Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 15: Texans 30, Jaguars 16 — Four Winners, Four Losers

The Texans made life rough on Sunday for  rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The Texans made life rough on Sunday for rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Photo by Eric Sauseda
David Culley has caught a lot of heat in his first year as an NFL head coach this season. I know that I, personally, have taken Culley to task on a weekly basis for his game management gaffes and detached press conference responses. I apologize for exactly none of my takes, and would utter them all over again, given the chance.

However, I am a big enough man, and I like David Culley personally enough, to say that Culley did a fantastic job on Sunday. With nine players out on the COVID list, including six starters, and with an opponent operating on the high of the firing of one of the most miserable human beings walking the planet, former Jags head coach Urban Meyer, Culley and his staff had their team ready to play.

Both of these teams still have a long, long way to go, but the Texans are the one who is winning games between the two. On Sunday, the final score was 30-16. We will see where the remainder of the season goes, but it was nice to feel a victory, for a change.

Now for the winners and losers from yesterday's wet and wild affair....

WINNERS

4. Jacksonville (on draft night)
We knew that the loser of this game would have the inside track at the second overall pick, and a much better shot at the first overall pick than the winner would. What we weren't expecting was the loser of the game emerging from SUNDAY with pole position at the first overall pick, but the Jags' loss, combined with the Lions' win over the Cardinals, means that, if the season ended today, the Jags would have the first overall pick for the second year in a row. With the win, the Texans are now in the low single digit percentage (like below 5 percent) chances of getting the first overall pick.

3. Early arriving fans at Panthers-Bills
In one of the odder twists of the NFL season, the Panthers lost their starting placekicker Zane Gonzalez in the moments leading up their Sunday game in Buffalo, during warmups, to be exact. Gonzalez had to be helped off the field with an apparent quad injury, which led this scene, in which several Panthers with ZERO background in NFL placekicking were making impromptu auditions to handle kicking duties against the Bills:
My favorite bit of analysis came from Katherine Fitzgerald, who covers the Bills for the Buffalo News:
In these crazy times, I thank the football gods for injecting some comic relief into our football Sunday, even if it did come at the expense of poor Zane Gonzalez's quad muscle.

2. Tim Kelly's opening drive script
There is not much the Texans have done well offensively this season. Hell, there's not much the Texans have done even mediocre this season. It would be an insult to the word "mediocre" to label anything on the Texans offense with that adjective. However, the last two weeks, the play script they've worked on during the week for their opening drive HAS resulted in seven points. Last week, it was the TD pass to rookie Brevin Jordan, and this week, Davis Mills found Brandin Cooks for a short catch and run on a 3rd and 1 to grab a 7-0 lead again this week. Like last week, when he connected on his first 14 passes, Davis Mills was very efficient in the short passing game early, completing six in a  row and converting four straight third downs. Good job, Kelly, and good job, Mills.

1. Tremon Smith
A few weeks ago, Smith became the first of what I would imagine will end up being a handful of Texans veterans here on one year contracts for 2021 to get a contract extension for 2022. Smith inked a one year, $1.6 million deal for 2022, and the reason Nick Caserio wanted to keep him around was because of the potential for plays like this one on Sunday:
It's probably a good thing the Texans got some juice in the return game from Smith yesterday, seeing as their former return guy, DeAndre Carter, is on the verge of making the Pro Bowl in Washington.

LOSERS

4. Tytus Howard
If we were ranking the important things for the Texans to accomplish over the final four weeks of the season, I would argue the two most important endeavors are (1) learning what you have in rookie QB Davis Mills, and (2) getting a focused assessment of Tytus Howard at tackle. These are more important than even winning actual football games, especially when you factor in losses leading to better draft capital. So naturally, when starting guards Lane Taylor and Justin McCray ended up on the COVID list, the Texans chose poorly and moved Howard back to left guard, a position where he had been rated the worst in the league through the first three months of the season. Howard had actually been performing well at left tackle, so this made little sense for Sunday's sake and for the sake of the future.

3. Urban Meyer
It's been almost a week and there is still smoke smoldering from the pile of ashes that was Urban Meyer's NFL head coaching career, if we can call 13 games a "career." Meyer broke his silence over the weekend, and did an interview with Ian Rapoport if the NFL Network, in which he apologized to the city of Jacksonville:
"I just apologize to Jacksonville," Meyer said over the phone on Friday from Florida. "I love Jacksonville. It's one of the reasons I took the job. I still think Shad's a great owner. It's heart-breaking. I just had a dream of it becoming a destination place with a new facility he agreed to build and some day to walk into that stadium where it's standing room only. Because I know how bad the people of Jacksonville want it. So, I'm just heartbroken that we weren't able to do that. I still believe it's going to be done. It's too good of a place."
When the definitive book of NFL coaching failures is written (by the way, I would read that book, and honestly I am now thinking of writing it), Urban Meyer's chapter will be the most compelling read n the book, equal parts comedy and infuriating hubris. Best I can come up with, here is the list of "Urban Escapades," all in just a matter of months:

* Hires former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle (Doyle had accusations of abuse and racism against him from his Iowa days)
* Fined for OTAs being too physical
* Signs Tim Tebow to play tight end
* Doesn’t fly home with team after Week 4 loss
* Cheats on wife at a Columbus bar that he owns
* Some kind of run-in with WR Marvin Jones
* Berated his assistant coaches, and had them defend resumes

There are more things, but you get the point — if Meyer were 7-6, not 2-11, maybe he would have survived. However, being a jerk AND sucking at your job is not a sustainable business model.

2. Darrell Bevell's candidacy for permanent Jags' head coach
Bevell has made it very clear since Meyer's ouster that he would like to be the one to mentor Trevor Lawrence as the head coach of the Jags on a permanent basis. Well, I would say he should probably go ahead and scrap those plans, put his house on the market, and find his next gig. After yesterday, that ain't happening. It was bad enough that Bevell had little glitches in game management — burning a timeout to change his mind on a fourth down decision, getting outsmarted at the end of the half by David Culley (NEVER a good look) — but the most damning thing was the final scoreboard. He coached a team that got beaten by two scores, AT HOME, at the hands of a Texans team whose roster was ravaged by COVID. You're really bad at your job, Darrell.

1. Trevor Lawrence
It's been a rough rookie season for the 2021 No. 1 overall pick out of Clemson, partially due to circumstance surrounding him and partially due to his own poor play. Firing Urban Meyer was probably a great thing, in the long run, for Lawrence's development, but Sunday was an indicator that it's still going to be tough sledding for Lawrence to begin hitting expectations. He doesn't have a great supporting cast (five dropped passes), his employer has a losing culture, and he himself still has issues with accuracy and touch on his ball. In other words, if Lawrence didn't light up a COVID-depleted Texans secondary, then who is he going to light up any time soon?


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 afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast