The 2015 season is over. Its remains have been tossed like bread crusts into the bellowing bellies of salty rats. The things that were important weeks and months ago are already fleeing from our memories. The little details of this season--Ryan Mallett bouncing balls into the turf, the desire for Jonathan Grimes to get more carries, the potential firing of Bill O'Brien after Week Seven--will all soon vanish. The things that will be remembered are the monumental moments--the franchise's first win in Indianapolis, J.J. Watt devouring planets, DeAndre Hopkins' touchdown catch that beat Cincinnati, and Brian Hoyer going full Delhomme and sharting himself in the NFL playoffs. These are the things that will last while the rest fades away.
Before it all seeps from our consciousness, let's enjoy the little things of the 2015 season and savor it all one last time before the last five months of games become just another data entry in a Pro Football Reference table. And there's no better way to start the celebration than with imaginary AWARDS.
Charley Casserly Worst Off-Season Decision: The Refusal to Fix the Quarterback Position.
This award will be the same every season until Houston gets a quarterback. This year they overcame self-inflicted adversity by winning nine games with four different quarterbacks and by being the best team in a bad division with a roster of talent leftover from the Kubiak era. For the second year in a row, the Texans relied on a stop-gap, gritty journeyman, and the Texans were nothing more than a "J.J. Watt is really good" sideshow in the championship picture.
DVOA and DYAR have Brian Hoyer as the 20th best QB in the league. He was efficient and could make easy throws with a lead. This is the what. The why shows a quarterback who bounced curl routes, overthrew deep passes that should have been touchdowns, doesn't know what ball placement is, and was pantsed in the playoffs. When everyone else is great, Hoyer is fine. When everyone else isn't, Hoyer is an abomination.
Now this would be a difficult enough pill to swallow, but when you add in Ryan Mallett throwing the ball as hard as he can to someone three yards away, T.J. Yates being unable to do anything other than throw it deep to Hopkins, and clamoring for Brandon Weeden to come in at halftime in a playoff game, it becomes a suppository. This is what happens when you scrap together below-average quarterbacks. Bad things happen.
The best part of this is that Bill O'Brien has actually been praised for being Bowe Bergdahl. He shouldn't be celebrated when it's his own fault. He wasn't captured in the middle of the night by the Taliban. He walked from his station into enemy territory. He wasn't forced to sign Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Hoyer. He passed on Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr. He chose to take the the slow-footed and inaccurate 24 year old project Tom Savage, when they finally had the draft capital to make a real investment in the quarterback position.
Hopefully, next season this nonsense will finally end. Brian Hoyer's playoff game should be O'Brien's Joycean epiphany that no matter how well he whispers, real talent is needed at the quarterback position. Hopefully next season, O'Brien stops wasting this talented roster's finite time.
Tweet of the Year: Shilo Keo to Wade Phillips.
When I was in college, I was often told about the power of networking. It's not what you know, it's who you know. Every class hammered it into my brain. But my naive and idealistic self thought it sounded like nepotism. I should be offered a job because "I'm an intelligent individual who works hard and can bring so much to an organization," not because I spent time spamming messages on LinkedIn. I thought it was something for the yammering douches who wore a suit to class every day needed to use to make up for their lack of ability to understand what account receivables are. I never truly understood the power of it until now.
OMG YES pic.twitter.com/QjAH8G17t3— Matt Weston (@Mbw987) December 2, 2015
It's a great reminder for everyone who's in between jobs, the unemployed equivalent of choosing to be single. The worst thing they can say is no. The best thing they can say is yes. You'll never know if you don't try. If Keo never asked Wade about a roster spot, he would be like every other loser (hey, that's me) who spends his time watching football being snarky and delivering #analysis on Twitter.
Going to be tough to win the game with one reciever— Shiloh Keo (@kaleo10) October 9, 2015
And now Shiloh Keo is a Super Bowl Champion.
Jacoby Jones Award: Gary Kubiak, Wade Phillips, Owen Daniels, Shiloh Keo, Antonio Smith, Bill Kollar, Greg Knapp, Rick Dennison, Reggie Herring, and more.
The team wearing that banal hue of orange employs a multitude of former Texans. Together they just won Super Bowl 50 while Bill O'Brien was scouting and the rest of the roster was watching television and buying new Range Rovers. Wait a second...the latter doesn't sound half bad actually.
During the 2013 season, it was hard to tell if the problem was Kubiak's scheme being outdated or Matt Schaub. After getting fired, Kubiak become the offensive coordinator in Baltimore. There, he took the 30th ranked offense (DVOA of -21.7%), and flipped it to 9th (DVOA of 9.4%). Afterwards, he became the head coach in Denver and dragged an inexperienced quarterback and Peyton Manning's corpse to a championship. Matt Schaub, on the other hand, has completed 57/92 passes (62.%) for 587 yards (6.4 Y/A) and has thrown 3 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in the four games he's played since his wings melted in 2013. Two years later, it's obvious the 2013 Texans were a talented team derailed by Schaub and his inability to execute the offense, not Kubiak.
After being hired by Denver, Kubiak looked in the Yellow Pages for someone who fixes defenses for a living. There he found Wade Phillips' full page ad and called his old buddy up. Like Houston, San Diego, Buffalo, and Atlanta, Phillips made an immediate impact on this defense. In one season, with nearly identical personnel, he turned Denver into the best defense in the NFL and raised their adjusted sack rate from 23rd to 1st. This is remarkable for someone who's been 65 years old for the last 20 years and was unemployed in 2014.
Daniels has played his entire career with Kubiak and caught both of Manning's AFC Championship touchdown passes against Jamie Collins. I guarantee you he'll be Kubiak's tight ends coach one day. Smith has been a fine interior pass rusher after a short stint in Oakland. And Shiloh Keo played meaningful snaps this postseason, which is something so unbelievable that it makes my brain hurt.
They are all Super Bowl Champions and have proven once again that if you want to win a Super Bowl, the first step is to make sure you don't play for the Houston Texans.
Play of the year: DeAndre Hopkins' One-Handed Touchdown Catch over Adam Jones.
I still can't get over this catch.
The Texans run this play every time they get to the 20 yard line. They bunch every receiver not named DeAndre Hopkins to the other side of the formation and leave Nuk alone in isolated man coverage. He never runs past the defender or is anything you can classify as open. The defensive back sticks with him. The quarterback puts the ball in the area code. And then something beautiful happens. Hopkins comes into the defender, boxes him out, and leaps over him for the catch.
It was the best and the most important play of the year. Hopkins jumps from the one yard line and floats, like an apparition, four yards into the end zone. Adam Jones is stuck underneath as Hopkins travels above him. Then with one hand, Nuk cradles the ball into his chest. If he doesn't make this catch, the Texans probably lose to Cincinnati, the tiebreakers sway in Indianapolis' favor, and Houston doesn't get the chance to lose 30-0 to the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs.
I still stand by the fact that Joseph had an awful game against the Buccaneers. Tampa marked him as a weak link and targeted him often. He was beat by Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans throughout the game. But with veteran savvy, J-Jo was able to catch back up and knock the ball out of the receiver's hands. He turned completions into incompletions.
I thought this signaled the demise of a 31 year old who was slowing down at a position that doesn't take too kindly to players once they lose a step. I was one hundred percent wrong. Johnathan Joseph still had enough athleticism to be able to get more than by. The ability to break on the ball is still kind of there. He still jammed receivers and stayed with them. He still knows how to look for the football and has ball skills. Joseph is a veteran who knows how to play the game and I will never say anything bad about him again, even when the last speck trickles to the bottom of the glass.
Photoshop of the Year: The 40 year old QB.
I ain't all that educated when it comes to the computer. I can do enough, but I don't have any real skills. Thankfully, here at BRB, I can turn the Photoshop signal on and either Captain Ron or Ryan Dunsmore can whip something up for me.
This one was perfect and I can't thank Captain Ron enough for turning a boy's dream into a masterpiece. And yes, Houston did lose to a 40 year old quarterback who spent the entire week leading up to the game in the hospital peeing,puking, and pooping himself.
Gif of the Year: Ryan Mallett is fussy.
After having his torso trounced, Mallett went to the sideline to get looked at. Enter Brian Hoyer. When it was confirmed that Mallett was alright, he got ready come back in. O'Brien denied him and kept Hoyer at quarterback. Mallett's reaction was preserved for posterity.
Listen, Mallett had every right to huff and puff. He played pretty okay that game aside from an awful interception on an angle route to Arian Foster where the threw a pass behind him as hard as he could. But he wasn't playing badly enough to warrant getting benched for Hoyer. And even if he was, Mallett didn't even get benched like a MAN. O'Brien took the easy way out after Hoyer picked up one first down and had him not go in. He couldn't even sit Mallett down and tell him he sucks.
This is also why people think Mallett never worked out as a NFL quarterback. They watch this and think he was too immature and dumb to play in the professional football league. In reality, it's because Mallett has zero touch, no accuracy, and can only throw the ball really hard. If he had any accuracy, he would still be a possible starter, regardless of how fussy he gets.
Most importantly, this how I feel, and how we all should feel, when we think about all the time we wasted watching Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tom Savage, Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, Tom Savage, and T.J. Yates play quarterback these last two seasons.
Folly of the Year: J.J. Watt's Goal Line Run.
Oh man, just like every year, there's so many to choose from. Isn't being a fan of the Houston Texans the best? This year we had a Nick Novak 57 yard field goal attempt. Hoyer's Floater. Rahim Moore and Quintin Demps' effort on Devonta Freeman's 23 yard touchdown run. Every offensive touchdown the Dolphins had. Every time Nate Washington tried to catch a pass over his head. All the times RYAN. MALLETT. THROW. HARD. Knile Davis' kickoff return to start the Texans' 2015 playoff run.
Yet one surpasses it all. The full package goal line against Kansas City was the dumbest.
Let's set the stage and break this one down.
It's first and goal at the two yard line. Alfred Blue had just converted a third and two by picking up three yards. Immediately following that run, Texans' players scattered around from the sideline to the field. It was pandemonium. Mike Tirico's brain stopped working when Vince Wilfork and J.J. Watt came in to replace Brian Hoyer and Alfred Blue.
J.J. Watt is playing quarterback out of the shotgun. Yes, Watt is playing quarterback out of the shotgun. Blocking for him are seven offensive linemen, two tight ends, and one nose tackle. There's eight down linemen. Vince Wilfork and Ryan Griffin are split wings. There's no way they're going to throw it. Houston is doing one thing--running the ball behind Wilfork's blubber with a giant who doesn't know how to carry the ball near the goal line. Kitten, this play is a mess.
The backside is protecting the inside gap. Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks have an ace to Derrick Johnson (#56). Rather than have either of the split wing blockers immediately block the second level, Houston tries to run double-teams with them. This leads to Derek Newton and Wilfork blocking the defensive end, Allen Bailey (#97), to Josh Mauga (#90) and Griffin doubling Frank Zombo (#51) to Ron Parker (#38). On doubles, you want to get hip-to-hip to move the first level and peel. This difference in depth puts players who already don't know how to block at a disadvantage. Watt is trying to run in the corridor created by these two stupid double teams.
Watt is running wide. Wilfork goes to block the end. Newton takes his proper inside steps and the end crashes outside into the pre-snap hole. Wilfork should be on Newton's outside shoulder, working with him. Instead, Wilfork runs right into Newton.
Wilfork pancakes Newton and unleashes his biggest hit of the 2015 season. Mauga is now free to make a play on Watt. Additionally, Brandon Brooks is tied up on the first level. He's sucked into the defensive tackle. He can't get off the block and make contact with the bullet that is Derrick Johnson screaming through the hole. Like I wrote in my preview to this game, the Texans' biggest issue on the offensive line is their inability to block the second level, and here's Johnson and Mauga going unblocked.
Newton's is still a pancake. Griffin's double can't get vertical movement. Derrick Johnson hits Watt low and stops him from getting across the line of scrimmage. Watt then fumbles around the backfield before going down for a loss of one.
Kitten, this was awful.
Best Use of Kitten: Diehard Chris after the loss to the Dolphins.
Kitten Kittening Kitten. I can't believe that game happened. It is astounding how bad this team is. Defense looks confused pre-snap on at least 3-5 plays every game. You've got the head coach telling the media in his postgame presser that the defense "needs to do tackling and pursuit drills", players straight up quitting on plays, liquefied Kitten at quarterback, musical chairs on the OL, safety play somehow might be the worst it's ever been on a franchise with historically bad safety play, your best two pass rushers playing with no discipline and over-pursuing so much that opposing offenses are scheming to take advantage of it, a tight end corps that smelled of rotting corpse LAST year but is actually WORSE this year, a QB who has been late 2-3 times in one season depending on who you read, and did I mention liquefied, rotting, smeared Kitten at the QB position?? Ever living love of KITTEN!
David Carr Throw of the Year: Hoyer's Floater.
This. Of course it's this. It has to be this.
The Petey Faggins Award (hating a player incessantly): Vince Wilfork.
Wilfork was worth a few LOLs in "Hard Knocks." He was cute in his overalls. I liked watching his jolly belly flop around when he played basketball. It is fun to watch that man stuff his face with BBQ. His sideline jokes reminded me of my time standing around on the sideline doing nothing.
But he wasn't paid to be cute on HBO. He was paid to stop the run. And he didn't do that. He was moved sideways by centers. He was shoved vertically by double teams. He lacked the speed to make a play after penetrating into the backfield. He was worthless.
Once I picked up on how bad he was, I would spend every Texans game praying for a behind view after every long run because I knew it was the result of Wilfork getting driven five yards backwards. I hated him more than Diehard Chris hates Nate Washington. I hated him more than BFD hated Brian Hoyerible. I hated him more than Rivers hates the Houston Texans.
It will be a glorious day when we he's cut this offseason.
Game of the Year: Week 15--Houston @ Indianapolis,
Did you know that the Houston Texans had never won in Indianapolis in their entire existence? Did you know that even Dan Orlovsky beat them in Indy? Did you know that Andre Johnson played his entire career in Houston before going to Indianapolis? Did you know that whoever wins this game is in the AFC South's driver seat?
Now, this wasn't a good game. It was an ugly game, just like every other Texans' win. The Texans out Texansed the Colts. They played better defense, ran the ball better and hid their quarterback better than Indy could. The Colts had a few chances to put Houston into an insurmountable ten-point hole, but couldn't put the last piece of silly putty onto the corner of the poster.
Houston hung around. They swung the field position and eventually squeezed their way into points because of a T.J. Yates ACL tearing run and a come from the other side of the formation and don't stop running toss to Jaelen Strong from none other than Brandon Weeden. After they got the lead, I spent the rest of the game waiting for them to blow it like Free Willy. Iit never happened. The Texans sealed it with a turnover and finally won in Indy.
It was strange. It was fun. It was gross. It set up a LOL playoff run, but finally the Colts were vanquished in Indy by Houston.
Gary Kubiak Battle Fighter of the Year: Alfred Blue.
Blue is the most plodding plodder who's ever plodded. He has no vision and has never made a successful cutback in his life. He can't hit the hole fast enough to make a difference when he runs. He's never made a defender miss. He is the worst running back in the NFL.
Despite this, Bill O'Brien loves to give him the football and loves to praise him. He runs with purpose. He fights for every carry. He works hard every day. And most of all. my favorite, he doesn't fumble. There's kids at the middle school who go an entire year without fumbling. That's how bad Alfred Blue is. His most redeeming quality is holding something, a basic human function.
Not even Gary Kubiak himself would allow him to battle-fight for this long.
Hipster Jersey of the Year: Ryan Mallett.
It's October 2016. You're sitting back, enjoying another Tom Savage interception. Life is meaningless. Nothing matters. You know this by now after being a Texans fan for this long. Suddenly, you hear others savoring another chapter of horrendous Texans quarterback play. There's clapping and cheering in the corner of the room coming from a group of drunk twenty-somethings. Out of the cacophony, a clear statement unsheathes itself, "I haven't seen a throw that bad since we got rid of my grandmother's rococo pillows after she died." You giggle slightly to yourself. You turn to get a look at this clever rascal.
There he is. Basking in all of his glory, tall and proud, in a Battle Red Ryan Mallett jersey that not even Ryan Mallett himself ever played in. He finishes a gulp of an IPA while slapping his hands together. He walks over to the internet Jukebox and streams The Decline by NoFX. You leave ten minutes into the 18 minute long song, which is just enough time to finish your Coors Light and vow to never return to that establishment again.
Rookie of the Year: Kevin Johnson.
You can hate on Rick Smith all you want. The lack of production in the middle rounds is an issue. The inability to get anything from UDFAs has led to the special teams being trash again. The devotion to the Keith Mumphreys of the world--limited athletes with specific tools who don't have the speed to make a difference. The Matt Schaub extension, and the lack of a clear succession plan that cost Gary Kubiak his job and set this franchise back for, oh, one season.
These are all valid points. But as long as Amobi Okoye isn't involved, Rick Smith still doesn't miss where it's most important--the first round. During his time as a GM, he's led a front office that has selected Amobi Okoye, Duane Brown, Brian Cushing, Kareem Jackson, J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, DeAndre Hopkins, Jadeveon Clowney, in the first round. Most teams in the league are starving for talent like this, and every year he plucks another one to add to the bushelful.
Kevin Johnson is going to be part of the long line of Rick Smith's great first round picks. His ability to break on the ball is Nightcrawle- esque. He can cover the other team's best receiver. Already he can play press coverage. And most importantly, this has all come in his rookie year at a position where success isn't usually had until their third year. The one issue K-Jo has is turning and looking for the ball, and he chases a little too often. Other than that, he's been great this year and will continue to grow into one of the best corners in the NFL.
Offensive Player of the Year: DeAndre Hopkins.
This is what the leap looks like:
He finished third in the NFL in receptions, yards and targets, seventh in touchdowns, and sixth in yards from scrimmage with Ryan Mallett, Brandon Weeden, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden throwing him the ball. In an offensive roster filled with limited athletes and scrubs, this was the easiest of award to hand out. Long live Dre II.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt.
Like Hopkins, there is no other choice or nominee. Watt was the best player on this defense. The denizen of the backfield stops not only drives but entire offenses on his own, like what he did against the New York Jets when he had two sacks, five tackles for a loss, five quarterback hits, and eight tackles.
Despite THE CLUB...
...and fighting through triple teams, Watt still managed to thrive and led the league in sacks with 17.5, tackles for a loss (29) that accounted for 38.2% of his 57 total tackles, approximate value with 21, and won his third NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.
MVP: DeAndre Hopkins.
It has to be Watt, right? The Texans only won nine games because of their defense. Watt led this unit and no matter what Pro Fartball Focus says, he was the best defensive player in the league this year. What's that? I didn't pick Watt.
Watt dominated this season, and the sun will rise tomorrow. Again, he was the focal point of the Texans' top ten defense. But we're talking about the most valuable, not the best. The most valuable player on this team is Hopkins. The second most productive player on offense was Alfred Blue, and the skill players on this team were:
In the passing game, Hopkins accounted for 31.07% of the targets, 30% of the receptions, 37.3% of the passing yards, and 38% of the passing touchdowns. If Hopkins isn't beating up single man coverage and leaping over defenders in the red zone, Houston doesn't a.) throw the ball with any effectiveness and b.) doesn't score the 20 points a game needed for their hideous style of football to succeed. He took over the offense's load once the Texans cut Andre Johnson and Arian Foster's Achilles exploded. He's now the man on this offense and was the most valuable player for the 2015 Houston Texans.
Tomorrow, I'll unveil the poll for the Reader's Choice Awards. Here's the version from 2013 as an example and unlike last time, leave your nominees for the above awards and whatever imaginary awards you would like to vote on for this year's iteration below.