The 2016 NFL season was boring. The Houston Texans were boring. Spending your Sunday dedicated to the 1080p monolith was more than boring. It was a waste of life. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. But dammit, I will miss spending my Sundays ratcheted with 4 a.m. sleep and watching Brock Osweiler bounce passes into the ground, DeAndre Hopkins searching for meaning in a meaningless world after every target, Jadeveon Clowney blurring across the screen like the Smoke Monster from Lost and looking like that big fuzzy dog in the Sixteen Stone liner artwork, A.J. Bouye transforming from modestly celebrating to full on air traffic controlling like Brandon Harris, Will Fuller running really fast, running backs becoming crumpled cans when they're visited by Benardrick McKinney, and seeing Indianapolis seethe with languish after losing to Brock Osweiler twice.
It wasn't fun all the time, but I had fun. I'll miss it, but I don't miss it yet. We are still just reawakening from the haze of that Super Bowl. The scars are still purple from a playoff loss that nearly broke perfectly for Houston. We are still closer to having watched football than having not watched football. With it fresh in the brain, let's revisit the 2016 season before we move onto hating 21 year olds, scrambling around Over The Cap, and trying to figure out how the salary cap works.
Charley Casserly Worst Offseason Decision: Signing Jeff Allen instead of Brandon Brooks.
Of course, signing Brock Osweiler for $18 million a year was the worst decision. There are no arguments underneath these covers. Brock Osweiler was the worst quarterback to start the majority of the season last year. The signing made sense at the time, though. The Texans had to regurgitate up more money o snatch him from Denver. Houston needed a quarterback, just like it had the past three offseasons (and does again for the fourth). Osweiler was a bit below average and ranked around the same spots as Teddy Bridgewater and Brian Hoyer in DVOA and DYAR, but with a better group of skill players, a better offensive line, and more experience, it was expected that Osweiler would improve. It was a lock for him to be better than Brian Hoyer. He was going to be at least average. None of these things happened, but I get the thought process. I understand the decision, even if it ended in sleepover bed-wetting humiliation.
However, ending up with Jeff Allen instead of Brandon Brooks was a bad decision when it was made, and it's a bad decision now. Continuity is important when it comes to offensive line play. It's an enormous strength to line up next to someone and not have to make calls or reconfirm assignments, to have puzzle piece double team fit, to understand what blocks the other player needs help with, and to feel and pass off pass rushers without having to think. The strength of the Texans' offensive line was the right side with Brandon Brooks and Derek Newton.
Brooks was worth re-signing even without taking in account consistency. He's one of the best guards in the league. He has the perfect combination of strength and feet. He's scheme amphibious and can successfully block every type of run play. On top of all of that, he locks down silly defensive tackles trying to obliterate quarterbacks. Instead of keeping him, Houston let Brooks slip off to Philadelphia and signed Jeff Allen immediately afterwards. The strength of the Texans' offensive line became its weakness after this decision was made.
Even before both of Derek Newton's patellas turned into dust, the right side of the Texans' offensive line was awful with Allen and Newton together. Allen couldn't take over blocks on outside zone plays. They never developed any sort of chemistry when they had strong double teams. There were issues passing off stunts. In addition, Allen couldn't pull with any sort of consistency. He was late to blocks. When he got there, he brought a punch like a pillow fight and couldn't stay on his blocks. It was incredible how much better the interior blocking was when Oday Aboushi, the ultimate just-a-guy, subbed in for Allen.
Houston bet they could get similar production with Allen for less guaranteed money and a shorter contract. They were wrong. Allen was the worst player on the field last year not named Brock Osweiler, He was one of the worst guards in the league. He mutilated the right side of the offensive line. Houston should have re-signed Brandon Brooks. At the end of the season, Houston should have re-signed Brandon Brooks. When the Earth is only inhabited with cockroaches, Houston should have re-signed Brandon Brooks.
Tweet of the Year: John McClain is Having Fun.
This was the only good tweet I've ever had, and I really wanted to go with it.
What would you do if you had a time machine?— Matt Weston (@Mbw987) November 11, 2016
I would convince Brock Osweiler to play basketball instead.
But I am not an egoist. I am a man who does what is right. John McClain broke me with this one, and I can't get it out of my brain.
I'm having a fun time in the land of Cheeseheads. And thanks to whoever devised this pic. Very clever! pic.twitter.com/w8GofjIiEI— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) December 4, 2016
Jacoby Jones Award: Everyone on the New England Patriots.
[February 5th, 7:00 p.m]
Just like Gary Kubiak, Shiloh Keo, Jacoby Jones, Wade Phillips, and others, Matt Schaub, Kyle Shanahan, and Brooks Reed were former Texans who left and went on to win a Super Bowl elsewhere.
