The Texans are 5-3, but they haven't played well. They have won games against bad and mediocre teams. They have been slaughtered and butchered by the ones they were supposed to contend with. An offseason of speed and weapons was supposed to harvest an offense that would finally crack the top twenty in DVOA. Instead, the Texans are 32nd, directly behind Los Angeles and then thirty other teams.
Brock Osweiler has been the worst quarterback in the league this year. Did you know he makes a lot of money? Lamar Miller hasn't been good running between the tackles, yet Bill O'Brien continues to run inside plays with him instead of letting him manipulate the field with his vision on outside zone plays. DeAndre Hopkins has been turned from the third or fourth best receiver in the league (depending on how you feel about A.J. Green), to the 40th. Will Fuller sits, covered in dust, in some metaphorical garage. Braxton Miller hasn't done anything. Jaelen Strong can't beat man coverage consistently. All of these weapons that were characterized by fun and flashy offseason nicknames have come together to provide wins without performance under Bill O'Brien. All of this is so disappointing. We went through two seasons of zero quarterback play and shoddy offenses for it all to accumulate to this.
That isn't even the worst thing about this year to me. The worst part is that J.J. Watt had more back surgery and is only finally able to walk now. In the past, amongst all this boring muck, you could at least watch Watt do things no one else has ever done for 60 snaps each game. With him out, I find myself drifting from the television to the window during broadcasts. Aside from some early Will Fuller deep passes and a frenetic comeback against Indy, there hasn't been anything fun or enjoyable going on, aside from the end results this season.
To say I missed watching the Texans play yesterday is one hundred percent untrue. I had a much nicer day. I went for a run, then for a walk that ended in the middle of a rainstorm, looked up some numbers for something for tomorrow, and watched condensed versions of other NFL games. It was lovely to not watch dust congeal together into thick furry mounds on the blades of a ceiling fan.
Last year something similar occurred. The defense was one of the league's worst, and the highlight of the season was watching Ryan Mallett throw passes as hard as he could at the feet of receivers three yards away. Through understanding, or coaching, or game planning, or regression to the mean, the defense turned things around, molded into a top ten unit, and things became somewhat fun and enjoyable again. That's all I'm looking for in the second half. Not playoff victories, a division title, or more wins. Just a team that plays well and is actually enjoyable to watch.
Seeing Oakland upset Denver and Indianapolis upset Green Bay really puts my focus even more harshly on the Texans' coaching staff to come through with at least one "unexpected" win in second half. Predictability breeds apathy - and this season has gone SO much the way I thought it would go that honestly it just hasn't been that fun to watch football. The loss of J.J. Watt has played a big part in that as well, of course.
Starting out with what should be a softball in Jacksonville might be a good confidence booster, but the Texans have been so irredeemably awful on the road that I can't pencil that in as a win. Sure, they're likely to win but for the love of all things holy in the UNIVERSE, this should not be a patented #StruggleWin. The upcoming Monday night game against Oakland in Mexico City is looking like a very tough one. If this incarnation of O'Brien's Texans improve in the second half of the season similar to his previous track record, then maybe - juuuust maaaaybe - we can hang on to this division lead and hope for more than an immediate playoff exit.
Watching the latest Raiders game during the Texans' bye week had me focusing on Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. It was uncomfortable during draft weekend comparing the Texans' Clowney/XSF to the Raiders' Mack/Carr and wondering who did better in those first two rounds. Three seasons in, and now it feels all but settled that Rick Smith and Bill O'Brien seriously failed this franchise by missing the opportunity to resolve the biggest need on the team. I get the public relations backlash potential of bringing Carr 2.0 to Houston, but to simply ignore the QB position when you hold all the cards in that draft was so asinine that there needs to be a new synonym for "asinine" explicitly related to the decisions the Texans made in that draft.
Just to recap the Texans' 2014 NFL Draft: With R.A.C.'s 3-4 base defense, they draft a classic 4-3 DE in Jadeveon Clowney instead of an obvious star in the making 3-4 OLB like Mack? They sit and watch the Vikings jump in front of them for Teddy Bridgewater, and then take XSF with pick #33? Then they sit and watch the Patriots jump up in front of them for Jimmy Garoppolo, and they draft C.J. Fiedorowicz at the top of the 3rd round? How about trading back into the 3rd round for that no-knee-having, bad attitude misfit Louis Nix?!!! Oh, and then late in the 4th round, they use a compensatory pick to draft Tom Savage where nobody would be expected to tie that QB choice to the coach's future tenure.
After dismantling the Denver Broncos to take sole possession of first place in the AFC West, the Raiders will enjoy a bye week and then meet the Houston Texans in Mexico City. Let's hope that the Texans took their bye week to get the offense all on the same page and that they can tune things up against the Jaguars before heading to Mexico City for their next big test of the season.
For all that Derek Carr and Khalil Mack have accomplished, particularly through the first half of the 2016 season, I'm still not angry at the Texans for deciding to pass on both of them in 2014. I liked Mack, but I don't think there are many (any?) NFL teams that would have taken him over Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. While Clowney's bad injury luck robbed the Texans of his talents for most of two seasons and surely set his development back, the freakish physical ability he's unleashed when healthy demonstrate why so many thought Jadeveon Clowney would be a generational talent. Admittedly, Clowney has not delivered on all that promise yet, but I don't think the Texans should have a case of buyer's remorse.
With Derek Carr, it's a tougher pill to swallow because of (1) who the Texans selected with the first pick of the second round (Xavier Su'a-Filo) and (2) the team's struggles at QB since Matt Schaub's meltdown. Putting aside the issue with Houston drafting David Carr's little brother, I was never enamored with Carr the Younger's collegiate performance. I thought it was far more likely he'd bust in the NFL than shine. Thus far, he's proven me quite wrong, but I don't begrudge the Texans for deciding Derek wouldn't take the NFL by storm. That's not to say I agree now or agreed then with the Texans' strategy when it came to QB selection in the 2014 NFL Draft; I simply understand why they'd look somewhere besides Derek Carr for the answer.
Hindsight's always 20/20, and it's easy to wonder what might have been. At the time, though, I couldn't take issue with the Texans' decision to direct their resources in a direction that didn't include Khalil Mack and Derek Carr. I still can't.