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Red Zone Play: Reality and Optimism

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Has the reality of Rick Smith and Bill O’Brien overcome our optimism for the Texans?

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been saying for a long time the Houston Texans needed to stop ignoring the offensive line. We all saw Sunday what happens when ignoring becomes a way of life.

Rick Smith needs to quit treating that group like an afterthought when worrying about the salary cap. In the history of the Texans’ organization, only two offensive linemen have made the Pro Bowl, Chris Myers and Duane Brown. Brown did it twice.

While we can all be optimistic that Houston can continue to coast based on the strength of our defense, lack of solid divisional opponents, and scoring three points at a time, that model simply isn’t realistically sustainable.

We can continue to revel in the star power of players like J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, but a quick scan of the NFL shows Houston hardly has the most talented roster. Worse still is that some coaches with less talent seem to be able to do more with it (anyone see the no-name Minnesota Vikings dismantle the New Orleans Saints last night?).

An endless parade of quarterbacks run through the starting lineup, none with any appreciable quantum leap in performance. That speaks to the lack of a quality scheme, smart play-calling, and competent blocking.

The equation of QB injuries, plus sacks plus turnovers speaks, to all the above, particularly poor line play.

Meanwhile, the only two-time Pro Bowl lineman in Texans history is hanging out at the house watching the team implode on his big screen TV.

The reality of the situation is that Rick Smith and Bill O’Brien aren’t getting it done.

When directly asked about the Duane Brown situation, Bill O’Brien said

Do you think there will be any resolution with T Duane Brown anytime soon?

“Again, I have no idea. I really don’t. I really wouldn’t be able to answer that question at all. I coach the team. The thing that I am in charge of is what you saw yesterday which wasn’t very good and we are trying to work better at it. I’m in charge of what happens on Sundays, who plays and how we play. Other than that, I don’t really have anything to report to you because I don’t know.”

Anyone else wonder who is fully in charge of the roster now? >cough< Rick Smith >cough<

BFD and I had a conversation right after Sunday’s game discussing some of the woes of the team. We agreed on two things: Bill O’Brien is obviously not the offensive/quarterback guru many say he is (sort of like being told over and over again some product is great but the results aren’t; the marketing optimism exceeds the products reality) and Rick Smith is only good at bringing in the big fish, but stinks at stocking the cooler.

Case in point: The Texans’ special teams, a unit filled primarily with the team’s roster depth, has been terrible for years and years despite changing special teams coaches, schemes, and key players. Why is this? Lack of quality players to fill special teams roles.

The offensive line and secondary, both areas Rick Smith obviously doesn’t value, have also languished in instability and mediocrity for years and years. Aside from Johnathan Joseph, Rick Smith has been entirely incapable of identifying and signing franchise quality defensive backs. And Smith used to play defensive back himself.

In the end, we’ll continue to root for our beloved Texans. We’ll continue to grasp at any straw of hope, no matter how much our intellect tells us it’s a false one, simply because the Houston Texans have one of the best fan bases in all of professional sports.

Sooner or later, Bob McNair is going to have to face the reality that optimism doesn’t trump reality. Our current reality is that last Sunday’s game was a major insult to a city that just endured its worst injury in 180 years of existence.

While I highly doubt either Bill O’Brien of Rick Smith ever read this blog, if they do, please hear our plea:

Mr. Smith,

The City of Houston deserves to get to see Deshaun Watson play to his potential – you invested the future to draft him; now protect that investment. We don’t deserve to see him carted off the field on a stretcher because you were so worried about what message renegotiating with Duane Brown might send, or what it might do to the salary cap if you actually try to land some top quality offensive linemen.

Mr. O’Brien,

Stop trying to pretend you can run an offense as complex as Bill Belichick and Jon Gruden. Try following the Brett Favre philosophy: Keep it simple, do what we do best, and force the other team to stop us. And make Rick Smith get you better offensive linemen. Gary Kubiak did it, and so can you.

Are you feeling optimistic about Thursday’s game? Or are you still stung by the reality of last Sunday’s debacle? Wishing T.J. Yates was still on the roster? Let us know in the comments below.