The 2013 season has been the worst in the history of the Houston Texans. A season filled with expectations that the team would, at least, bring home another AFC South championship to complete the three-peat and hopefully win more than one playoff game has slowly rolled from a turd into the Great Mighty Poo (Yes, I just added Conker's Bad Fur Day to my growing lists of references).
They won their first two games in comeback fashion against mediocre teams that masked the crimson, pounding, beating boils that sprouted on the Texans's face. Then the season unraveled as we witnessed the unthinkable: injuries of the most painful sort, pick-sixes on pick-sixes, ill coaches, washed-up veterans (which is putting it lightly), and sack tap style losses. A team that oozed with talent was replaced with a moldy sponge that swallowed up the peas, hair and entrails of the malodorous dishes in the lake at the bottom of the sink. My twenty-two year old eyes have never seen a team this talented play as poorly as the 2013 Houston Texans have. This season has simply been a work of fiction.
I've also never seen a group have their time marred by such infelicitous acts since I was a lumpy twelve year old and spent my afternoons immersed in the words and worlds described between the spines grasped in my hands.
The group in question included three siblings--Violet, Kraus, and Sunny--who left to bathe at Briny Beach on a murky afternoon only to come home to a burnt house and dead parents. The news was brought by their banker, Arthur Poe; they would be forced to live with their insidious, eye tattooed, distant cousin, Count Olaf. Their rest of their childhood would be spent escaping his clutches as they moved from distant relative to distant relative as Olaf stealthily creeped in the shadows with his eyes on their bank account.
It's hard to have empathy for a trio of orphaned children who were forced to live in a life in grief and crippling fear like the Baudelare siblings, but this Texans season has followed the same pattern: new game, semblance of hope, excruciating pain, black humor, week after week, book after book. Now we are about to head into Week Eleven as we have witnessed Houston rattle off seven straight losses in a row marred by a series of unfortunate events. The only argument now left isn't "Does this team suck?", but "Which unfortunate event has been the most lugubrious?".
The Bad Beginning
In the first game of the season, Houston escaped an improbable doom against the San Diego Chargers. We all yelped in glee as Randy Bullock knocked down a field goal to win the game, but the problems of 2013 began with that jubilant field goal. Texans' fans across the country turned into a throng of fourteen year-old girls at a Bieb's concert as we witnessed Houston come back after being down 28-7 against a San Diego team that was supposed to feel its way through the season. The Texans' run game was average, the offensive line had issues protecting the passer and they failed to play a full game. The last component of the previous list would plague this team the most as they played 5 games with completely different first and second halves. It was one game, and we accepted it as a tough, hard-fought road win in a late night game they weren't used to playing. Week One was just one of many for a team getting prepared for a division championship and playoff run.
"I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong."
-Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning
Week Two was another disaster avoided by late game heroics. We still failed to notice that the Texans might not be good because of the sample size and the emotion. Despite the impending doom, the Texans were about to face, there were two weeks of undefeated ignorant blissful joy.
"Sometimes, even in the most unfortunate of lives, there will occur a moment or two of good fortune."
― Lemony Snicket, The Reptile Room
The first pick six occurred against the Titans and we laughed it off uneasily. The pass was a miscommunication as Matt Schaub threw a curl and DeAndre Hopkins continued to run down the sideline without a care in the world. Schaub was also lucky that Bernard Pollard was knocked out of bounds on an earlier interception; otherwise, he would have thrown two in one game. However, Houston won, everything was cool and that sort of thing happens every once in a while.
Against the Ravens, the second in a string of unspeakable, unsustainable acts began. The pick-sixes continued to roll when Daryl Smith devoured a curl route to Owen Daniels and romped his way to the end zone. Baltimore also would score because of a poor pass interference call on Kareem Jackson and a Marcianoan punt return for a touchdown. The Texans outplayed the Ravens, yet still lost because of sloppy play and mental errors as they handed points and yards quickly away. The frustration started to become a mere rabble after seeing a talented team continue to underperform.
The next week IT HAPPENED AGAIN, but this time in a more stupefying fashion. Schaub rolled to the right into a Seattle blitz and instead of taking the sack, he threw the ball up to a hapless Owen Daniels. Richard Sherman picked that ball off in practice earlier that week, read the play, attacked the football in flight and cradled the ball in his talons. He romped into the end zone to tie a game that Seattle would win in overtime, thanks to a horrendous unnecessary roughness penalty on Kareem Jackson that put Seattle in field goal position.
