Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 17: Jaguars 31, Texans 3 — Four Winners, Four Losers

Cal McNair will have some decisions to make this upcoming offseason after a lackluster Fan Appreciation Day.
Cal McNair will have some decisions to make this upcoming offseason after a lackluster Fan Appreciation Day. Photo by Eric Sauseda
First and foremost, Happy New Year to all of you, especially those of you who regularly read this space, and regularly support the sponsors of my radio show on SportsRadio 610. I hope all of you had a happy and safe holiday season, and I hope that brighter days are ahead for the sport of professional football in our city.

And that's where we segue into my first post for calendar year 2023, with the future of our professional football team. On Sunday, the Houston Texans faced the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game that contained the strangest energy in and around the stadium throughout the day. What happened when you have a team who could be playoff bound, but not needing a win (Jacksonville), playing a home team whose fans largely want them to lose so they can get the first pick in the draft?
What happened was one of the most lopsided Texans game of the season, a 31-3 loss to the Jaguars, a team the Texans had beaten nine straight times going back to 2018. There were no winners from the Texans, but some winners overall, and there were plenty of losers. Let's take a look!

WINNERS

4. The city of Jacksonville
Other than the oasis that was 2017, when they made the AFC Title Game, the last 15 years have been hell for the city of Jacksonville and the Jaguar fans. Since 2007, aside from 2017, they have not finished above .500, and since 2012, aside from 2017, they've averaged just under four wins per season. The 2017 was a little phony, built on life in a bad division and a bunch of high ticket free agents. This version of the Jags looks built to last, complete with a franchise quarterback, and a head coach who's had Super Bowl level success in his career. They will be a problem for a number of years.

3. Travis Etienne
In 2021, the headliner of the Jags' draft class was quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the first overall pick and generational quarterback draft prospect. The second first round pick they used that season, acquired in the Jalen Ramsey trade with the Rams, was Lawrence's college teammate, running back Travis Etienne. After missing his rookie season with an injury, Etienne has been beyond stellar in 2022, and on Sunday, he was the difference in the ball game, with nine carries for 108 yards, and a 62-yard touchdown run.

2. These killer hoodies!
You know the old saying — if you can't say anything positive about the players on your football team, then at least compliment the merchandise! So I have to say, these light blue hoodies? THEY ARE DOPE!
1. Kalani!
Also, the other old saying — if you can't find something nice to say about the quality of play of your football team, then play a video where the team coordinated the reuniting of a young girl with he recently deployed, Army specialist mother! These videos get me every time:
Happy New Year, Kalani! As for the rest of you, I'M NOT CRYING, YOU'RE CRYING!

LOSERS
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Once again, Pep Hamilton's offense, led by Davis Mills, faltered like crazy on Sunday.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
4. Pep Hamilton
At this point, I could just etch a spot for Hamilton in this space every week. He's been the worst offensive coordinator that I've seen in my 16 seasons of covering the franchise. On Sunday, the latest example, aside from the fact that his offense generated just three points, was his continued use of 32 year old Rex Burkhead in high leverage situations. On four different 3rd or 4th down situations, Burkhead was the targeted receiver, and the most egregious one was a 4th down in Jags territory, where the Texans went for a touchdown by targeting a covered Burkhead in a tight window in the end zone. Sixty more minutes of Hamilton, folks. We can do this.

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Interception celebrations while training by 21 points, that happened on Sunday.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
3. Celebrations down by 20-plus points
Down 21-0, Desmond King intercepted a Trevor Lawrence pass. He and most of the defense then ran down to the end zone for a group pose. Take a look:
At the risk of sounding like an angry old man, can we establish a new rule where you're only allowed group turnover celebrations if your team is within one score, others it's a fine? Or a 15 yard penalty? Or a five game suspension? Or expulsion from the league?

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Lovie Smith's job security is not looking great right now.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
2. Lovie Smith
The Texans had started to show some signs of life the last few weeks with a close loss to the Cowboys, a close loss to the Chiefs, and an actual NFL win over the Tennessee Titans. Lovie Smith had been able to turn down the temperature of his employment seat from scalding hot, to merely low boil. That was all forfeited back on Sunday afternoon. They looked like the same unprepared outfit they did since the bye week. Lovie Smith returning will really test the loyalty of whatever fans the team still has left.

1. Texans draft capital
While more than half the NFL is still either making plans for the postseason or at least dreaming of it, the Texans are among the dregs of the league, planning for this spring's draft. As of Sunday night, the situation is simple. With the loss on Sunday, the Texans will pick no lower than second in the draft. The problem is that win over Tennessee took a near lock of the Texans getting the first pick, and made the situation way more precarious. Now, if the Texans lose to the Colts, they will still pick first, but if they beat the 4-11-1 Colts, they need the 3-13 Bears to beat the 12-4 Vikings. My guess is the Texans are still the betting favorite to land the first overall pick, but the Colts stink, and the Texans winning their way down to the second pick is a real possibility now.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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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 the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast