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Texans' History - Battle Red Judgment Day: Condemned Or Forgiven?

Considering a moment in Texans' history that may have foreshadowed the demise of the Texans' 2013 season, and what it means for the future.

Matt Schaub in Battle Red.
Matt Schaub in Battle Red.
Bob Levey




gerund or present participle: foreshadowing

- be a warning or indication of a future event.

We don't have the benefit of knowing the future. It is only by looking back and considering the success and mistakes of the past that we can apply lessons from experience and learn from them. Going forward, we must remind ourselves to repeat those actions that helped us succeed, and avoid those that caused us to fail. I have heard it said that; "Good judgment comes from experience, but often times experience comes from bad judgement." That certainly has been true all too often.

In the card game of poker, often times a player will provide an involuntary physical reaction to what they see in their hands, whether it might be good or bad for their chance to win. This is commonly known as a "tell." To an experienced opponent, a visual "tell" is an opportunity to gain advantage over that player and defeat them. In the game of football, a "tell" can best be described as a "tendency." A player might do something in his running motion or with his eyes, head, feet, hands, shoulders, or hips that indicates what he is about to do next. A coach might call certain plays in similar situations in games that can be recognized as a tendency. When an opponent recognizes these tendencies, it can give them a great advantage to defeat the play to great effect. This is true on both sides of the ball. Very experienced players and coaches can take this to the next level to reverse the advantage to their favor.

Andre Johnson is a master at disguising his true route with false tendencies in his body movement to make the defender think it is a route they might have just studied on recent film. When they try to guess and commit on that masked route, he punishes them severely for their error and is wide open. More often than not, it's for a huge gain. While this is an example of advanced-tendency warfare that can help win games, unfortunately for some people, their tendencies are not masked and it ends up costing the Texans big time.

"A famous man once said, 'We create our own demons'." – Robert Downy Jr as Tony Stark, Iron Man 3

What does that even mean? It means sometimes we give the Devil too much credit. Sometimes we are the ones at fault. Sometimes we repeat the same errors and fail to learn from them.

Let me start again…

It was Week Fourteen of the 2010 NFL Season on December 13th. The weather was cool and crisp at 57 degrees, and the Baltimore Ravens were visiting Houston for a Monday Night Football game at Reliant Stadium. It was "Battle Red Day," and fans were adorned in red everywhere. As I walked through the parking lot, the smell of tailgate food filled the winter air. Trailers and tented enclosures were fitted with TVs playing highlights of the NFL games from the day before, and you could feel the excitement surrounding the whole stadium.

The Texans were 5-7 on the season, with a shot at the playoffs if they won out with a 9-7 record. Hope was still alive!

Matt Schaub and the receivers struggled throughout the game with a lot of dropped passes. With the exception of second year player Brian Cushing, the 2010 Texans’ defense was nothing special. In fact, they would end the season as one of the worst in NFL history. As a result, the Texans trailed 21-7 at halftime. Houston kicked off the second half of the game to the Ravens, and David Reed took the ball from three yards deep in the end-zone and ran it 103 yards back for a touchdown. This would be the last time the Ravens would score in the second half of the game, as the Texans finally got on track for an exciting comeback.

Down 28-20 with 29 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Schaub threw a five yard TD pass to Andre Johnson. The Texans then went for the two point conversion. Matt found Jacoby Jones in the end-zone to tie the game 28-28 and sent the game into overtime. The crowd was electric! Hope was still alive for the playoffs!

In overtime, the Ravens got the ball first. The Texans’ defense allowed a first down, but then stiffened and stopped Baltimore on third down with a sack by #96 Mark Anderson at the Ravens’ 30 yard line. The Ravens punted a beauty, and Jacoby Jones did his usual backpeddling and side-to-side nonsense for a punt return of -3 yards, which put the ball at the Houston 9 yard line. Insert the obligatory "Fire Marciano" at your discretion.

Matt Schaub threw incomplete to Owen Daniels on the first play of the series. Then the unthinkable happened; Matt dropped back and tossed a poorly thrown short left pass intended for Jacoby Jones, but it was intercepted by Ravens CB Josh Wilson, who returned it for a touchdown to end the game with a score of Ravens 34, Texans 28. The fans were crushed. To this day, I have never seen a more heartbreaking loss at Reliant Stadium.

It was at this time that my trust and confidence in Gary Kubiak and Matt Schaub was shattered. Kubiak should never have called such a high risk play, and Schaub should have never thrown that football. What tendency was recognized? Was it something in Jacoby's route running? Was it something Matt did as he went through his progressions? Was it a play Kubiak had used in other games with that field position? Perhaps Josh Wilson will reveal some day what it was he recognized that gave him the advantage that night. The scar of losing that game on that particular play has been etched deep within my memory. I still remember where I was standing at Reliant Stadium when this happened. I was wearing a red Cushing jersey and sipping a Crown & Coke. My heart sank in disbelief at what my eyes had just witnessed. My brain had yet to process something so unexpected and terrible.

You can watch the replay here:

With the loss, not only did Houston fall to 5–8, but they became the first team in NFL history to have four games in a season where they have come back and either tied or had the lead only to end up losing the game. It ended the hope for a playoff run for the Texans, who would go on to lose to the Titans and Broncos before defeating the Colts to wrap up the season with a 6-10 record.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" - George Santayana (a Spanish philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist)

Some credit Winston Churchill with that quote, but it originated with Santayana. Churchill did provide this more detailed statement based on the same wisdom:

"When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothing new in the story. It is as old as the sibylline books. It falls into that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong–these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history."

That "Pick 6" in 2010 is the horrific emotional scar that resurfaced earlier this year when Matt threw an interception on the first offensive play of the season against the Chargers, and then later went on to set an NFL record of four consecutive games with a "Pick 6." These plays highlight profoundly disturbing examples that may underscore many other tendencies that have led to disaster for the Texans.

Coach Kubiak and Matt Schaub have delivered many great moments to Texans' fans over the years, and hopefully they will be best remembered for those more than for the mistakes. They helped elevate this franchise through a scorched earth rebuild and won two division titles in the AFC South. The future of the Texans remains uncertain, as does the future of the careers for both of these men.

Some demons come back to haunt us again and again, especially when we created them ourselves. We all make mistakes, and often own up to them. Learning from our mistakes is important. What will most likely be a key point of evaluation for owner Bob McNair at the end of this season is how well the coaches and players have done in not repeating the mistakes of the past. Unfortunately for Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak, the record appears to be unfavorable.