Pick-sixes aren't supposed to happen three times in three weeks, let alone four times in four weeks, right? However, all logic was tossed into a Saw death trap (the one with the pool of shredded up rotting pigs is my personal favorite) as on the first pass of the game Schaub limped a pass to Andre Johnson that Tremaine Brock cut off and pranced into the end zone with. We were all left in a numb, laughing gas induced state as we pondered how something that shouldn't be happening kept occurring.
The final brick in the loony bin was the most beautiful of the bunch. T.J. Yates came in for an injured Matt Schaub and somehow moved the ball into the Rams' red zone. Checkdown after checkdown finally came to its penultimate conclusion on 4th and 3 when Yates stared down Garrett Graham on a curl route. It was the same pass Schaub threw to Darryl Smith in Week Three and Alec Ogletree jumped the route, running 98 yards to make the game 38-6 as we laughed with Jeff Fisher in stinking agony.
"I am sorry to say that Mr. Poe had not done a very good job so far, and that the Baudelaires had learned that the only thing they could rely on with Mr. Poe was that he always had a cough."
― Lemony Snicket, The Ersatz Elevator
Cushing is Cut
Over the first six weeks of the season, Brian Cushing answered all questions that his ACL shredded knee was perfectly fine, thank you for asking, as he played the best football of his career. He led the team in tackles and commanded the center of Houston's defense. All roads may lead to Rome, but every defensive play went through Cushing. Against Kansas City, tragedy struck Cushing's knee again. The Chiefs were unable to stop him from wreaking havoc on the quarterback when he blitzed, so they opted to hit him low and cut him down as he ran at full speed into the helmet of Jamaal Charles. His LCL was torn, his leg broken, and his season ruined.
He joined Owen Daniels and Danieal Manning slanging in sweats on the sideline club and unhinged the velvet rope for Arian Foster a few weeks later. Additionally, his injury will likely open up a festering jar of farts in the offseason. The selection committee will likely have long, serious talks about the legality of cut block rules. Cushing might become the first player with two rules named after him.
"It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier."
― Lemony Snicket, The Slippery Slope
Ed Reed's Rubble
In the sweltering summer, "Is Ed Reed going to suck this year?" was the only argument that was slathered in more controversy than "Is Matt Schaub any good anymore?". A few of us were left nauseous as we learned Glover Quin would move to Detroit in favor of Ed Reed's maggot-riddled carcass, but we were told that he would be the missing piece to beating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the playoffs. Excuse me real quick while I-BLUUUURRGGHHH! /wipe vomit off the side of my mouth with the sleeve of my 2011 AFC South Champs shirt. This season, he has been a bumbling atrocity, running away from blocks, missing tackles and making about as big of an impact as D.A.R.E had on the youth of America. Also just for fun:
News came in yesterday that Ed Reed would be released. Hopefully, he'll retire because when Shiloh Keo is better than you, your career is over. I hate to say some of us told you so, but we did. Now, if anyone has an Ed Reed jersey, I would like to purchase it for ironic purposes.
"There is no worse sound in the world than somebody who cannot play the violin who insists on doing so anyway."
― Lemony Snicket, The Austere Academy
Ahhhh, the fat kicker we love to hate. He has made 14 of his 23 kicks (60.9%), 0/4 from 50 yards, 7/11 from 40-49 yards, has been perfect from everywhere else, and ranks last in the league in field goal percentage. He pretty much has the stat line of a high school kicker whose coach has waaaaaaay too much faith in him. Every time he comes to kick, he looks like he has just been probed by a higher intelligence being and has learned that the entire universe is about to be garbled up by a black hole. His lumpy face and smooth double chin permeates a level of the highest incompetence. He opts for the Natty Light instead of warming up on the sideline before kicking a field goal. He can't make 50+ yard field goals. He an't make 40 yard pressure cookers. He is a 5th round pick gone to waste. Who would have ever thought that there would be a day that Neil Rackers and Shayne Graham would not only give the fanbase nostalgic butterflies in their stomach, but that Houston would bring them in for a tryout? On the bright side, he is the perfect kicker to tank with. Down by three, but still want to lose? Just bring Fat Randy in.
"Troublesome things tend to remain troublesome no matter how many times you do them, and that you should avoid doing them unless they are absolutely urgent."
