This past season was undoubtedly one of the most disappointing in the history of Houston football, but upon further review, it was also one of the strangest. For those who haven't had quite enough pain this year, let's review all the bizarre and unpredictable events that happened to our favorite NFL franchise.
What rookie class?
When the Texans picked WR De'Andre Hopkins in the first round, there was much rejoicing amongst the fans. Many of us grew angry when the Ravens leap-frogged us in the second to grab Arthur Brown, but the consolation prize of D.J. Swearinger was enough to satisfy most. We went on to see some exciting picks as well as some questionable ones as the draft progressed. We ended up with 9 drafted rookies when all was said and done.
Then things started to go wrong.
Starting as early as rookie mini-camp, our picks started coming down with various injuries. Several UDFAs stepped up to fill the holes left by those injuries, but before long, they too started coming down with injuries. We attempted to stash sixth round NT Chris Jones on the practice squad, but he was snatched up right away by the Patriots. By the end of the final preseason game, we had 3 of our draft picks on injured reserve, and one on another team. Then just for good measure, sixth round G David Quessenberry broke his ankle in practice before the first game, sending him to IR. By the end of the season, 4 of our draft picks were on IR and 2 had been released from the team. Out of the 9 players we drafted in 2013, only 3 lasted to the end of the year.
When it was made public that Ed Reed would be a primary target for the Texans in free agency, there was much excitement amongst the fans. Perhaps we'd finally get a man who knew how to beat the elite quarterbacks of the league! We could get a legendary veteran player to coach up the young defensive backs in our secondary! For the most part, we were very happy when he officially signed with the Texans.
That honeymoon didn't last very long though, when it was almost immediately revealed that Ed Reed would need hip surgery, and would likely miss all of training camp and possibly the preseason. Things got worse every week that Reed sat out. By the time he finally made his Texans debut, the fanbase had cooled on the signing, but were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Then we saw him actually play. He was slow, he was bad at tackling, and he failed to make any significant plays. It was argued that opponents were throwing the ball away from him, but nobody was particularly happy with his performance.
Eventually, even the Texans coaching staff soured on the signing after Ed Reed publicly called out the coaching staff after a loss. Ed Reed and the Texans parted ways shortly after a week 10 loss to the Cardinals.
Break a Leg!
The Texans took this old saying which meant "good luck!" a bit too literally this year. Four players ended up on injured reserve this year with broken bones in the legs. First was David Quessenberry, who broke his foot in practice before week 1. Next was our pro-bowl TE Owen Daniels, who broke his leg in week 5 against the 49ers. Then it was Danieal Manning's turn, as he broke his leg in week 6 against the Rams. The following week, Brian Cushing had his leg broken, along with a torn MCL, against the Chiefs.
The Passing of a Legend
On October 18, 2013, one of the greatest figures in Houston sports history passed away. Bum Phillips was the beloved head coach of the Houston Oilers during the Luv Ya Blue years, where he lead the team to an impressive 59-38 record, but could never quite reach the Super Bowl. He was fired by Bud Adams on December 31, 1980. Perhaps it was fitting that Bud Adams also passed away within a few days.
There was no more horrifying moment than when Gary Kubiak suffered a transient ischemic attack, or 'mini stroke" at half time during the week 9 game against the Colts. The entire stadium went completely silent as everyone wondered what they had just witnessed. When word came back that Kubiak was conscious and seemingly alright, there was a great sigh of relief, but neither the players nor the fans really appeared to have their heart completely in the second half of that game with their coach's health in question.
Andre Johnson Gets Mad
This may seem like a small thing, but when a man as widely known for his calm demeanor and utter professionalism as Andre Johnson is gets angry at his own teammate, something is going on. At the end of the week 11 game against the Raiders, Andre Johnson exchanged heated words with QB Matt Schaub, and marched off the field into the locker room before the game officially ended. Again, such a display doesn't sound like much, but that would have been the equivalent of a fist fight for most players. Later, Johnson and Schaub would both downplay the exchange, but the frustration was palpable.
