The stories about the Houston Oilers are numerous and legendary. There’s the Stagger Lee. There’s the Comeback. There’s the Mike Renfro non-catch in the end zone. There’s Buddy Ryan throwing a punch at Kevin Gilbride on nationwide television. There’s Dan Pastorini throwing Dale Robertson threw a door at Oilers practice days before a playoff game, and Oilers GM Ladd Herzeg punching out the Chronicle’s Fran Blinebury.
There’s Earl Campbell running down the entire Miami Dolphin defense on Monday Night Football. Or Jerry Glanville leaving tickets at the will call window for Elvis Presley at whatever stadium the Oilers were playing that week. The Oilers might be bad. The Oilers might be good. But the Oilers were never dull. The Oilers were never safe. The Oilers might never have achieved greatness, but it sure as hell wasn’t for the lack of trying.
The Oilers left Houston for Nashville because the city of Houston did the right thing and refused to build Bud Adams a brand-new downtown pleasure palace to house the Oilers less than a decade after he held the city hostage for renovations to the Dome. But mere years later, the city caved in to the demands of the NFL and built Bob McNair a dull, boring aircraft hangar as a home for a new football team known as the Houston Texans, a dull, bland, stupid, boring name that previously belonged to a failed WFL team also known as the Houston Texans, as well as two previously failed pro football franchises in Dallas (and is there any worse crime than ripping off a name that was previously used by teams in Dallas?).
Houstonians cheer for the Texans because it’s the franchise located in Houston. But why? The team’s mediocre. It’s always been mediocre. Never has owner Bob McNair acted as if he really gives a damn as to rather the franchise actually wins football games. And why should he? The NFL’s a moneymaking machine in which only an imbecile would fail to make money. The network TV’s money is going to roll in whether the team wins or loses.
And despite the absolute failure of the Texans ever to actually accomplish anything, the fan base continues to sell out the building for game after game, season after season. These are the same people who probably really believe that Bill O’Brien’s a real tough guy just because he cusses on television during some of the most staged/scripted reality TV programming ever witnessed. These fans obviously don't care whether the Texans win games, because if they really cared about a winning team, there’s no way in hell they'd continue to sell out games when the quarterback is David Carr, or Matt Schaub, or Sage Rosenfels, or Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Ryan Mallett, or Brian Hoyer, or Tony Banks, or Case Keenum, or Matt Leinart, or Rex Grossman, or T.J. Yates, or Tom Savage.
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The Texans are a nothing franchise content to be nothing. The team doesn’t take chances because taking chances means there could be failure. This is a team that fired Gary Kubiak only because the team lost 14 straight games in his final season. But any person who’s observed the team knows he would still be coaching in Houston if he’d won just two or three of those 14 games because Kubiak was boring. He didn’t take chances.
The Oilers were never dull. Coaches took chances, as did the front office. Bill O’Brien’s idea of a daring play is throwing the football to J.J. Watt. He thinks Brian Hoyer is a good quarterback. Bum Phillips had a good quarterback, yet he still traded Dan Pastorini to the Oakland Raiders for Ken Stabler because he thought that Stabler might be that piece to get the Oilers to the Super Bowl — he wasn’t, but there’s no way in hell that the Texans ever make a trade like that. Just as there’s no way the Texans make a blockbuster trade so as to draft a guy like Earl Campbell, or make a big-money deal for a QB from the Canadian Football League.
The Oilers had innovative coaches — Sid Gilman was a true offensive genius, Bum Phillips a leading light of the 3-4 defense, Jack Pardee a defensive legend who became known as an offensive genius because of his embrace of the Run-and-Shoot. Gary Kubiak’s idea of innovation was to run the play-action pass. Bill O’Brien thinks he’s a genius for throwing the football to Watt. At least Elvin Bethea and Earl Campbell and Warren Moon and Robert Brazile came agonizingly close to the Super Bowl, whereas Andre Johnson and Arian Foster have wasted fantastic careers playing for a bunch of dullard, gutless coaches who think it’s better to have Schaub dump a pass off to a receiver three yards short of the first down marker than to actually try to get the football to one of the greatest receivers in NFL history.
Maybe it’s just me — judging by the Texans' attendance, it is just me — but give me a team like the Oilers that fails often because with those failures came some memorable and magical moments. There’s nothing magical or memorable about the Texans, unless if by magical you mean watching an NFL franchise waste the career of Andre Johnson by dumping the ball off time and time and time again.