― Lemony Snicket, The Ersatz Elevator
At the end of the first half against the Indianapolis Colts, the Texans led 21-6 and we went to the half tingling in excitement like a foot after running through a snow storm. Everything was swell and KEEEEEEEEEEEEENUUUUUUUUUUUUM was dropping bombs to 'Dre in a gleeful game. Then it all went haywire as Michelle Tafoya announced the news that Gary Kubiak collapsed, laid crumpled on a stretcher, and was headed to the hospital for an unknown reason. Whether it was a heart attack or stroke, no one knew. We did know what happened in the Cowboys game that day, thanks to NBC's halftime highlight show. Sometime in the third quarter, they produced an unsettling Zapruder film of Kubiak bent over in pain with only half of him in the camera's frame. It would turn out that he had a minor stroke and will be back to coach the Texans against the Raiders in what may be his farewell season.
"Sometimes words are not enough. There are some circumstances so utterly wretched that I cannot describe them in sentences or paragraphs or even a whole series of books."
― Lemony Snicket, The Ersatz Elevator
The worst part of the Rams game wasn't the loss to a crappy football team that the Texans handed points to. No, it was the fans. Schaub was sandwiched between two defensive linemen and rolled around holding his right foot in pain while the fans booed in blood lust. They booed in frustrating anger because of his poor play the past few weeks, but they failed to separate the person rolling in agony from the player that ruined their Sunday afternoons. It was a classless display. A few bad apples in a bushel brought on additional bad karma and black cats in a downtrodden season.
"Frustration is an interesting emotional state, because it tends to bring out the worst in whoever is frustrated."
― Lemony Snicket, The Wide Window
After the raucous play of Keenum left us bathing in a weird, warm feeling of optimism, reality came shoving its pointy fingers into our mouths. Sometime before the Texans-Chiefs game, Cierre Wood, Sam Montgomery and Willie Jefferson were smoking a "cigar" in their hotel room before that night's video session. They were caught and cut to prove the system of accountability that seeps through the pour of every inch of Kubiak's body. Each of these player's agents have claimed that it wasn't what it was claimed to be (read: weed) and that their clients did nothing wrong. Whatever happened doesn't and didn't matter. All it was was just another notch on the bedpost for a season filled with nonsense.
"Sunny did not eat the wood, of course, but she chewed on it and pretended it was a carrot, or an apple, or a beef and cheese enchilada, all of which she loved."
― Lemony Snicket, The Miserable Mill
Not only am I a San Antonio native, but I was born in the year 1990, so the legend of Bum Phillips is before my time. However, after reading the kind words about him after his death, I yearned to learn more about the cowboy hat swashbuckler that patrolled the sidelines. I read all I could, went on a YouTube video spree and listened with earnest to BFD and his tales of Luv Ya Blue. After reading and hearing about him, it was amazing to hear about the joy he brought to others' lives and how he changed the game of football.
"Coaching is not how much you know. It's how much you can get players to do."
If you came from the future and told me before the season that Houston would be 2-7, lose seven in a row, and Case Keenum would be starting at quarterback, I would have came home and told the story about the raving lunatic I met spanging outside the 7-11 that day. Now here we are in a grim wormhole we all drunkenly stumbled into. It's still hard to believe that the highlight of this season has been watching J.J. Watt and Case Keenum heave the ball as far as he can down the field.
"If someone had told me, that day at the beach, that before long I'd find myself using my four teeth to scrape the bark off trees, I would have said they were psychoneurotically disturbed."
― Lemony Snicket, The Miserable Mill
It doesn't matter how the rest of this season plays out. The pain and trauma can't be any worse. We have already seen it all. The only nibble of hope for Houston is that Keenum continues to play either extremely well or horribly so Houston has an idea what to make of him come draft time, and that the Texans lose in entertaining fashion so we can enjoy both a high draft pick and some smiles on Sunday. Subsequently, the team has perfected the art of tanking that would even make the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers blush. With the talent this team has, 2013 may be a mess, but 2014 should be a return to eleven win football if they make the right moves at pertinent positions. This will be remained to be seen, bu-
"In the End, it depends on how you look at it."
― Lemony Snicket, The End
Raiders vs Texans coverage
"It was a curious feeling, that something could be so close and so distant at the same time."
― Lemony Snicket, The Vile Village