This past Sunday was the first Sunday in a month and a half where we didn't have two hours of Michael Jordan tearing the ass out of the NBA in the 1990s to entertain us. The soon to be award-winning, ten-part documentary The Last Dance finished up last week with parts nine and ten wrapping up the series. ESPN did its best to fill the void with a two-hour documentary on Lance Armstrong, but it wasn't quite the same.
I'm not sure if it was the quality of the documentary or the captive audience that they got sure to quarantining from the coronavirus, but The Last Dance popped huge numbers, averaging 5.6 million viewers across the ten episodes. The quality of these documentaries in general seem to have ascended with the thirst for this type of nostalgia and sports voyeurism. We love going where we aren't allowed to go, and these documentaries take us there.
To bring The Last Dance concept back around locally, what Houston Texan seasons would be worthy of a multipart documentary series? Keep in mind, a documentary series is not always going to tell a happy story ("OJ: Made in America", anyone?), but instead it has to be a COMPELLING story, one with enough either joy or wreckage (or both) to maintain an audience.
Admittedly, I doubt the Texans have a season that, on any level, is going to compel a national audience to the tune of big, big numbers. However, let's pretend for a minute that ESPN is only interested in popping a huge number in Houston, Texas. Which seasons would provide enough content to keep an audience engaged? I have four seasons in mind:
2010 season (6-10 record)
This was the first season that the Texans really went into a year with expectations from the outside. Having won their last four games of 2009 to finish above .500 for the first time in franchise history, and with largely the same group returning, optimism was high. It soared through the first six weeks as the team went 4-2, despite having to live through a four-game suspension for Brian Cushing, and a four-game suspension for Duane Brown, both for PED usage.
Then the wheels fell off. Badly. After a season-ending injury to defensive captain DeMeco Ryans, the Texans suffered a slew of heartbreaking, last second style losses — a misplayed Hail Mary at Jacksonville, a Mark Sanchez-led comeback at New York, a Schaub pick six in overtime against the Ravens. The only saving grace over the last eight weeks was Andre Johnson beating the dog crap out of Cortland Finnegan in a home win over the Titans. After the season, Gary Kubiak would manage to keep his job by firing Frank Bush and hiring Wade Phillips to coordinate the defense, leading to the greatest defense in franchise history the next season.
2013 season (2-14 record)
Man, you're going to need to buckle up for this one. Much like 2010, the 2013 Texans came into the season with high expectations. In fact, I think you could say this was the first (and maybe only) season where the team had anything remotely resembling a target on their back, as they were one of the top three or four teams on the odds board for the Super Bowl. The following is the list of things that went wrong for this team:
* Matt Schaub turned into a pick six machine, with pick sixes in four straight games from Weeks 2 through 5.
* Ed Reed signed a three-year, $15 million contract and was gone by midseason, after criticizing the coaches following a loss to Arizona.
* Arian Foster and Brian Cushing were both lost for the season in the SAME WEEK.
* The team had three rookies (Sam Montgomery, Cierre Wood, and Willie Jefferson) get pinched for smoking SOMETHING at the team hotel in Kansas City.
* Gary Kubiak could never decide between Matt Schaub and Case Keenum as his QB, indecision which ultimately cost him his job.
* Oh yeah, Kubiak had a stroke coming off the field at halftime of a home loss to the Colts. A STROKE.
* Andre Johnson left the field a couple minutes early in a loss to the Raiders because, in that moment, he despised Matt Schaub as much as the rest of us.
I'm probably missing at least four or five more items, but this is more than enough to squeeze out multiple episodes, don't you think?
2016 season (9-7 record)
This is the only season on my short list in which the Texans were over .500 for the year. In fact, they won the AFC South and won a playoff game. It was the third straight 9-7 season to start the Bill O'Brien Era. So what makes this one so compelling? A couple things. First, this was the first season where we saw J.J. Watt's mortality, as he was done after three games with a herniated disk in his back. Second, this was the season of Brock Osweiler, who was signed in the offseason not so much as a savior, but as at least a competent signal caller who could lead the Texans to big things.
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As it turned out, Osweiler was abysmal, eventually benched after weeks of behind the scenes e feuding with Bill O'Brien, and ultimately traded WITH a second round pick just so the Texans didn't have to pay him (or look at him anymore). Osweiler was retired from football before the end of what would have been his original four-year contract with the Texans.
2017 season (4-12 record)
The good news about Osweiler's cataclysmic failure is it led to the Texans making the bold move up in the draft to get Deshaun Watson. So, in this documentary, you would get the behind the scenes on the tail end of the Osweiler Era, and the dawning of the Age of Deshaun, starting with training camp in West Virginia, rolling through his six game juggernaut run as a rookie, and the crash landing with his ACL tear at practice after Week 8.
Also, woven into this tragic story would be the injuries to Watt and Whitney Mercilus about a dozen plays apart in Week 5 versus Kansas City. However, the BIG non-Watson story that would be fascinating to get documentary level insight on — the O'Brien versus Rick Smith power struggle that ended with O'Brien getting GM duties added to his ticket a full year later.