In our cover story this week, we take a look at the Houston Texans' brief-but-tangled history of breaking our hearts. A franchise that seems to begin each year riding on seemingly reasonable hopes of improvement consistently ends it with waves of disappointment.
We also rounded up some predictions for the coming season; something like 10-6 seemed to be the conventional wisdom.
We didn't just ask experts; we also sought guidance from politicians. With mixed results.
Congressman Gene Green happily chatted away about his days selling soda at Jeppesen Stadium in order to see the Oilers; Congressman Al Green was terser but still gave it a shot.
Others completely ducked.
Mayoral candidate Annise Parker passed; an aide said she was more of an Astros fan.
Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry also decided not to play.
A few predictions came in after our deadline. Here they are:
Mayoral candidate Peter Brown: "My prediction: 10-6. One big reason is Andre Johnson. Some folks out there still don't know who he is, but like me, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with this fall. I think a real breakout season from him, strong leadership from Matt Schaub and a powerful young defense led by Williams, Ryans, and Okoye will make the Texans a powerhouse."
Lance Zierlein of 1560 The Game: "I look for a 9-7 record from the Texans this year. While their schedule starts off easier than it has in the past, there is always that chance that a hurricane could come in and wipe out what is left of the Texans defensive tackles after the Saints preseason game. I'm just sayin'."
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Blogger "Vinny," administrator of the official message board of the Texans:
9-7. The Texans are finally good enough to compete for a playoff spot like three fourths of the league teams and have an offense that is capable of winning a few games by themselves, but the defensive unit doesn't look like a unit that is going to stop the run as long as Okoye is starting and the secondary may struggle until Robinson and Reeves are back in the fold and the team gets at least average safety play.
All you have to do is watch Okoye get pushed around like a lawnmower on running downs to come to the conclusion that he isn't strong enough to handle NFL Guards. It's enough to make one yearn for the workmanlike and underappreciated Seth Paine. This synergistic cocktail of weak Tackle play and spotty secondary play is enough to keep the team from winning the highly competitive AFC South, where all four teams are going to beat each other up this season as the Titans regress, the Colts transition and the Jaguars bounce back from their injury plagued season of last year.
On the other side of the ball the Texans are Jekyll and Hyde. Between the twenties, the Texans are an elite offensive team as Gary Kubiak's offense is masterful in open space, creating doubt and hesitation in the minds of the defenders on any given snap. Once in the red zone, teams no longer have to defend the Texans vertically and the finesse and nuance of Kubiak's scheme breaks down as physical play is more important in short space. There are times when I think the team has a better shot at scoring from the opponent's twenty yard line than it does inside the opponents ten. Traditionally zone blocking teams struggle in short yardage situations and in the red zone and so far Kubiak's Texans are no different.
The pessimism indicated above seems rampant this year -- fans have moved on to a "show-me" attitude. Maybe that's what the Texans need.
Well, that, and Matt Schaub staying healthy.