Earlier this week, there was a great Houston Texans article published that didn’t come from this site—shocking, I know—but instead case from the desk of one Rivers McCown, a Battle Red Blog alumnus. If you haven’t read it, click and sniff here.
In that piece, Rivers questioned whether the Texans are really in win-now mode because of previous free agency tip-toeing despite having cap space, the age of the roster, and what Bill O’Brien focuses on when speaking to the mainstream media.
So for this week’s Groupthink, I asked the masthead the following:
Do you think the Texans are in win now mode after this last season? Do you think they are going to be aggressive in free agency this offseason or stand back like they have done? And finally, what do you think the window of this team is, if it even has one to begin with?
Here are their responses:
When you have Deshaun Watson as your QB, you always have a window. I read the article yesterday and I liked the point comparing the Texans to Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers. Even with a “Let Aaron work some magic” mentality, they made two NFC Championship Games in the last six seasons and were a botched onside kick recovery from going to Super Bowl 49.
The point is that when you have a guy like that, the window is always open.
That being said, I think the Texans are not in win-now mode yet but will be after this season. I said this in some other groupthink this season; this is the last honeymoon season for the Texans and Watson. No more being content with the quarterback pulling off some magic. It’s results time.
I think Houston will be somewhat aggressive free agency and whether they land a big fish or not, I expect some guys to bolster the linebacking depth, the offensive line, and the secondary. You see what Kansas City and Baltimore are doing with their teams and their young quarterbacks; it would be borderline insanity for the Texans not to try a similar formula.
This is iffy for me.
I want to say yes because of the many draft picks that the Texans traded away this season/offseason to add young talent. They are trying to take advantage of the rookie deal that Deshaun Watson is currently on.
I want to say no because while they were aggressive with adding talent via trade, they weren’t aggressive keeping the talent that was already on the roster. Trading away Jadeveon Clowney, not keeping Kareem Jackson or Tyrann Mathieu, and not willing to spend money for big name free agents shows that they aren’t really a win-now team.
Yet if I had to choose, I’ll say yes, the Texans are in win-now mode. The only way they will get better for the next couple of seasons is through free agency. They won’t be able to keep most of their players in the future, but it’s fine because most of the players worth keeping are on offense. The only people worth keeping on defense are Justin Reid, D.J. Reader, Tashaun Gipson, J.J. Watt, Benardrick McKinney, and Zach Cunningham.
I think the answer should be yes. But I’m not convinced it is. For me, the point Rivers makes about heroic fiction and restoring order resonates with my background as a fiction author. In order to propel a story forward, a character has to behave, well, in character. So far, I’d have to agree with Rivers that there’s been no foreshadowing that Bill O’Brien is hungry for a Lombardi Trophy - he simply wants to “be the best Houston Texan” he can be... hardly the sort of soundbite you’d here from Michael Jordan, Vince Lombardi, Dale Earnhardt, Muhammed Ali, John Force, Cy Young, or any of the other all-time greatest sports champions.
As I’ve said in the past, almost ad nauseam, everything rises and falls on leadership. Leadership has to cast vision, again and again. There’s no evidence whatsoever that O’Brien has ever once painted a mental image of Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt smearing their sweaty fingerprints all over a Lombardi as ticker tape flutters all around them in the Super Bowl post-game fanfare.
For another cliche that’s a cliche for a reason, actions speak louder than words.
While I’ve definitely warmed up to the Laremy Tunsil trade, any “That was genius!” goodwill in that move is negated by dumping Clowney. Taking one of your best players, at one of the most important positions, alienating him, and then trading him away for peanuts is hardly a championship move by a championship coach/GM. Especially with the injury history to Watt and the lack of any measurable QB pressure from anyone not named Watt or Clowney. The whole fiasco simply smacks of ego overpowering intelligence to the detriment of the mission - the sort of grand mistake bad leaders are known for.
We do, however, have a small sample size of the Bill O’Brien/Flat Structure way of doing things, and in that lies a small grain of hope. This offseason, I expect Houston to go all in to make sure 2020 is the first of many Houston Super Bowls. Of course, I firmly believed they were going to do that last offseason and here we are having the same conversations again.
“Texans Fans: Waiting For Next Season Since 2002,”
At this point, O’Brien has used up all the goodwill this Texans fan had for him. In order to earn any of it back, he’s going to have to prove he deserves it.
I think that the Texans went into the 2019 season hoping for the best. After Brian Gaine stood pat during the free agency period and made moves in the NFL Draft that didn’t exactly inspire confidence, the Texans had to make a change. Bill O’Brien’s reign has been defined by rash moves and that infamous “win-now” mentality. I think much of the win-now talk has been a created narrative due to the types of moves that have been made. Think the Tunsil trade.
However, as Rivers said, a win-now team wouldn’t have traded Jadeveon Clowney. That move, in and of itself, would have gotten a lot of GMs fired. It was just another day at work for B’OB. This, of course, complicates everything. How could the Texans be willing to leverage their future in the Tunsil trade yet trade away a top DE talent for peanuts? Obviously, the Tunsil trade was due to the importance of Deshaun Watson and keeping him healthy. However, I think if you look at all of the moves made by the Texans over the last offseason, you see a team that is not in win-now mode but rather a team that is looking to move into striking distance. I would say we are positioning ourselves to make a serious championship run over the next 1-3 years.
The really interesting part of this timeline is that it is going to force the Texans to operate outside of their comfort zone. Yes, historically the Texans have never been much a free agent player. Even in years when there were legit players available, the Texans have usually passed on them in the hopes that they could build the team through the draft. This has actually worked out fairly well as the Texans have drafted and developed some of the top players in the NFL, guys like J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, and Deshaun Watson. The problem is that the Texans, due to the wheeling and dealing of B’OB over the last few months, have almost zero draft capital now.
For that reason, mixed with the fact that B’OB seems to make mega-aggressive moves, I’m expecting the Texans to be very active this year during free agency. I expect they will pick up a top-tier pass rusher or more if they can afford it and continue to add pieces to this O-Line with Tunsil naturally being the cornerstone of that group.
The Texans know that now is the time to strike. Deshaun Watson is one of the best young QB’s in the game, they have ample cap space to make mega moves this offseason, and with the apparent decline of Tom Brady, it feels like the AFC is wide open for the first time in literally decades. B’OB might not be the man for the job, but he is willing to take his shot by building a team he thinks can compete. We all know how badly he wants to be the Patriots Light. He will enter this next offseason fully committed to a win-now team that is expected to bring home that long awaited championship.
These are our responses. Now I open the floor to you, loyal reader. Do you think the Texans are in win[now mode?