I've had a thought about the Texans rolling around in the back of my mind since the winning streak at the end of the season, but for some inexplicable reason it took the hypothetical question about Vince Young to focus that thought to the point I could articulate it.
As my screen name suggests, I currently do not live in the Houston area because I am in the military. Due to this, I don't get very much local Texans coverage and therefore rely heavily on national NFL media outlets (ESPN, NFL Network, etc.). I am not suggesting that I am the only person on this blog that watches national coverage, but I think it's different when you are away and don't get any news with a hometown spin. This long winded rambling was a precursor to this assertion: The Texans are in the perfect position on the collective NFL radar…they’re below it.
Mediocrity is the key. The Texans haven’t been consistently terrible enough since their inception to make many waves, but have also never threatened to make the playoffs due to early-season losing and playing in one of the toughest divisions in football. Even after beating half the teams we have faced for the last two seasons, you can still hear the hint of derision in the voices of NFL analysts towards those squads; an unspoken “Wow, you lost to the Texans.”
But why? Is it unthinkable to lose to the team with an offense ranked in the top five of several categories such as total yards per game (3rd), passing yards per game (4th), average gain per play (4th) and first downs per game (4th)? Granted, the terrible defense helped those numbers as we were playing from behind early and often, but there were several other teams with a similar balance of great offense and terrible defense that received a lot more media attention; the Broncos, the Cardinals, the Chargers and the Saints just to name four off the top of my head. What else do these teams have in common with us? Similar mediocre records. One more thing, we managed these offensive numbers even after Jared Allen decided to be the dirtiest player in the league and knock our starting QB out for the middle of the season.
You may or may not be asking yourself by now how the VY question inspired all of this. Another reason we have avoided detection so far is because a considerable lack of drama. Andre Johnson just led the league in receptions and receiving yards as quietly any WR in the league possibly could. Mario Williams doesn’t let bitterness influence him into calling everyone’s attention to how much better he has preformed proportionally compared to Vince Young and Reggie Bush despite the scrutiny and doubt he faced after being selected before them. No one complains for lack of accolades such as rookie of the year (see Chris Johnson), or pro bowl selection (see Phillip Rivers).
All of this is why I would hate to see a prominent trade or free agent signing in the off season, especially if it was a gamble on a risky, high profile player. It would put us right in the middle of media scrutiny, but no good would come from that attention. I think it would be better to stay the course. Concentrate first on re-signing Dunta and Owen because not only have they proven their worth on the field, but they’ve also proven that they are good locker room influences.
Same thing goes for the new defensive coordinator. If we hired a head case like Greg Williams I would be thoroughly tempted to see how smooth a liquid plumber cocktail went down. I would much rather see an unknown and therefore a smaller ego get hired to that position. After all, we have a HIGH ceiling for improvement, but you can’t get much worse than what we’ve had. Unfortunately, Rick Smith has stated that he is in favor of hiring an established coordinator for the position (there’s actually a really good break down of potential DC’s on www.atexansblog.com).
It’s useless to concentrate on free agent acquisitions or the draft until we have a DC in place, so we can seek players that fit his scheme. Hopefully we hire someone whose scheme best utilizes our current players. Obviously our biggest needs are at S and DL. Most of the chatter I hear is for Taylor Mays, but there are a couple of problems I see with this. First of all, I think that he is going to have a phenomenal combine and consequently will not be there at 15. Secondly, looking across the NFL free agents, there are considerably more viable safeties than defensive lineman. Unless we plan on fulfilling all of our needs through the draft, I think it makes more sense to target a DE or a DT with our first round pick and try to acquire a S via free agency such as Oshiomogho Atogwe, Mike Brown or Jermaine Phillips. Hopefully the new DC is more aggressive so we won’t need an absolute elite S right away. Also, targeting a DE or a DT in the first round would allow us to trade down if there were any takers.
I have been a Texans fan since the franchise was announced, but I have never been more excited about the team than right now. I feel we need to take a couple of small steps to surprise the rest of the league in 2009. Hopefully we don’t do anything to trip in the offseason.