The Three Amigos
Unbeknownst to us fans, shortly before the week 7 game against the Chiefs, rookies Willie Jefferson, Cierre Wood, and Sam Montgomery were released from the team for breaking team rules. The incident allegedly involved the 3 men and a cigar, but details were, and remain, sketchy. Montgomery was a third round draft pick, and Jefferson and Wood had both shown great promise as UDFAs in the preseason. The loss of Cierre Wood on that day was especially bad, as it left us without a running back against the Chiefs after Foster aggravated his hamstring and Ben Tate broke his ribs.
After seeing how the season was unfolding, Kubiak's job was obviously in jeopardy, but most people were still caught off guard when the Texans announced his release after the week 14 loss against the Jaguars. The Texans organization made it a habit of taking care of personnel business before and after the season, so while his firing wasn't unexpected, the timing was. Along with Kubiak, one of the two final members of the original Texans coaching staff, Special Teams coach Joe Marciano, was also released, to the relief of Texans fans everywhere.
Fall of Schaub and the Rise of Keenumania
After a dismal showing early in the season, Matt Schaub injured his ankle in the week 6 game against the Rams. News of this injury lead to cheers from the fans in the stadium, though I would like to think it was more that they were cheering for the new quarterback rather than for the injury itself. T.J. Yates promptly threw two interceptions in the remainder of that game, sending him back to the bench.
The following week, against the Chiefs, University of Houston alum and UDFA QB Case Keenum started. He had a very respectable debut game against one of the top defenses in the league, posting 271 yards and a touchdown. He improved on that performance the next week with a spectacular game against the Colts, putting up 350 yards with 3 touchdowns to Andre Johnson. His third game was a bit less impressive, but he still posted 201 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Texans still lost all 3 games, but the fans were excited!
Then came the decline. Keenum had exhibited several flaws in his first three games, but the results had been good enough that most fans wanted to ignore them. But opposing defensive coordinators did not. Seeing Keenum's difficulty diagnosing and handling blitzes, opponents began to blitz early and often. Seeing Keenum's preference for the deep throws over shorter ones, opponents schemed to take away his deep options. With a failing offensive line, Keenum was forced to run for his life and stick to short and intermediate routes where his accuracy and velocity were suspect. The fans abandoned him just as fast as they had flocked to him.
When Keenum was declared out due to and injured thumb, the collective reaction of the fanbase was something along the lines of "meh." Matt Schaub returned to finish what he'd started, and he succeeded at that spectacularly.
What are Takeaways?
The Texans defense finished 7th in total defense in 2013. However, they also finished tied for 24th in points allowed, and dead last in takeaways. The measly 11 takeaways the defense managed tied an NFL record for the fewest ever in a single season with the strike shortened 1982 Colts season.
And then there was the true defining quality of the 2013 Houston Texans season...
Interceptions for Everyone!
Unknown to us, the first play of the season was a harbinger of things to come. Matt Schaub threw a pass towards the left sideline that was deflected by defensive lineman and intercepted. Through the first 5 weeks, Schaub would be intercepted at least once a game. But things got even worse.
In week 2 against the Titans, Matt Schaub threw a pick-6. In week 3 against the Ravens, Matt Schaub threw a pick-6. In week 4 against the Seahawks, Matt Schaub threw an utterly predictable and wholly unnecessary pick-6 that cost the Texans the game. Going in to the week 5 against the 49ers, the question on everybody's lips was whether Schaub would break the NFL record for most consecutive games with a pick-6. He didn't hesitate to deliver. Schaub's first pass of the game was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
Schaub managed to play the next game without throwing a single interception before having his ankle rolled on by a defender, taking him out of the game. It seemed like the pick-6 streak was done. But then T.J Yates stepped up to finish what Schaub had started. In his first drive, he threw an interception in the red zone that was returned 98 yards for a touchdown. Yates gave the Texans the record of 5 consecutive games with a pick-6.
Schaub returned later in the year for various reasons, and continued to gift us with interceptions. On what would become the final offensive play of the season in the week 17 game against the Titans, Matt Schaub threw another interception, bookending what will almost certainly be his final season with the Houston Texans.
The Texans as a team set two NFL records and had a player set an individual NFL record. We suffered the deaths of one of the most beloved and one of the most hated men in Houston football. Our head coach suffered a medical emergency on the field, and was later fired during the season. A team widely known for recruiting players of great character released 3 players for team rules violations during the season. A popular preseason super bowl contender finished dead last. Can anyone else think of a season in Houston sports where so many unexpected things happened?