In this new era of Houston Texans football that is unfolding over the summer, there are still occasional nuggets that remind us of days gone by, most of them much better days than what we've had to endure over the last year or so. Thursday afternoon was about as stark a reminder you can get that the Texans were sitting on the cusp of being a real contender at least a couple times from 2011 through 2019, because one of the few players whose Texans career covered that whole footprint of time decided to retire.
Courtesy of his Instagram account, here is former Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph announcing his retirement from the NFL after a stellar 15 year career:
In Texans history, there are only a handful of players who had a longer run than Joseph's nine seasons from 2011 through 2019 — off the top of my head, the only ones I can think of are Andre Johnson (12 seasons), Jon Weeks (starting his 12th season this fall), Duane Brown (10 seasons), J.J. Watt (10 seasons), and Whitney Mercilus (starting his 10th season this fall).
Joseph was here for two different head coaches, three general managers, three defensive coordinators, four playoff wins, and six division titles, and in the process became one of the most revered and respected players in the history of the franchise. Let's dig in a little further on the Texans portion of Joseph's outstanding run as an NFL player
Joseph was the best free agency signing in Texans history
During the free agency period of 2011, everybody knew the Texans needed to go shopping for a top of market cornerback. They were the worst pass defense in football in 2010, and their first round rookie from that season, Kareem Jackson, was a mess. Most Texan fans wanted Raiders free agent CB Nnamdi Asomugha, the top corner on the market who would eventually sign a market-setting deal with Philadelphia. Instead, GM Rick Smith signed Joseph and safety Danieal Manning for around what Asomugha cost the Eagles by himself. Asomugha would go on to be a total bust with Philly, and not only did Jospeh's Pro Bowl caliber play help transform the Texans' defense into an elite unit (NOTE: Wade Phillips' hire and the drafting of a kid named "J.J. Watt" helped, too), but Joseph's mentorship of Kareem Jackson helped fish Jackson's career out of the grease and muck of his awful rookie season. It was almost like signing Joseph gave the Texans TWO quality corners — Joseph and a rejuvenated Jackson.
Where does Joseph rank among all time Texans?
According to the Pro Football Reference "Approximate Value" metric — a cumulative stat that is based on a variety of statistical and availability factors — Joseph is the eighth best player in the history of the franchise, behind (in order) Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt, Duane Brown, Matt Schaub, DeAndre Hopkins, Arian Foster, and Brian Cushing. My personal rankings go like this:
1. J.J. Watt
2. Andre Johnson
3. Arian Foster
4. DeAndre Hopkins
5. Duane Brown
6. Jonathan Joseph
I definitely see Joseph as a better player during his time as a Texan than both Schaub and Cushing. For what it's worth, just outside my top six would be some combination of Deshaun Watson, Jadeveon Clowney, Schaub, Cushing, Chris Myers, and Owen Daniels.
Does Joseph sign a one day contract to retire as a Texan?
We've seen other retired Texans perform this ritual, with former offensive lineman Chester Pitts, kind of out of nowhere, becoming the most recent one. Andre Johnson, arguably the best player in the team's history, did so, as well. Joseph undoubtedly fits the mold of a player who should be offered the chance to do this, if he wants to. For what it's worth, I put the question to Texans fans as to whether he SHOULD do it, and here were the results:
#Penderpoll … should Johnathan Joseph sign a one day contract to retire a Houston Texan? Not will he… SHOULD he.— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) June 11, 2021
Among the 31.6 percent who answered "NO," these were the reasons given:
“One day retirement contracts are inherently dumb.”
“Love me some J-Joe but he feels like a Bengal to me.”
“Who in their right mind would want to be associated with this team?”
“HE didn’t represent H-town to the end… let him fade away.”
So obviously, it's a more complex issue than it probably should be.
I would put Joseph in the Ring of Honor
My feelings waver on the threshold for inclusion in the Texans' Ring of Honor, which will evidently be their version of retiring numbers or a team Hall of Fame. Right now, there are just two people in the Ring of Honor — Andre Johnson and team founder Bob McNair. I've always thought that, for players, it should only include players whose careers warranted at least SOME Hall of Fame debate. Johnson obviously checks that box, as will Watt someday. Joseph's career is not Hall of Fame debate worthy, but I think he epitomized everything the Texans would want in a player, a person, and a representative in the community. That along with being VERY, VERY good is enough for me. I've come around on players like Joseph, really good but a notch below the Hall of Fame, being inducted. Get it done!
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