From Notre Dame inking Charlie Weis to a disastrous ten-year extension seven games (and a 5-2 record) into his tenure as Fighting Irish head coach to Daryl Morey praying he got this Jeremy Lin thing right ($25 million over three years, or a million for each game Lin has started in the NBA), every evaluation or prediction made on a limited sample size boils down to that question:

Aberration or trend?

Depending on how you identify an "aberration candidate" in the NFL, the assessment process can be chilling if you're a fan of the Houston Texans. Consider this: Over the last eight seasons, 29 teams have gone from 7-9 or worse one season to 10-6 or better the following season. In other words, these teams have not just made a three-game improvement, they've also jumped figurative "tax brackets," from also-ran to likely playoff team.

In 26 of those instances, the team in question backslid to 9-7 or worse the season after its year of double-digit wins. That's 89.6 percent. In other words, for every team that turns rapid one season ascension into a trend, there are nine who turn out to be fool's gold.

Aberrations 26, Trends 3.


Heading into 2012, three teams qualify under this definition: the Lions, the 49ers and the Texans. If we believe the historical math I've outlined above to be an accurate predictor of the future, then we are closer to seeing all three of those teams regress than we are to seeing only two of them do so. And even assuming only two of these teams go backwards, it's only slightly less harrowing for Texans fans.

In short, this is some scary shit.

So the only question you undoubtedly should care about is "Why will the Houston Texans not be one of the carcasses littering Aberration Avenue?"

Well, here are a few reasons:

1. The transformation of the defense. Last season at this time, the hope was that the team would be able to parlay a ton of new defensive personnel and the addition of Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator into moderate improvement on defense, enough to win three or four more games. Well, the Texans got that and then some as their defense underwent the most rapid transformation in style and swagger since the slow-footed brawler Rocky Balboa went to Apollo Creed's gym in Compton for like two months and emerged as the Italian version of Sugar Ray Leonard in Rocky III. The Texans went from last in the league in defense in 2010 all the way up to third in 2011, and the defense was so good that the Texans were able to get by with a third-string quarterback (T.J. Yates) for the final six games of the season.

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Funny. I always thought "The Pendergast Method" was a term used for the proper way to polish silver.

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