Sean Pendergast

Wait? The Texans Want to Run the Tony Levine UH Offense?

It's a Friday night in August 2014, hot and humid with a chance of rain. But for the 40,000 people cramming into TDECU Stadium, none of that matters because this is a very special night. It's opening night for the new stadium, and it's the first game of the season for the Houston Cougars.

Nobody really takes the visiting UTSA squad that seriously. The Cougars are favored by double digits. Besides, everyone vividly remembers what happened two years ago, in the first game of UH head coach Tony Levine's tenure, when the Cougars, a double digit favorite, were upset at home by Texas State, a football program playing it's very first game ever as a BCS-level school. And there's just no way that Levine is going to let his squad come out flat and unprepared like that again. No way.

So of course the Cougars lose 27-7 to UTSA. The team struggles to find consistency throughout the year. There’s a quarterback change early in the season, and an iffy offensive game plan that often seems to make zero sense and which often appears to not take advantage of the team’s talented receiving corps. There are more head-scratching losses, and attendance at the new stadium begins to drop as the team lurches from game to game. Levine, a year after a contract extension, is then fired following Houston’s season-ending loss to Cincinnati. The team wins it's bowl game under an interim head coach and finishes the season at 8-5.

Why bring this up? Why give nightmares to UH fans trying to erase the past season from their minds? Simple, because Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said this week that the Texans offense will change weekly, and that it will be based on what the opposing team does on defense. So what's that got to do with anything? Well, that was the offensive philosophy of Tony Levine when he was running the Cougars.

Levine said in virtually every presser for the entire season, when asked, and even when not asked, that his offense was one that reacted to the opposing defense. If the opponent played UH to pass, then UH would run. If it played the Cougars to run, then the offense would pass. The opposition would not adjust to the Cougars, the Cougars would adjust to the defense.

It was a frustrating thing to watch because, inevitably, what the Coogs prepared for was not what the opposing defense would do. So Houston would struggle for most of the first half, attempting to make adjustments. The offense would figure things out around the end of the first half, but then the whole thing would repeat in the second half.

The Cougars had no game plan. The offense didn't attempt to set the tempo. It watched, reacted, tried to adjust. With the result being that the coaching staff was replaced, that QB John O'Korn, the 2013 AAC Offensive Rookie of the Year, turned into the college version of Matt Schaub and was benched before leaving the program at the end of this season. The offense was inept, and UH lost and struggled against awful/mediocre teams while playing a mediocre schedule while being a member of a second-rate football conference.

So now Bill O'Brien is saying his offense will change from week to week based upon the opposing defense. That should trigger PTSD in anybody who watched UH play last year. Then again, Bill O'Brien's supposedly a genius. But then again, O'Brien's QB trio of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage is so bad that one longs for the return of David Carr. And O'Brien did run Andre Johnson out of town, leaving an offense based on Arian Foster and gimmick plays to J.J. Watt, so maybe O'Brien's not actually left with anything but ripping off the Tony Levine offense and hoping that there's an idiot defensive coordinator running things on the other sideline.

Yes, there's a difference between professional football and college football. Yes, Bill O'Brien's a better coach than Tony Levine (supposedly). And just because the Cougars couldn't pull off something doesn't mean the Texans can't do it. Then again, the Cougars didn't have any team near the quality of the Colts and Patriots on their schedule, and the Cougars did arguably have better quarterbacks on the roster than the Texans.

So maybe O’Brien does know what he’s doing. But after sitting through the crap the Cougars tried to do on the college level last season while employing the same offensive philosophy, perhaps I can be excused for being a little skeptical toward the Texans' chances of success this season. 
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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal