Remember back to the summer of 2015, when HBO and the good folks at NFL Films brought relevance to a plucky franchise with a second year head coach coming off an encouraging 9-7 season? Of course you do, because it was the Houston Texans and Bill O'Brien on Hard Knocks! That was a fun summer, and a great five weeks of television. That show gave Charles James 15 minutes of fame, and gave Brian Cushing some solid film if he ever wants to be cast in a movie as an '80s style teen bully (R.I.P. Alfred Blue).
Indeed, the Texans have me so sideways that I am longing for the days of a good Brian Hoyer vs Ryan Mallett QB battle. That's where we are. (Thanks, Cal and Jack!) But before you know it, it will soon be Hard Knocks season again, and while it won't be the Texans on our TV screens for five straight Tuesday nights, the chosen team could undoubtedly be a team that wrecks shop on the average Texan fan's feelings.
Per an agreement between the NFL and its 32 teams regarding eligibility for the show, franchises can abstain from being on "Hard Knocks" if they meet any of the following three criteria: 1) they have a first-year head coach, 2) they have made the playoffs in the last two seasons, or 3) have appeared on the show in the past 10 years. Teams are, however, also allowed to volunteer for inclusion.
So the Texans are actually the rare team that checks all THREE "Hard Knocks" abstention boxes. The teams that are left standing after applying all three filters? Brace yourself. They are as follows: the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Carolina Panthers. Man, there is a whole lot of potential Houston day drinking embedded in those five teams.
Here are the five candidates ranked in order of how big a nightmare it would be for Texan fans to be forced to watch the entire season:
5. NEW YORK GIANTS
This is the one team with no real geographic sensitivity for Texan fans (other than most of us hate teams from New York), and no real former coach or former player angst. Oddly, the city from largest city in the free world just has a quirky second year head coach and a mediocre third year quarterback. YAWN.
4. DENVER BRONCOS
3. CAROLINA PANTHERS
I'll group the Broncos and the Panthers together, because these are both outside candidates to land Deshaun Watson in a trade. The Broncos have been linked to Watson through direct quotes from Watson's former teammate, Bronco safety Kareem Jackson, and the Panthers have been linked to Watson through a reported insatiable thirst that David Tepper, the Panthers billionaire owner, has for Watson returning to the Carolinas as a conquering hero, the same way he was during his time in college as quarterback for the Clemson Tigers. Any "Hard Knocks" season that includes Deshaun Watson as quarterback would be brutal. These teams are only ranked this low on the list because the chances of either one landing Watson are fairly small.
2. DALLAS COWBOYS
Any time we, in Houston, have to get bludgeoned in the face with a silver and blue sledge hammer with a big Cowboys star on the side, that's hard times. Five weeks of Jerry Jones could be very entertaining, but my guess the show will just serve as a reminder that, even with some dysfunction flowing through the Cowboy organization, the Texans make the Cowboys look like a model outfit. (Also, don't rule out the minuscule chance that Jerry Jones gets SUPER thirsty for Deshaun Watson, and give the Texans a godfather offer that includes Dak Prescott.)
1. ARIZONA CARDINALS
This is an easy one. The three teams before the Texans on this list all include some small percentage of "Deshaun Watson trade destination" likelihood. This is the one team that we KNOW will be tough for us to watch. DeAndre Hopkins as a Cardinal is bad enough, but we've watched that for a year now, but seeing J.J. Watt on Hard Knocks in Cardinals gear, for Texan fans, would be like watching your spouse show up in an orgy video on Pornhub. (I'm assuming most of you would be horrified by that, but if you're not, well, then you do you!)
So please, NFL Films and HBO, if you have a heart, go tell the Giants right now that you want their boring ass team win your show, and save Houston from yet another 2021 nightmare.
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