In a Week 17 where the chances of the outcome of the Texans' game with the Jaguars mattering was about one in eleventy zillion, there's not much to say about the game itself, from a tactical or strategic standpoint.
The Texans did what they've been doing to most of the teams on their schedule over the past ten weeks — ran an efficient, opportunistic offense and squashed the Jags like a grape with their defense. The defense sacked Blake Bortles eight times in their tune-up for the postseason, with Whitney Mercilus leading the way with 3.5 sacks, another all-world performance in Jadeveon Clowney's absence. (When Clowney is injured, Mercilus turns into Lawrence Taylor. It's odd.)
The only black mark on the day was a quadriceps injury to left tackle Duane Brown, which will end his season and touch off rampant debate over whether he (and other front line starters) should've ever been out there to begin with. Not having Brown for the postseason is a gut punch on every level, as there's no way to replace his play or his leadership, and on a personal level, it sucks to see one of the truly good guys get snakebitten like this. Speedy recovery for number 76, football gods. Please.
With all that said, let's go with some winners and losers that send us off to both sides of the postseason fork in the road — the sheer joy of the playoffs and the gloom and doom of Black Monday.
Here we go...
4. Darren McFadden
Believe it or not, there are players on teams with no chance at the postseason who have major reasons to play hard in Week 17. Financial reasons, as in season-long incentives. Maybe the best example of someone with a great return on minimal investment in Week 17 was Cowboys RB Darren McFadden, who needed only three yards to clinch a $300,000 incentive for going over 1,000 yards rushing on the season. McFadden went for 92 yards, a solid day at the office for D-Mac!
3. Christian Hackenberg
Hackenberg played his final game in a Penn State uniform on Saturday, which unto itself makes him a winner when you consider that he won't have to play behind that sieve of an offensive line anymore. In his three seasons in Happy Valley, Hackenberg was sacked 82 times. However, also consider two more things. First, Hackenberg's final statement of thanks for his three years in college included pretty much every Penn State employee not named head coach James Franklin. The first person he thanked? Bill O'Brien, who recruited Hackenberg to Penn State and coached him his freshman year, easily the QB's best season. So Hackenberg wins the zinger war with Franklin. Second, the Texans will be picking just low enough in the first round for O'Brien to justify reuniting with Hackenberg on the NFL level. (Here is where most Texans fans throw their phone against the wall and scream "NO! WHY?!?".)
2. Whoever is running Texans social media
The Colts needed a bunch of things to happen on Sunday in order to win the AFC South, one of them obviously being the Texans' falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars. As the Jags were getting thumped in the third quarter, the Colts' Twitter account gave Jacksonville the social media eye stare, as if to say, "Hey, guys, can you step it up a bit, please?" The Texans then gave the Colts the most Texan reply they could...
Speaking of number 99...
1. J.J. Watt with fingers
Eight tackles, three sacks, three tackles for loss, a fumble recovery...it's amazing what J.J. Watt can do when he has two working hands.
4. Ryan Mallett
I will admit, I was happy for Ryan Mallett after he led the Ravens to an upset win over the Steelers in Week 16. I'm all for second chances, and aside from being unable to wake up on time to go to work, Mallett didn't ever seem like a bad guy when he was here in Houston. He just seemed immature. So whatever, if he gets a fresh start somewhere else, so be it. Then came this little story over the weekend — apparently, at least one of Mallett's employers (Read: THE TEXANS) had a QB room where everyone was out for himself and not in it for
Ryan Mallett the team:
“What Matt and Jimmy did for me meant a lot. I’ve been in quarterback rooms where it’s every man for himself. They didn’t have to be as helpful. You hear things are different in Baltimore, and I was seeing it,” Mallett said.
I can only take this to mean one thing — that gosh-darned Tom Savage is one selfish bastard!
3. The 49ers' management
It's fair to say that Jim Harbaugh is one of the five best football coaches, on any level, walking the planet. He's been supremely successful everywhere he's been. The 49ers, if you recall, allowed Harbaugh to walk so that they could appease their ineffectual general manager, Trent Baalke. Not only that, but they replaced him with this guy...
Yeah, you heard me! THIS GUY...
And now Jim Tomsula appears to be gone after just one year at the helm. Who knew that THAT GUY — that muttering, bumbling hump of a man — would be a failure as an NFL head coach? Oh, that's right, pretty much everybody except the people running the 49ers. So sad to see a once proud franchise run into the ground. As a fan of the game's history, it's much easier for me to digest this next bullet point...
2. Jimmy Hallam
Yes, it's much easier to watch an already shitty team doing things to remain shitty or possibly get even shittier. What a train wreck the Browns are. Reports surfaced over the weekend about Mike Pettine's firing, and were preceded by glimpses into owner Jimmy Hallam's passive-aggressive management style...
#Browns coach Mike Pettine asked Jimmy Haslam Fri. if he'd be kept. Haslam didn't say. But Haslam had already made calls to begin the search— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 3, 2016
This is why I laugh when people lazily say, "Well, there are only 32 head coaching jobs in the NFL, so if you're offered one, you HAVE TO TAKE IT." Um, no you don't. There are 8-10 jobs that open up every year, and if you're worth a shit, you'll get one that's more desirable than being part of Jimmy Haslam's rotating medley of chumps. You listening, Adam Gase? You don't HAVE to take this job! Of course, if you do, then you may get a chance to coach...
1. Johnny Manziel
....who reportedly was in Vegas on Saturday night, just 24 hours before the final game of the season. Granted, he was going to be inactive because of a concussion he sustained at some point in last week's loss to Kansas City, but it seems like an odd decision. Unless, of course, Manziel was prescribed by a doctor to go play ten hours of blackjack to help recover from being concussed, in which case I am going to go slam my head into a wall repeatedly right NOW. For what it's worth, Johnny's Instagram on Saturday night implied that he was home in Ohio, lying down on his shaggy carpet for an evening of quiet frivolity with his pooch...
If he was indeed home in Ohio, then he wasn't picking up his phone Sunday...
JFF1: Reported this on @SNFonNBC re Manziel: Browns require players in concussion protocol to be seen by team medic at 9 am on Sunday …— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) January 4, 2016
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JFF2: … even if they’re not playing. Manziel didn’t show up Sunday. Browns couldn’t reach him on phone. At this point I can tell you …— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) January 4, 2016
JFF3: … Browns are so done with the guy. I will be stunned if he ever plays another snap for Cleveland. He wants to go to Dallas.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) January 4, 2016
God bless Johnny Football. Please let his NFL career (somewhere other than Cleveland) be long and crazy.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.