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Red Zone Play: An Open Letter To Rick Smith

One Texans fan writes a letter to the Texans’ general manager on the eve of the NFL Playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Dear Mr. Smith,

First off, congratulations to you, the Houston Texans players, coaches and staff for a second straight AFC South Division Championship and yet another playoff berth. The Will to Win overcomes adversity once again!

Unfortunately, these achievements have a lot of asterisks next to them. They won’t matter in historical context when people look back in five or ten years, but they do have an effect on the immediate future.

Chief among those are the struggles on offense this team continues to wrestle with each and every week. It was recently reported that this Texans team has the fewest touchdowns scored by a team to enter the playoffs in the Super Bowl era.

That’s saying a lot, considering the 2000 Baltimore Ravens offense (the original all-field goal offense) went six straight games without scoring a touchdown.

It’s easy to sit back and blame Brock Osweiler for the offensive struggles, but this is a team sport. As such, a team effort is to blame.

Since you, Mr. Smith, sit atop the franchise and have far more to do with the product on the field than any other member of the organization, the offensive nature of the offense begins at your feet.

Surely as a student of the game, you understand that more than half a team’s games are won and lost in the trenches. It should also be clear that consistency and cohesiveness are paramount to quality offensive line play. This is simple Football 101

Yet each and every year, you let key offensive linemen leave via free agency, undermining any sense of year-over-year improvement. Worse, you fail to replace them with higher quality players.

Chris Myers, Ben Jones, Eric Winston, Wade Smith, Brandon Brooks – all starting caliber to Pro Bowl caliber players that left the organization without a clear replacement ready to fill their shoes.

Sure, Nick Martin might be a great starting center for years to come, but wisdom dictates you find out first before putting all your Battle Red eggs in his basket.

Jeff Allen, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Chris Clark, Greg Mancz? Aside from one, they’re all castoffs. Guys that either didn’t fit other teams’ systems or simply weren’t good enough to keep around. But maybe Su’a-Filo has a future at fullback?

It’s almost as if the offensive line is an afterthought. That is completely understandable for a man who played defensive back, but entirely inexcusable for a man who wears a General Manager hat.

Giving Brock Osweiler a $72 million dollar contract and expecting him to play behind that line is akin to purchasing a Ferrari for twice the sticker price and leaving it in the Walmart parking lot in Tijuana at 2 a.m. with the keys in the door and a “Please Steal Me” sign on the windshield.

Expecting Bill O’Brien’s complex offense to function with a line that can’t open up running lanes, set the edge, give the quarterback time to read through progressions, or do much other than simply get in the way of defenders for an instant is just as ludicrous.

Sure, Duane Brown is the greatest Texans’ lineman of all time, but the man can only do so much all by himself.

If you’re fed up with the fan reaction to the current state of the Texans, tired of skating by teams Houston should demolish, and losing winnable games, put some resources into the offensive line.

Look at the best championship franchises in NFL history. Guys like Mike Webster, Larry Allen, Jim Otto, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw – all NFL Hall of Famers. All have multiple Super Bowl rings and all were part of amazing offensive lines.

Don’t want to look to the past? Then look north! The Dallas Cowboys currently have one of the best offensive lines assembled in recent memory. What have they done with it? Allowed a rookie running back and rookie quarterback to light the NFL on fire because they had running lanes, passing lanes, protection, and time to make things happen.

Next season you’ll get J.J. Watt back. Pair him with Jadeveon Clowney and Vince Wilfork, and Houston will have the nastiest defensive line possibly EVER in NFL history.

Do what it takes to mirror that on offense, and Tom Savage or T.J. Yates or Brock Osweiler or Kirk Cousins or [fill in the gap] will have time to run the offense Bill O’Brien schemes up.

Put together a line even 75% as good as what Dallas has, and Lamar Miller might break the NFL rushing record – and Akeem Hunt might be right behind him.

Make it happen and this offense could be the best in the league – and when you pair that with Romeo Crennel’s number one ranked defense, the championships will come.

You can start that process today, Identify those in the Texans’ scouting department with the best eye for offensive linemen and turn them loose. Find the best offensive line coach available and hire him as soon as possible. In fact, maybe hire two that work well together so they can get the job done twice as fast.

You may have your player pool restricted by the salary cap, but the coaching and scouting staff has no such restrictions, /find the players, coach them up, turn them loosem and then sit back and bask in the glory while wagging your finger at all those who doubted you and our beloved Texans.

Or you can keep stockpiling third string lineman, expecting some miraculous thing to happen where somehow they outplay their talent, skill and coaching enough to shine like the ‘05 Patriots, ‘76 Raiders or ‘16 Cowboys.