I don’t want to do this. Those open wounds that had me bleeding out onto the floor every night of my youth are sealed and scarred. Thought about in the summer time when the sun makes them darken to a deep organ purple, the color of plums, or when a smell or name hearkens the heart and makes neurons reconnect to remember the last time something was remembered.
I don’t want to stamp around in those old footprints. I’m dying to smash anew and create. I won’t want to carefully place and revisit.
Soon, that will all happen. The sun will vanquish the grey and the fog and turn the stove top back on. Purple flowers will hang from the small trees outside the gray concrete offices stained with brown. The mornings will be trampled by the bedlam of birds. But before free agency, and the draft, let’s go back and take one last look at the 2017 season: soak back up what we forgot, remember what we need to, learn from mistakes and confirm why previous celebrations occurred, and then, then we can think about what 2018 may bring.
First, it’s the season awards.
Charley Casserly Rick Smith Worst Offseason Decision: TIE—Not Franchise Tagging A.J. Bouye & Trading [NAME REDACTED]
Rick Smith made two terrible decisions. One was a disaster. The other was just a really damn stupid one that duped everyone into thinking it was actually smart.
I wrote it then. I said it hundreds of times. I’ll say it again. The Texans should have franchise tagged A.J. Bouye.
Here’s a summary if you are new to the program. When Houston lost J.J. Watt in 2016 the Texans needed their secondary to step up. They did. Despite having 14 less sacks, the Texans remained a top ten defense, gave up only 15 more points, and saw their DVOA drop by only 1.4%.
Bouye was the one who led the charge. He was the best secondary player on the unit that led their defense. He had a success rate of 66% (22nd), broke up 11 passes, and allowed 5.4 yards per pass (when the average pass traveled 11.1 yards through the air). He played man and zone coverage. He was a great tackler. If you need it he did it.
But because it was just one year, and the franchise tag only costed $14 million, the Texans should have franchise tagged him. In case Bouye was a Brady Anderson 50 homerun season they could move on, or resign him to a lesser deal, instead of taking everything to the Pawn Shop to make their payments. They had the money to do it, they should have done it, instead they let him hit the open market and weren’t able to match what Jacksonville could to bring him back home to Florida.
This season Bouye was still one of the best defensive backs in football, and the Texans secondary fell apart. Bouye started all sixteen games. Jalen Ramseyand Bouye were the best cornerback duo in football leading the best pass defense in football. Bouye was targeted 83 times (T-17th), allowed 5.6 yards a pass (10th), despite the average pass attempt traveling 16.2 yards down field, had a success rate of 61% (12th), and gave up 0.9 yards after the catch (3rd). He proved it wasn’t one year and stayed playing at a finger wagging lockdown level.
In his wake was Kevin Johnson, Kareem Jackson, and Johnathan Joseph. The idea was that Johnson would come back from a summer of rehab and the addition of J.J. Watt would create the best pass rush in football. The combination of him, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney would scratch quarterback’s brains. That didn’t happen. Kevin Johnson was a rotting pantry of corpses even he was fully healthy to start the year. Mercilus and Watt were knocked out of the Kansas City game. Jackson doesn’t have the athleticism to mask his shoddy footwork any longer. Joseph ran out of fetal unicorn blood. The Texans defense fell from 9th to 23rd in defense DVOA and from 5th to 25th in pass defense DVOA. Everything was a disaster.
The Texans should have franchise tagged A.J. Bouye.
Trading [NAME REDACTED] was the other stupid decision Rick Smith made. At the time it looked to be brilliant. The Texans traded a 2018 second round pick and a 2017 sixth round pick for a 2017 fourth round pick and the opportunity to dump the worst quarterback in football off at someone else’s door like a squabbling child recently plopped out of a transient. The trade saved Houston $10 million in cap space, and $16 million in cash in 2016. They pretty much sold a draft pick to Cleveland.
Houston took that cap space created and did nothing with it. They had $28 million in cap space after free agency. Tony Romo never magically appeared. They used it to resign Andre Hal, pretty good but wasn’t necessary to resign a year early, C.J. Fiedorowciz, a player who was never anything better than maybe mediocre even with healthy, Jay Prosch, offers nothing in the pass game and barely anything in the run game, and DeAndre Hopkins, someone they could have resigned that point in time anyways.
