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Red Zone Play: Road To Uncertainty

Trying to figure out where the Texans’ offense goes from here.

NFL: New England Patriots at Houston Texans Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

One of the guys on Sports Radio 610 made a comment last night about the 2010 Houston Texans having a top tier offense and bottom of the barrel defense, the team addressing those issues in the off-season by bringing in Wade Phillips and the glory of the 2011-2012 seasons ensuing from there.

He went on to point out how we’re currently faced with the opposite situation, which got the RZP wheels turning.

If Romeo Crennel, Mike Vrabel and the gang return for next season –

If J.J. Watt comes back at even 80% of his former self –

If Kevin Johnson comes back to shine –

If Jadeveon Clowney keeps roaring his way to full potential –

If A.J. Bouye can be resigned –

If the defense clicks right out of the gate –

This defense will be historically great. Not just by H-Town standards, or Texas standards, but by All-World standards. We’re talking ‘85 Bears great. Opposing offenses terrified to play in NRG great. Opposing fan bases having panic attacks when Houston comes to town great.

What would it take to make them much better than they were this year? How about an offense that can keep the ball away from the opponent’s offense? And, toss in an offense that jumps out to an early lead, forcing the opponent to play catch-up by abandoning the run game.

A “good enough” offense will help, but one that parallels what Wade Phillips brought to town on the D-side back in 2011 would push the defense into rarefied air.

Consider how solid Houston’s defense was in 2016 with nearly no help from the offense and special teams. The offense and special teams prematurely put the defense back on the field over 20 times this season through turnovers. The offense only managed to covert 87 of 233 third downs. The coaching staff went for it on fourth down 23 times, only succeeding nine of those times.

In fact, statistically, the only friend of the defense on either of the other units was punter Shane Lechler, who once again proved why he’ll be the next punter to enter the Hall of Fame.

We know Bill O’Brien is returning as head coach. As of right now, Rick Smith is still the general manager. Who then, will come in and be the offensive equivalent of @SonofBum? Charlie Weis is an obvious answer, having come from the New England tree along with all the other “Patriots South” members of the Texans’ coaching staff. While he hasn’t done so well as a head coach, Weis did bring the Texans’ current offensive scheme to New England, utilizing it to win three of their Super Bowls. Could he come do it again in Houston? There were some who thought Crennel couldn’t make it happen when he came in to replace Phillips…

Norv Turner is another name sure to bubble up at some point. While Norv’s systems are in no way identical to Weis’ EP schemes, he did enter another Texas franchise and take the offense from bottom to top when he joined the Dallas Cowboys in the early 90s. Granted, Troy Aikman isn’t coming out of retirement to sign with Houston and Norv has failed to duplicate that success anywhere he’s been since then. Plus, based on what he did in Minnesota this year with a broken offense, chances are Norv wouldn’t do so well on the third coast.

Kyle Shanahan will also get mentioned if he’s smart enough to avoid the 49ers’ gig like the plague. Houston would have to give him the “Assistant Head Coach” label, which could be seen as Bob McNair hedging his bet on O’Brien by setting up a clear successor should O’Brien fail to advance past the early rounds of the playoffs again next year. While Shanahan has Texans ties, his career hasn’t been nearly as successful as Weis or Turner’s, but he’s current the trendy choice due to his success with the overload of talent in Atlanta. Whether he can duplicate that success without Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and DeVonta Freeman remains to be seen. If Shanahan is smart, he’ll stay put in Atlanta, get a raise for his achievements this year, and see what next off-season brings.

Another possibility is that Bill O’Brien promotes from within, elevating a coach who might fair no better than George Godsey did. John Perry, tight ends coach, is really the only one who has anything to brag about after the 2016 debacle, as his guys did their job better than expected. But if Godsey was nothing more than an extension of O’Brien, putting another “extension” in place would certainly do nothing to make the offense the defensive equivalent of the 2011 unit.

While there’s plenty of uncertainty going forward, one thing is rock solid: if the powers-that-be can get this hire right, 2017 could very well be the best season the Texans have ever experienced.

Who do you think will be the new OC? Let us know in the comments below.