Perhaps, at some point in your life, you have had the fortune to luck into something incredible. I believe that all of us are born lucky*. But even beyond that, perhaps you have had a child, perhaps you have successfully convinced some person you are attracted to that you are pretty swell, or perhaps you have landed a dream job. Something of the magnitude, and only you know what it is, that completely fortifies a part of your own self-image.
I am a rather stoic person. Things of this magnitude don't instantly shake my foundation. What happens is, at some point during the day, I will inadvertently remind myself that things have changed forever. Then, I will either laugh in uncontrolled glee for about five seconds, or I will smile with gritted teeth and release a noise that, for lack of a better term, I'll call a "squee."
That reaction is the most succinct way that I can sum up my feelings about the Texans successfully signing Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning on Thursday night.
There hasn't been much joy in being a Texans fan. I don't want to make that sound as depressing as it is, because obviously there is a joy in the idea of football (and Andre Johnson) in itself that is exciting and interesting, but Texans fans on the whole have not had a lot to be excited about since David Carr and Billy Miller knocked off the Cowboys in their inaugural game.
The last three years under Gary Kubiak have been spent spinning wheels. The Texans would pick a few specific areas of the team that needed upgrading, target it through the draft, sprinkle on some prayer beads for the yearly safety stopgap, and sail out to sea hoping that something had changed. It was an organizational philosophy that led to a team that, while talented, would never be able to sustain success because it was always filling its holes too slowly to ever have a complete team. I wasn't ready to jump on the bandwagon for this team's chances after the draft, because this team has always had a knack for finding decent players in the draft, then watching them flounder under poor coaching or injuries.
Never has a set of two signings repudiated a set of organizational norms as quickly as this. Consider the following:
- The biggest Texans free agent signings, prior to Mr. Joseph, were probably Antonio Smith and Todd Wade. This has always been a team that focused on the future first and worried about the now later. Notice how consistently good teams like the Patriots, Eagles, and now (I suppose) the Jets continually are able to lure great players in free agency or trade situations. Investing in the now not only brings you credibility with your fanbase, but also with other players. It was too late to convince Nnamdi Asomugha to play here, but with moves like this that exude a desire to win, the Texans may be able to lure the next Nnamdi sometime down the line.
- The second that Manning steps on the field, he will be the best Texans safety in the history of the franchise. Assuming he plays to his normal talent level, he will have either the first or second-best season for a Texans safety, depending on where you want to slot Bernard Pollard's fluke 2009 year.
- The Texans secondary has been in shambles since Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman became too old to stay effective. Dunta Robinson had a few nice years, and Fred Bennett had that one awesome fluke year, but beyond that the rest of the secondary has been patchwork at best. Right now, with Glover Quin moving to safety, I would almost buy the argument that the Texans have an above-average secondary. In fact, I would buy it if someone promised me that Kareem Jackson would not be starting Week One.
So many words have been spilled on this blog, from myself and others, about the need to completely shore up this secondary. The front office, which I think in fairness was dealt a pretty tough hand at corner with the slim pickings on the market last offseason and the uncertainty with Robinson, had never taken the steps to do anything about it until Thursday night. It was a victory for common sense as much as it was fandom.
Could the Texans still do a little better? Absolutely. I will say right now that I think this team needs a veteran nose tackle. Whether it's an unfounded miracle signing like Aubrayo Franklin or a veteran stopgap like Pat Williams, it would make me feel a lot more comfortable about the defense if Earl Mitchell weren't handed the starting job right away. But for the first time in awhile, I don't find myself particularly bothered by it. When your organization gets the big things right, it's a lot easier to give them the benefit of the doubt on matters like that. And for the first time since possibly the very beginning of the Kubiak era, when slack was easy to come by, I actually feel like this team has done the big things right.
I texted my bff Tim about this matter Friday, asking what it was called when thinking about the Texans doesn't produce a laundry list of foibles and problems, but instead a warm feeling of non-sadness.
"Optimism? Dare I say it?"
(*--Think about this. You were one of tens of millions of sperm, and that number is intentionally low, yet you were the one who fertilized the egg. Add on to that the fact that all of your ancestors successfully survived and passed on their seed, which is an event that is mathematically hard to even fathom. Every birth really is a miracle. A miracle against odds.)