When someone becomes the sparkly new head coach of a team, he usually brings in other coaches and players he worked with at his previous employer. He likes and knows these guys. He would like to continue to work with them. In this case, nearly all of those current Patriots were smart to stay where they were instead of following Bill O'Brien to Houston. They won two more titles during this span of time. They made the right decision. The closest Houston has ever gotten to winning a Super Bowl is by hosting it. It was another season proving once again that if your life's goal is to win a Super Bowl, the first decision you should make is tio not play for the Houston Texans.
Play of the Year: Lamar Miller's Touchdown versus Indianapolis.
Everyone's favorite Andre Johnson play was against Arizona, when he turned the defender tossing the right thumb stick bones into goop. He then trucked through another before pinging and ponging into the end zone.
This Lamar Miller play was that play without the physicality. It was a play where Houston needed a touchdown, and Miller had no business delivering it.
Remember the setting first. It was third and 7 in the red zone. The score was Colts 23, Texans 9. Houston had the ball at Indy's ten yard line. Lamar Miller was lined up in the backfield in the shotgun formation. He ran a simple drag across the middle of the field. The Colts were in Cover 2 and protecting the end zone. There was an edge rush that a simple step up in the pocket handled, and again, like all year, Brock Osweiler threw short of the sticks and dumped it off to Miller.
After Miller caught the pass, he cut right and ran backwards as he tried to run away from Erik Walden. This brought three Colts defenders right in front of him. Walden grabs a ghost when Miller cuts back to the left. He then tries to run upfield, but can't because Clayton Geathers is there. So he runs horizontally some more and breaks Geathers' attempt to snag his feet like a monster under the bed. Now Miller cuts upfield. When he does, Braxton Miller, Greg Mancz, and Ryan Griffin all make blocks to give Miller a seam to run through to the end zone. He outruns the defensive line to score.
Here's a link to video of the play.
It was the only time Houston successfully converted a third down, or scored a touchdown in the red zone, or saw Lamar Miller do the Lamar Miller things he did in Miami.
From that point on, Houston would score again to tie and then score again in overtime to beat the Colts. It was a real offensive explosion. It gave the Texans a two game lead over Indy in the division. It was their only win when the opponent scored more than 21 points.
Vince Wilfork Fullback Folly of the Year: Punt versus Minnesota.
This team does some of the dumbest things you'll ever see. They'll have Vince Wilfork leading the way as a lead blocker for J.J. Watt in a playoff game. Xavier Su'a-Filo will play fullback. Lamar Miller will keep plodding between the tackles and transmogrify into Alfred Blue. Ryan Griffin will still be used as a playside tight end even though he would be a subpar blocker at the Senior Bowl.
This award has turned from something silly like a kick pick to something so incredibly and mindblowingly stupid. This year the dumbest thing I saw came on Minnesota's punt return touchdown in that listless, soulless, embarrassing blowout loss in Minneapolis.
On that punt, the Texans went with two gunners to the left and zero to the right.
They crossed like some sort of rub route and had Jay Prosch act as a third gunner. Prosch took off after the snap instead of staying in to block. Yes, the Texans used their fullback as a gunner here and thought, golly, this may just work. Who says the Texans don't take risks and scheme to their opponents?
The idea was to kick the ball left. Instead, everyone's favorite punter (even though Houston hasn't had a good punting game during his entire tenure), Shane Lechler, kicked the ball slightly to the right of the hashmark.
Prosch wobbles down the field like someone who should have slept on the couch and doesn't come within an acre of returner Marcus Sherels. The returner ran horizontally to the left, unmolested, and into a hole magically opened up. Really the only thing Sherels did was make Shane Lechler lose his lunch. The rest of the return was handed to the Vikings thanks to Houston's own nonsense. This was very stupid and poorly executed.
GIF of the year: NO!
At the house I live in, we have one of these night lights that you put cubes of wax in. The wax cubes are goody-smelly. They melt and make everything smell like desert sunsets and rustic vanilla to mask all the smells and life lingering around from the previous tenants and shrimp cocktail parties.
One time, the light had a belly full of wax. So I unplugged it while it was cooking to dump it in the trash can. I spilled it immediately, took the Lord's name in vain, and threw it into the sink.
As soon as I yanked it from the outlet, I knew it was a terrible decision. I could see the future without having my palms read or cards flipped through. It was me in pain with a wax covered hand and kitchen. I guess you could say I have a lot in common with Brock Osweiler.
ME-OW Best Use of Kitten: Brock Kittenweiler.
In the Hair of the Dog post that UT puts together after every game, he takes out his sharpie and replaces our expletives with baby cats. The kittens become more rampant as the year progresses and the hope emits from our souls like carcinogenic exhaust. They became angrier. These snuggly kittens grow claws and draw blood. Frankly, they get better, Shelly. It turns from "kitten this", "kitten that", "kitten Brock Osweiler" to works of art. They become passages that AP English students should closely read and highlight to better understand that it means to be a human being. The best use of the word came multiple times throughout the season, with some variation of:
There were so may different words we put in front of -Weiler that made us taste that sudsy bar. It quickly became my favorite suffix. Take any of your favorite curse words and add -Weiler to the end and, boy, do you have a party. It's like adding cheese to the top of your potty mouth.
For honorable mention, this was my favorite one of Capt Ron's beautiful hate-filled rants. This monstrosity came after Osweiler threw a fumble that went farther than is average pass attempt on Monday Night Football against Denver.
You can't make this kitten up. His arm was moving forward and the ball went forward. WTF?!! Sounds like the description of a pass. The NFL no longer knows what a pass or a catch is?!!
I have had enough with O'Brien's kitten offense. Screw this entire pathetic system that is a steaming pile week after damn week.
In Memoriam: Arian Foster & Andre Johnson.
Why do we have to get older? Why do things have to change? Why can't we all still be in love and watch Arian Foster stop and go and glide through defenses like poetry? Why can't we see Andre Johnson run perfect routes with a perfect smile on his perfect face? Why can't the things we love and the perfect moments we have in life continue to exist for forever without ever fading away into the dusty bin of memory?
David Carr Worst Throw of The Year: High to DeAndre Hopkins.
When I was at Radio Row during Super Bowl Week, I saw the internet come to life. All of these people whose words I've read and voices I've listened to materialized from my WiFi to my immediate reality. All of these players I've watched, written, and read about teleported from a television screen to right in front of me. There was Eli Manning being a dapper nine year old in a cross-stitched suit. There was Tim Tebow with biceps the size of my calves swooning hearts from station to station. There was Jason Witten with hair combed to hide his scalp. There was David Carr in a perfect blue blazer like a National song. Carr is a very good dresser, but not a good quarterback. And you know who isn't a good quarterback? Brock Osweiler.
Osweiler made hundreds of awful throws. The worst throws. He sprayed passes across the field like a rented paintball gun. There were passes that were so bad that Phill Simms crossed his heart and swore on his mother's grave that he wasn't throwing the ball to the receiver and was throwing the ball away, when really Osweiler was throwing it to said target; it was just that much of a flabbergasting putrid throw that Simms had no idea what the truth is. But we know.
After watching Osweiler for an entire season, we know that he just does really bad things like this. There were the high passes that led to interceptions. There were the bad passes that didn't matter. There were the barely off passes that really mattered. He missed behind, short, over, under, above, below, ahead, to the right, to the left, too far, and too short.
Of all these slipped soap passes, the one against New England in the Divisional Round was the worst. It was a truly terrible throw. It was also the most important throw. Osweiler had Hopkins in the middle of the field open on a dig route. He misses Hopkins high by a yard. Because he's Spiderman, DeAndre Hopkins was able to get his left hand on the ball.
It drops over Nuk's head into the diving arms of Logan Ryan. He returned the ball 23 yards to Houston's six yard line. Two plays later, New England cracks a tombstone over Houston's head.
Game over. Season over. If I do these awards again next year, the mantle will be passed from Carr to Osweiler.
Hit of The Year: Any Benardrick McKinney Tackle.
I wish I could stop writing, going to work, exercising, reading, and staying up late so I could make a video of every McKinney tackle from this season. I would have to put off my entire life to make this happen, so I am not going to. But I can dream of falling to sleep every night to a Super-Cut of every McKinney tackle instead of listening to The Hotelier's Goodness. I would go to sleep letting skeleton-collapsing hits instead of songs about love and the wilderness seep into my subconscious.
What I love about McKinney's tackles is simple. Every single tackle drives the ball carrier backwards. There's no going through him for a couple of extra yards. No one is taking him and his black-matted face paint out of bounds. When McKinney is in the car, there are no Sunday drives along the backroads. The play extinguishes at that spot. Yards after contact are some great mystical jungle cat when Benardrick McKinney is around.
This is just one of many the things McKinney created this year that I loved.
Petey Faggins Memorial Most Hated Player: Brock Osweiler.
I hate Brock Osweiler. I hate him. As someone who likes the Houston Texans, I waited two years for them to get a quarterback. Now it is going to be for a third. We spent two years waiting for Houston to actually make a decision on the quarterback position, and it wasn't worth it. I would like my time back, thank you very much.
The Texans picked apart the bones, they bought some bonds Moody gave a C, they took curbside junk and unsuccessfully refurbished it. They tried to find a quarterback by taking the least amount of risk. It failed. So they then took on risk to find a quarterback, and it failed. OH BOY, did it fail.
Osweiler doesn't do anything well other than be really tall. He overreacts to any semblance of pressure in the pocket. He doesn't create throwing space with his feet. Ball placement is an incomprehensible concept to him. He's precisely inaccurate. He can't throw anyone open. Two safeties turned him into a coward and stopped him from throwing the ball downfield. His release is long and looping. Stupefying decisions happen three or four times a game. Tom Brady under pressure is as good as Osweiler is without pressure.
The only solace I had watching Osweiler was updating and typing out this summary throughout the year without copying and pasting. Each time, I was amazed that he was that bad. Wow. Really? This went through the confines of my skull. So, for one last time, here we go.
Brock Osweiler is the worst quarterback in the NFL. He ended the regular season with a completion percentage of 59% (29th in the league), while averaging 5.8 yards an attempt (LAST) and 9.8 yards a catch (T-LAST). He threw 15 touchdowns (T-27th), 16 interceptions (T-3rd), had a QBR of 50 (28th), a DYAR of -569 (33rd), and a DVOA of -27.1% (33rd).
Hipster Jersey of the Year: Brock Osweiler.
I get it. Jerseys are expensive. I can get suits at Men's Warehouse because of an Honor's Society I joined in college that I never participated in that are cheaper than those NFL replica jerseys. As long as Osweiler is the quarterback, you should be able to wear his jersey. You'll be wearing it in shame, but you should be able to wear it.
But if it is like the year 2025 and you see somebody who was born in 2005 rocking it to be ironic, punch them in the face. They are not funny. They are definitely not cool. They don't understand the misery we all just went through this past year, watching that tall creature splay footballs around like a vivisection.
Battlefighter of the Year: Brock Osweiler.
Well you know, Brock does a great job preparing. He comes in early and he stays late. He's constantly working. It didn't work out how we wanted to today, but he battled out there. It really shows the tremendous character this man has. He made some poor decisions that led to interceptions, but we will come back to the office tomorrow and get it corrected. I know he will. I know he will get ready to get this taste out of his mouth and battle back next week.
Game of the Year: Houston v. Indy (Part I).
Can you believe there are people on this planet that only know a reality where the Houston Texans regularly beat the Indianapolis Colts? Houston finally swept the Colts this season. I really don't remember the second win against Indy, other than the fact that Houston won. I think J.J. Watt played really well in that game. The first win is one I will take with me past this season, even though I don't remember how to spell my mother's maiden name and can never recover my password without having to bother her.
In that game, Houston was down by an insurmountable fourteen points late in the fourth quarter. Houston could barely reach that total at times in an entire game, let alone in a quarter. In order to pull off this win, the Texans needed Lamar Miller's devil juice, a three and out, Brock Osweiler's best throw this season that came on a touchdown to C.J. Fiedorowicz, two more Indy punts that were forced because of an Andre Hal and Benardrick McKinney sack, and a fade to the nonexistent Jaelen Strong. It was more than improbable. It was impossible. Houston still somehow jumped through the blaze without a bubble on their skin.
Bill O'Brien's Worst Decision of the Year: Kicking the Field Goal on 4th and 3 versus New England
I still can't get over how perfectly things broke for Houston to upset New England in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. Tom Brady matched his entire season interception total in a single game. Romeo Crennel had the horses and the perfect defensive game plan to hold the Pats to 27 points. Never before had anything gone Houston's way against New England. Finally it did. And then Bill O'Brien, the offense, and the special teams stepped in.
It was 4th and 3. Houston was at the end of a drive that started at New England's 27 yard line, thanks to an interception by A.J. Bouye. They had found their way to 4th and 3 thanks to a 13 yard run by Akeem Hunt on 3rd and 16. Instead of going for it at New England's nine yard line, Houston kicked a 27 yard field goal. By kicking the field goal, Houston increased their win probability all the way to 4.0%.
When you are 16 point underdogs, have the worst quarterback in the NFL, and are playing the Patriots, you have to make the most out of every opportunity if you want to do anything more than maybe keep things close. Houston couldn't win this game by passing out after 20. They were going to need 27 or more to beat a Pats offense that was going to score no matter what.
The Pats handed them the ball in the red zone. They had a 4th and 3. They were at the 9 yard line. They were 16 point underdogs. They had to get seven here, not three. Despite all this, Bill O'Brien showed once again that he's aggressive with his words, not his actions.
Rookie of the Year: D.J. Reader.
This was a lame year for the Houston Texans' rookie class. Will Fuller V had me falling in love when he ran in a straight line past defensive backs. Then he started getting jammed at the line of scrimmage, and Osweiler developed a visceral phobia of throwing down field. Fuller became a sideshow jackpot. I'd hold my breath when the ball actually came his way down field. Oh, and that pesky lack of hands found their way into Houston's spine when he dropped a touchdown that would have made the New England playoff game 24-22. We waited all season for that. It was a whatever year for Fuller V, but he showed he could potentially be another classic Rick Smith first round pick, and that he has a very cool head of hair.
Second round pick Nick Martin missed the entire season because of ankle surgery. Braxton Miller played 33% of offensive snaps and didn't do anything before going to Injured Reserve other than run a couple of wildcat plays, catch one touchdown, and sit and watch while Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz ran the routes Miller should be running to the middle parts of the field. Tyler Ervin let the ball hit himself in the face a lot and never got a shot to actually take hand-offs. K.J. Dillon tore his ACL and paid $16,000.00 for a salad.
That leaves D.J. Reader, a man who played 40% of all defensive snaps. I liked Reader coming out of college. Yet I never thought he would make an impact this soon. I expected him to hang around until he got the chance to have success in a 4-3 defense. Instead he was the Texans' best interior rusher and is Vince Wilfork's expected heir once Wilfork retires his overalls. Reader is big strong and explosive. He should be at least as good as Wilfork next year, and that's more than anything anyone else in this draft class can say.
Offensive Player of the Year: Duane Brown.
The Texans had the 30th ranked offense according to DVOA. Pick a category and they are towards the bottom of it, except for rushing yards because they ran the ball a lot. It was a putrid offense, something that existed so we could run to the bathroom, ponder existence, or scroll through the cellphone until the defense came back on the field.
No one is deserving of this award other than Duane Brown. Everyone else here had a disappointing season, except maybe C.J. Fiedorowicz, who became an average tight end...wooooooooo? Brown came back from a torn quad suffered at the end of the 2015 season and held down the left side of the line again. Houston ranked 5th and 14th in adjusted line yards over the left end and left tackle at 4.16 and 4.51, respectively. Brown made Xavier Su'a-Filo a better player. In the pass game, Brown was the usual quick, wide and enormous mass that was nearly impossible to get around.
Defensive Player of the Year: A.J. Bouye.
The best part of the Texans' defense last season was their secondary. A.J. Bouye was the best player on Houston's secondary. Bouye was the best player on this Texans' defense. He moved from playing as an Eddie Pleasant nickel linebacker, to slot corner once Kareem Jackson went down, to an outside cornerback once Kevin Johnson was lost for the year. During all these moves and switches, Bouye was incredible. He was a mirror in tight press man coverage. He recognized routes instantly and broke on the ball in off man coverage. In zone, he found his spots and flew to the ball, making an enormous impact in the short passing game. Bouye was water. He flowed throughout the defense all season, in various different spots and positions, and he stuck to defenders like polar covalent bonds.
Most Valuable Player: Jadeveon Clowney.
There's a difference between something being the most valuable and the best, just like how there's a difference between something being your favorite and the best. For example, A.J. Bouye was the Texans' best defensive player last season, but Jadeveon Clowney was their most valuable player. For example, the 59' Sound is my favorite album of all time, but To Pimp a Butterfly is the best album I've ever listened to.
Clowney wasn't the best player because he was an above average pass rusher and one of the league's best run stoppers. Clowney's ability to generate pressures, but not quarterback hits and sacks, was what put Bouye over him in overall performance. What made Clowney more valuable than Bouye is that Houston lost the best player in the NFL, J.J. Watt.
The Texans needed someone to fill in at defensive end and terrorize offenses. Clowney was exactly that. He made the leap from showing flashes of athleticism that we all were dying to see following his microfracture knee surgery to a really great NFL player. Clowney became the type of player that shut down run offenses on his own (see what he did against Oakland). He became a player that makes plays that no one else does (see him toss Hunter Henry into Melvin Gordon for a tackle). He became a dreaded tornado that allowed Houston to not miss a step once J.J. Watt was lost for the season.
Jadeveon Clowney wasn't the best player on the 2016 Houston Texans. He was just the most valuable.
Please leave your ideas for awards and your own suggestions to mine in the comments below. Tomorrow, we will unveil our Reader's Choice Awards.