The Houston Texans are in the process of hiring a new general manager, we all know this. The search took a bit of a hit over the weekend when at least three candidates — Joe Douglas of Philadelphia, and Nick Cerasio and Monti Ossenfort of New England — were blocked by their current employers from interviewing for the job, as those teams are fortunate enough to be in the playoffs right now.
So how close are the Texans to returning to the playoffs? They just finished a 4-12 season which would have them picking fourth in the draft, if they still had their first round pick. However, we know that record is more than a little misleading thanks to the injury to Deshaun Watson. The Texans went 1-9 in the ten games not started by Watson. I think it's safe to say that Watson finds a way to win at least three or four of those games ten games he missed.
The one thing about finishing 4-12, though, and particularly 1-9 in the games without Watson, is that the world (and future Texans general management) got a true, clear look at the talent level of this team sans Watson (and J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, for that matter).
Spoiler alert — IT AIN'T GOOD.
There are probably many fun ways we can summarize and quantify the dilapidated state of and lack of talent on the Texans' roster, but for me, the easiest way to do it is via Pro Football Focus' player scores. For those who don't know, PFF is a site where analysts watch every player on every snap of every game and give them a grade based on their overall performance in the game. The scoring system probably isn't perfect, t's very subjective, but they're the only site that rates every player to this level of detail, to my knowledge, and I think they do a pretty good job.
Certainly, for purposes of this exercise, it makes the point that the next general manager has a LOT of work to do. The scoring system is a lot like a college course — 90 and up, is like an A; 85-90, a B; 80-85, a B-; and so forth, up to scores below 60 essentially being a failing grade.
As you'll see below, aside from Deshaun Watson, whose grade of 75.1 (about a C) is tough to fathom, they're pretty spot on with what our eyes tell us about this Texans roster — there are a few foundational players, and a ton of upgrades needed. With that in mind, here are the Texans' PFF grades, with my further comments following:
Deshaun Watson (75.1, 29th out of 40)
Tom Savage (71.1, 32nd out of 40)
Lamar Miller (77.9, 24th out of 61)
Andre Ellington (56.6, 51st out of 61)
Alfred Blue (73.4, NR)
D'Onta Foreman (56.3, NR)
Jay Prosch, FB (45.2, 9th out of 18)
DeAndre Hopkins (90.6, 4th out of 120)
Will Fuller (73.0, 55th out of 120)
Braxton Miller (47.0, 97th out of 120)
Andre Ellington (46.7, 99th out of 120)
Chris Thompson (61.6, NR)
Tyler Ervin (55.7, NR)
Cobb Hamilton (53.0, NR)
Ryan Griffin (53.6, 36th out of 72)
Stephen Anderson (47.1, 49th out of 72)
C.J. Fiedorowicz (63.4, NR)
Nick Martin (44.9, 30th out of 38)
Greg Mancz (39.0, 37th out of 38)
Jeff Allen (38.4, 73rd out of 82)
Xavier Su'a-Filo (35.8, 80th out of 82)
David Quessenberry (51.0, NR)
Kyle Fuller (48.1, NR)
Chris Clark (37.7, 80th out of 86)
Breno Giacomini (32.7, 85th out of 86)
Kendall Lamm (53.6, NR)
Julien Davenport (47.6, MR)
D.J. Reader (84.2, 22nd out of 125)
Brandon Dunn (71.5, 89th out of 125)
Carlos Watkins (71.3, 90th out of 125)
Joel Heath (44.6, 118th out of 125)
J.J. Watt (89.3, NR)
Christian Covington (83.2, NR)
Jadeveon Clowney (88.3, 13th out of 109)
Brennan Scarlett (55.2, 91st out of 109)
Whitney Mercilus 75.1, NR)
Ufomba Kamalu (48.3, NR)
Zach Cunningham (80.6, 21st out of 88)
Bernardrick McKinney (79.7, 26th out of 88)
Dylan Cole (78.0, NR)
Brian Peters (61.6, NR)
Brian Cushing (52.0, NR)
Jelani Jenkins (43.7, NR)
Johnathan Joseph (75.7, 67th out of 121)
Kareem Jackson (52.2, 95th out of 121)
Kevin Johnson (32.0, 121st out of 121)
Marcus Williams (63.6, NR)
Andre Hal (78.5, 43rd out of 87)
Marcus Gilchrist (77.2, 51st out of 87)
Eddie Pleasant (77.3, 47th out of 87)
Corey Moore (79.2, NR)
Ibrahim Campbell (75.8, NR)
Treston Decoud (72.6, NR)
Kurtis Drummond (60.5, NR)
Ok, here are my observations:
1. The Texans have 31 players who played enough snaps to qualify for ranking at their respective positions. If you're looking for a breakdown of the Texans' roster composition, in terms of quality with respect to those 31 players, it goes like this
90-100: 1 player
85-89.9: 1 player
80-84.9: 2 players
70-79.9: 11 players
60-69.9: 0 players
59.9 or lower: 16 players
So more than half of the Texans' qualifying roster had failing grades, and in many cases, we aren't talking about near misses at scoring a passing grade. We are talking MAJOR failure, like grades in the 30's and 40's. One area, in particular, is of concern....
2. The offensive line.... my God, the offensive line. We know how bad it looked to our eyes all season long, but PFF quantifies this in a way that makes you want to ask for punitive damages for the time you spent watching the non-Deshaun games all season. The average PFF score for the five qualifying offensive linemen was 37.9, personnel malpractice to the n-th degree. Brent Giacomini, the 85th ranked tackle out of 86, played every offensive snap this season. That's about all you need to know about the Texans' roster depth this past season.
3. Add in the fact that both of the qualifying tight ends, Griffin and Anderson, along with their primary hybrid offensive linemen (Davenport, Quessenberry, Kyle Fuller) all had failing grades, and that pretty much explains the offensive failures without Deshaun Watson's playmaking ability.
4. We all know that Kevin Johnson wasn't the Kevin Johnson we were all expecting this season. Hell, Kevin Johnson himself said it in every interview over the last four weeks of the season. He would constantly get beat in coverage and couldn't tackle to save his life. For his efforts, he is the 121st rated cornerback in the NFL.... out of 121 cornerbacks. Yuck.
5. To repeat, I have no idea what the deal is with Deshaun Watson's score. He is 29th among quarterbacks and just three spots ahead of Tom Savage. There's a glitch in the matrix somewhere. To put into perspective how absurd Watson's PFF grade is, here are all of the former Texan quarterbacks and their scores:
9. Case Keenum, 85.4
30. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 73.2
33. Brian Hoyer, 71.0
39. Brock Osweiler, 47.7
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Watson, one spot ahead of Ftizy? Makes no sense. Now, the Osweiler score... THAT makes sense.
6. Other noteworthy former Texans:
* Duane Brown, 77.9 (26th among tackles)
* Brandon Brooks, 88.7 (4th among guards)
* Ben Jones, 74.2 (11th among centers)
* A.J. Bouye, 90.1 (6th among cornerbacks)
* Earl Mitchell, 56.5 (105th among defensive linemen)
* Connor Barwin, 42.6 (106th among edge defenders)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.