Additionally, Houston was flushed with cap space the following year. They could have snipped [NAME REDACTED] post June 1st and had $18 million in cap room for 2017 before extensions, and would have had the same amount of space in 2018 regardless. The trade created cap relief for Houston to use in 2017. Instead of using this revolutionary trade to add value to the team, the Texans resigned a bunch of players they didn’t need to resign, and resigned someone they could have resigned anyways. The [NAME REDACTED] trade was dumb two months after it happened, and it’s still dumb today.
Jacoby Jones Award: Brandon Brooks
It’s cool that the Philadelphia Eagles lost their young starting quarterback for the entire season, molded an offense around their backup quarterback, and then went 5-1 and won a Superbowl with Nick Foles. On that team was former Houston Texan Brandon Brooks, proving yet again, that if you want to win a Superbowl the first thing you need to do is leave the Houston Texans.
Brooks’s Superbowl title hurt more than previous winners of this award like Jacoby Jones, or Gary Kubiak, from a pure football perspective. Houston chose to sign Jeff Allen over Brooks to save some pocket change. Brooks left behind his football friendship with Derek Newtwon, and continued to be one of the best guards in football. SHOCKING. Allen has been soup stained slop at the guard position. He’s been weak and lazy and doesn’t do anything well aside from play some pretty good replacement left tackle. He’s one of the worst guards in football. The 2016 offseason turned the Texans’ offensive strength into their weakness.
You have to be happy for Brooks. He took this anxiety struggle and made it a non-issue. He got paid, overcame it, and played on one of the best offensive lines in football that set the foundation for the Eagles to do the impossible, win a Superbowl with a backup quarterback.
Play of the Year: Deshaun Watson’s 49 Yard TD Run
I’m going to be honest with you loyal reader. I didn’t see this play LIVE. I had some friends over. My head was turned and I was talking. While I did this this happened.
I grew accustomed for the Texans’ offense to be the time for bathroom breaks and refrigerator spelunking. I didn’t know a quarterback could run for a touchdown or score from that far out, let alone convert a third down in a Houston uniform.
I turned around. He was in the endzone. I wasn’t ready for it. Even in the weeks to follow those long tosses had me leaping out in elation and confusion. Next year I’ll have an itinerary and my emergency contacts memorized. I won’t pack my things up when the offense has the ball. I’ll sit there being a good big fan and watch every Watson snap and never take any of them for granted.
Vince Wilfork Fullback Folly of the Year: Jeff Allen False Starting
The Texans won a single game after Deshaun Watson’s injury. They almost won two others, one of which was in Tennessee against the Titans. Tom Savage converted an absurd 4th and 19 that put the Texans at the Tennessee 29 yard line while down 17-13. Immediately after that he threw an interception.
That was funny enough as it is. All of that joy quickly murdered. The real joy came before that. Things were buzzing under the neon, looking like something I want to be on, and Nissan stadium was hopping and popping and rocking. Pineapple man was loving his life. It was all too much for Jeff Allen.
The Duane Brown trade and injuries placed him at left tackle where he held up admirably. His goodwill from a serious ‘I want my team to win’ perspective was obliterated when he had three false start attempts on Houston’s game winning drive attempt.
What is reality? Because this isn’t it.
GIF of the Year: MNF Flacco Raven
The NFL wants more commercials, not to create more efficient football watching fans who suck up the condensed versions or completely destroy the pace of the game, but to give more introductions back into the field of play.
First we became enamored with the stock footage. Fish toss, Seattle (KITTEN YEAH), big bouncing cow, Houston, airplane museum, Carolina, Hollywood sign, L.A., Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis. This no longer warms my heart. Taking its place is my cooler boyfriend, one who rides a motorcycle and my father won’t approve of, that’s right, it’s the grainy Madden 2001, cocaine fueled, hellscape glimpsing animations networks are all in on.
Each one was petrified and horrifying. Moving like blocks microwaved, frozen, and microwaved again. Invoking Blockbuster feelings I got as a child sneaking off to the horror section to stare at the front and back of VHS covers printed with warlocks, screaming females, needle teeth, men in masks, and wrinkled old women.
Nobody else is weirded out by the half Flacco half raven hybrid just casually dancing around the place? pic.twitter.com/UqIxIaWZlc— Luke B (@LBBP26) November 28, 2017
The best of them all was Raven Joe Flacco, stomping and crusading to the rhythm of marching skeleton bones underneath feet pounding to call them out from the Earth’s crust.
In Memoriam: Vince Wilfork
Last year we lost two all-time Texans’ greats. Both Andre Johnson and Arian Foster left the NFL playing fields. Johnson is doing something, I don’t know. And Foster is just another twenty-something with a podcast.
This year the Texans lost Vince Wilfork. He was the only Texan to retire? He only played two seasons in Houston, often he was awful and out of shape and played too many snaps, and occasionally he was mediocre. He was never my guy, but some fell for this jolly man in overalls.
He took the opportunity to retire with a hilarious video! that was really just an advertisement and opportunity to shill and parade around in Hard Knocks overalls to sell charcoal for the pigs at the table.
David Carr Worst Throw of The Year: Every Tom Savage Throw
I don’t remember Savage making a single throw that was good. It was all fece flinging trash heaving. We are Texans’ fans. We have seen a lot of nauseating quarterback play. Savage was the worst quarterback I’ve had the pleasure to watch in a Texans’ football game.
He doesn’t do anything well except for looking like a quarterback. He’s as much of a quarterback as I am. He throws a spiral, he’s tall, he’s big, he graduated from college. Aside from that, he can’t throw the ball downfield, he’s slower than ketogenic bowels, he’s inaccurate, his brain is a sloth running a mile on a treadmill, and he has no feel of the pocket. He was the worst.
I guess, he threw a touchdown? I don’t know. If I don’t remember it doesn’t count. Because all I remember are the bounces, the sacks, and the downfield out of bounds tosses.
Hit of The Year: Tom Savage Strip Sacked(s)
The biggest hit of the year was J.J. Watt crushing that poor Cincinnati fella at the end of their desperate lateral orgy. The meanest hit was that viral video of Jadeveon Clowney melting the skeleton of that poor pulling tight end. There’s a difference between the best and favorite though. Because my favorite hit of the year was every single one that ended with Savage fumbling.
The Matt Schaub pick six thing wasn’t funny. There was no joy in the best quarterback in franchise history going out against defensive backs sitting on the routes he had been throwing for seven years, but with a lamer arm, leading to the best fans in football cheering his injury, burning his jersey, and driving by his home before the local news was over.
The Tom Savage strip sack streak, however, was unthinkable and unbelievable sneering amusement. He was the week one starter, Houston didn’t put an offensive line around him even though he is slow and struggled at reading defenses, and couldn’t feel the pocket. This diabolical trio led to Savage getting hit with his back to the defender over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.
When I think back on this season, I will first remember the Savage strip sack streak, and then I will remember those sweltery Watson games.
Tom Savage Strip Sack Of The Year: Jabaal Sheard
This is a no brainer. The week before the Texans traded Duane Brown to Seattle. The following week they had a fourth down attempt to beat the Colts. The replacement left tackle Chris Clark got beat. Savage was sacked by Sheard. He fumbled at the buzzer to keep the streak alive. It really don’t get any better than this.
Bill O’Brien’s Worst Decision of the Year: Starting Tom Savage Week One
This happened. Bill O’Brien spent a summer watching these two quarterbacks play and somehow came to the conclusion of going with Savage over Watson, despite not having a rigid offensive line, or ever being able to grasp his super genius offense. Luckily, O’Brien allowed this to go on for one game before changing majors.
This wins because it is so pure and abhorrent. But let’s not forget the New England game where O’Brien kicked a first quarter field goal instead of going for it, decided not going for it again in the fourth quarter, and botched his timeouts. If it wasn’t for something as dumb as sticking to this preconceived summer notion, this would have been a slew of inane in game decisions O’Brien made this year, something that’s been a staple of his tenure in Houston.
DeAndre Hopkins Catch of the Year: Christmas Day Touchdown
This was the second best thing to come out of the lost part of the 2017 season.
Petey Faggins Memorial Most Hated Player: Kevin Johnson
It would be easy to whisper more mean truths into Savage’s ear. But I don’t hate the guy. He was bad, duped O’Brien because he reminded him of Ryan Mallett, and was put in a situation that was impossible for him to even scrape putrid in.
Kevin Johnson is the opposite of this. Not only was his performance egregious, but I just don’t enjoy his demeanor and watching him play. He leaps around like he’s bare foot on a scorched Earth with the Holy Spirit in his heart after every incomplete pass thrown his way, even after he has given up four previous completions. He couldn’t tackle this year. Every defensive holding and pass interference penalty leads to the referee getting an earful.
The Texans needed him to be good this year. He was terrible when healthy. Hopefully he can be something, and bring something next year, to a new look secondary that’s currently gasping for talent.
GTFO Award: T.J. Yates
Yates is fine. As a fifth round selected rookie he ended up clinching the Texans’ first division championship, playoff appearance, first playoff victory, lost their first playoff game in large part because of the three interceptions he threw, and beat the Bengals a bunch of times. 2011 was six years ago though.
Since then he’s been traded by Houston once, and has resigned here two separate times. I don’t think I can last another year of postmodern society if it means I have to watch Yates throw another pass for the Texans. I can’t take it anymore. Please, just go somewhere else. Please, just find an actual backup quarterback who can last an entire season here.
Battlefighter of the Year: Tom Savage
Now, look. There’s nobody in the world I want to succeed more than Tom. He’s been in this building for four years working his butt off. You guys don’t see it. You aren’t in the locker room with us. You aren’t watching video with us. You don’t see everything this guy has given to this football team, and all the work he has put in to make himself the player he is today. We gotta make some changes. Those changes they start with me. I gotta do better. And I guarantee you Tom is going to give everything he’s got, and he is going to come out ready to play next week.
Game of the Year: Houston v. New England
I’m still not over the 2016 Divisional Round loss the Texans had in New England. Finally, after all those years of trying, failing, and suffering, things finally broke right for Houston to beat New England. That time that year they didn’t fail to punch it in after an enormous Danieal Manning opening kick return and allow Tom Brady to walk all over them. A.J. Bouye had an interception, Mercilus and Clowney combined to generate Romeo Crennel molded interior pressure and left Tom Brady panting and stomping. There was an opportunity for them to win this game. Instead, Bill O’Brien kicked field goals, and [NAME REDACTED] played like the worst quarterback in the league, which is his usual self.
In week three the Texans got another shot again to beat New England. This time it was because of Watson slinging deep passes, looking off safeties, magically evaporating out of sacks, and placing the ball into the perfect place against a terrible defense. He even led a late field goal drive that gave Houston a 33-28 lead until Mike Vrabel’s stupid cover 4 defense gave up a game winning touchdown to Brandin Cooks.
The Tennessee game was FUN and cool. There were a lot of points put on in that bloody reunion. But any time you can beat, and should beat, the feudal lord of the AFC that overrules everything.
Rookie of the Year: Deshaun Watson
Offensive Player of the Year: DeAndre Hopkins
Remember when we wondered what Hopkins could do with a capable quarterback? Here’s our answer: 44 catches on 71 targets for 599 yards and 7 touchdowns. That’s a catch rate of 62% and 8.4 yards an attempt. Wow.
Oh, and for the overall season he led the NFL in touchdowns with 13, defensive pass interference penalties drawn with 11 for 155 yards, was 4th in receiving yards with 1,378 and was 6th in receptions with 96. You can swing it from either side of the batter’s box, and Hopkins is still a top five receiver. Thankfully, unlike another former all-time Texans’ great, he should have an actual quarterback to play football with during the prime of his career.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jadeveon Clowney
The great witch doctor. That septum pierced monster dog from the Sixteen Stone album liner artwork once again improved his game. This year Clowney became the best run stopping defensive end in football while being an inconsistent pass rusher that can be attributed to an over reliance on athleticism alone, and the attention given to him being the entire Texans’ pass rush.
Can you hear me up there? Are you listening? Can we get at one full season where Watt and Clowney are fully healthy?
Most Valuable Player: Deshaun Watson
Watson is the team’s MVP in the same way Peyton Manning was in 2011 for Indy, or Carson Wentz was going to be in Philly until Nick Foles won the whole damn thing. Houston was an entirely different team with him, his presence was the most monumental reason for their 3-4 record, and his absence was the reason why Houston finished 4-12. With Watson, Houston scored 29.6 points a game, without him, Houston scored 13 points a game.
With the defense playing the way they did, freckled with injuries, they needed the offense to win football games. The offense scored enough points to win football games by using a fake heavy, multiple option, play action passing game. An offense that only Watson could run because of his speed and his deep ball throwing ability. The Texans’ playoff hopes were shredded along with Watson’s knee that fall afternoon.
In a strange way this season was a success. Despite the smooth brain decisions Rick Smith made entering this season, he gave Houston won last great first round pick. His parting gift was the franchise quarterback the Texans had been clamoring for since 2013. The 4-12 season doesn’t matter. The time wasted staring brain dead at the television screen under the clicking of the ceiling fan doesn’t matter. What does matter is the fact that Watson proved he’s a real starting quarterback, and Houston probably has the hardest part of building a football team answered. For that reason alone, 2017 was a success.
Please leave your ideas for awards and your own suggestions to mine n the comments below. Tomorrow, we will unveil the ballot Reader’s Choice Awards.