Sean Pendergast

Five Biggest Houston Texans Stories of 2021

Without playing a single down, Deshaun Watson was still the biggest story of the year for the Texans.
Without playing a single down, Deshaun Watson was still the biggest story of the year for the Texans. Photo by Eric Sauseda
The new year is almost upon us, and despite the recent mini run of success on the field with two straight wins, I don't know if I can ever recall a fan base (the ones who've stuck around to still care, that is) who is more excited about throwing a calendar in the trash and moving forward than Texans Fans, 2021 Edition, and rightfully so.

As you'll see when we relive the "highlights" (MASSIVE air quotes around the word "highlights"), there is not a single top story for on the field performance, although I will admit the sudden late season spurt of development by Davis Mills has me feeling a certain kind of way. The good kind, to be clear. No, indeed, all of the top stories from the Texans involve some sort of off field soap opera, farewell, or mountains of legal paperwork.

So, without further ado, here are the top five stories from one of the saddest, most infuriating seasons ever endured by an NFL fan base. Here are the top Houston Texans stories of 2021!

5. Nick Caserio hired as new GM
Now, this is the one story that has the highest potential for a solid payoff. In his two decades as a sounding board and eventually right hand man for Bill Belichick, Caserio amassed a reputation as a future star GM. This is a good thing, because I'm not sure God himself could fix the mess that Bill O'Brien left behind in his failed stunt as the worst GM in the history of the sport. However, even what was viewed as s sensible, actual GOOD decision by Cal McNair was met with skepticism and anger because of how inextricably linked Caserio's hire was to Jack Easterby, the pastor turned executive (and former Caserio coworker in New England) who would have reportedly been fired by nearly every other GM candidate. So far, it's a massive "incomplete" for Caserio, who in my opinion can't be fully graded until (a) he has traded Deshaun Watson, and (b) had a full complement of draft picks for an NFL Draft. That time is coming.

4. David Culley hired as head coach
Three weeks after Caserio was hired, the Texans finally settled on the fourth full time head coach in the team's history, and it turned out to be someone that had the fan base and media (I am raising my hand over here) frantically searching Wikipedia to find out who the hell he was. Ravens wide receivers coach David Culley, a 65-year-old football lifer, would get his first head coaching gig of his career here in Houston. In between the Caserio and Culley hires, rumors of Deshaun Watson wanting out of Houston had turned into a full on firestorm, and when Culley's hire was reported, Watson's camp went public with confirmation that Watson wanted to be traded. More on that in a minute.

3. J.J. Watt Era is over
We hit PAUSE on the Caserio/Culley/Watson drama to utilize this bullet point in acknowledging the departure of the greatest Houston Texan in the history of the franchise, three time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. In February, the McNair family decided to grant Watt his final wish as a Texan and release him from his contract, making him a free agent. Relive the sadness here:
Watt would go on to sign a two-year deal in Arizona, to the surprise of a lot of experts and fans alike. Watt was having a fine season in the desert, when ironically, in Week 7 against his former team, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury trying to tackle Davis Mills. That last sentence is a symbol of something, I just have no idea what. The football gods have a twisted sense of humor sometimes.

2. Deshaun Watson wants out
OK, now back to the drama that has shaped and will shape the future of this franchise for years to come, maybe decades. On the morning the hiring of Culley was announced, Watson's camp made it known that he had no desire to stick around to find out what the David Culley Era was all about. Watson would want a trade to somewhere other than Houston. All signs are that Miami was, and still is, his first choice for a landing spot, so much so that Watson was nearly traded there at the 2021 trade deadline in early November. The only problem is... well, yeah, it got real complicated, real fast for the Texans and Deshaun....

1. Deshaun Watson sued by 22 women for sexual misconduct
With the league year set to begin on March 17, the night before on March 16, high profile Houston attorney Tony Buzbee posted this on his Instagram page:
Ultimately, the lawsuits would pile up to 22 in total, and the world would never be the same. Not for Deshaun Watson, not for the Houston Texans, not for Rusty Hardin or Tony Buzbee, and certainly not for Watson's 22 accusers. As we sit, ready to ring in 2022, the Watson legal saga is still sitting in "staring contest" mode, publicly at least. Without a doubt, the biggest story of the upcoming NFL offseason will be the hopeful resolution of Watson's situation, and if the resolution has him as a tradable asset, then the clock truly being ticking on Caserio, as his last chance to accelerate the Texans' rebuild will be his getting a king's ransom for Watson.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast