Training camp is one of the most enjoyable times of the year for any fan. Players are back, new faces emerge and the promise of a new season lingers on the horizon. Also, no games have been played and fans have limited access to their team meaning there is very little to complain about. This is particularly true in first time NFL Coach Bill O'Brien's camp where even media access is more limited than it was under Gary Kubiak.
No one really knows what is going to happen with the team. No can accurately predict if they are headed for another 2-14 disaster or a resurgence. They can guess. They can speculate. But they can't know and that mystery is partly why hope always seems to spring eternal in the dead of summer.
Fans and even media hint at the possibility the team could bounce back. Some wonder with a roster loaded with talent how they could have fallen so far. They blame the former coach, the former quarterback, an injury-plagued team, a faulty system. All of those things played a part in the worst season in franchise history -- worse than the last 2-14, which came when the team could still legitimately be called an expansion franchise -- but it ignores the fact that they just weren't very good anyway.
And hoping for some magical turnaround this season also ignores way too many facts.
The starting QB is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Yes, he is smart. Yes, he seems to be accurate. But no one is comparing him to Aaron Rodgers. This is a guy who probably should be a backup, but the Texans didn't like anyone in the draft enough to make him such, and Tom Savage doesn't count.
Nearly the entire 2013 draft was a bust. Looking back, it is simply remarkable that the vast majority of their picks in 2013 are gone. They still have a couple of notable players drafted in the top rounds, but what should be depth from middle round players is just a big fat empty space.
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The coach may have been fired, but the GM remains. A caller to a sports talk show on Tuesday said he didn't like O'Brien because he had no faith or trust in the upper management of the Texans to get it right. By all rights, GM Rick Smith should be looking for work right now, but he was spared. Whether the failings in recent years were on Kubiak or him will be determined in due time, but it would be a shame if we didn't learn until later the real problem was Smith.
A new, unproven coach is at the helm. From what I've seen and heard from O'Brien, I like the guy. He seems tough and smart and is clearly injecting a new sense of discipline into this team. But, he has never been a head coach in the NFL and his stints in college were inconclusive.
There are still holes all over the roster. The offensive line is still a mess. Your best tight end is gone. The linebacker core is extremely thin. The secondary is a massive question mark. The QB is mediocre. Your best running back is coming off an injury and your best wide receiver grumbled his way through the offseason. But, we still have JJ Watt.
I don't want to be Debbie Downer here. It's training camp after all and hope is a good thing, as long as we don't think the promise of a new season and realistic expectations are the same thing.