At the time, the Houston Texans home playoff win over the Buffalo Bills in early 2020 was viewed for what it was — a really fun afternoon of football, an advancement in the postseason for just the fourth time in franchise history, and the postseason coming out party for Deshaun Watson. Little did we know that it would represent one of the most bizarre inflection points for any NFL franchise, perhaps, in league history.
For one thing, it wound up being Bill O'Brien's final win as the head coach of this organization. A week later, he would spit up a 24-0 lead in Kansas City, and then in March he would trade DeAndre Hopkins for a song (and not even a good song), and finally an 0-4 start would do O'Brien in. He was done.
I'm not sure if you've noticed, but things have not gotten much better since then. The team finished 4-12 on the season for 2020, they hired one of the most obscure and underwhelming head coaches in recent history (sorry, David Culley, it's just true), and the most powerful person in the building is a former chaplain who is in over his head by about three levels of org chart. Oh, also everyone seems to be frightened of him, despite his flowery demeanor and somewhat questionable sense of humor. Oh, and Deshaun Watson wants out. Oh, and J.J. Watt does, too.
Other than that, everything is just fine!
For their "efforts," the Texans are ranked 32nd overall, DEAD LAST, in the early 2021 NFL Power Rankings on ESPN.com. Incredible. Even more incredible? The Buffalo Bills, who the Texans beat in the playoffs, are ranked SECOND OVERALL. As Michael Scott would say, "well, well, well.... how the turn tables."
Here are three more thoughts on these rankings:
Deshaun Watson's departure is clearly baked into these rankings
Say what you will about the dilapidated state of the Texans' roster, and it deserves every bit of that criticism, but if Deshaun Watson is on this team, it's still not the worst team in football. (And yes, I say that knowing full well that even WITH Deshaun Watson, they would have qualified for the third overall pick in the draft this spring, had they not traded that pick for Laremy Tunsil.) With Watson, and with Nick Caserio making some tweaks to the roster, I still think this team tracks to being 7-9 or 8-8 in 2021. Not great, but not the worst. With no Watson, a distinct possibility, this team might go 0-16, which would be, yes, good for 32nd overall in the NFL.
For what it's worth, there's not a lot of confidence in the AFC South
Because you may have clicked on those rankings, skimmed to the bottom, saw the Texans in last place, and then made a beeline for the bathroom to go vomit without reading the rest of the piece, know this — the Jacksonville Jaguars are just one spot ahead of the Texans, the Colts are 15th right now (and have no starting QB), and the Titans are the cream of the crop at 10th. That is EASILY the worst cumulative division in football. Man, and to think just two years ago, we were talking about how the division had Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, and the Jags coming off an AFC title game appearance. Again... the tables turn!
So, with the Texans, whose fault is all this?
Wow, I mean, we could do a whole podcast series on this, right? Bill O'Brien making his power grab and steamrolling everybody in the building with his cantankerousness and bluster, and poor talent evaluation and bad decision making, that's the easy target. How about Jack Easterby, who has steamrolled even more people than O'Brien ever did (including steamrolling O'Brien himself), but does it while praying with whatever person he is firing at a given moment? Ultimately, Cal McNair is the one who has empowered both O'Brien and Easterby to turn a division champion into a laughing stock.
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