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Incompletions: Texans v. Vikings (The END Is NEAR)

With so much to write and talk about after every game, one person isn’t enough to write about it all. The Masthead joins together and writes about an event seven years in the making.

Minnesota Vikings v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images


Sometimes things are too bizarre to merely be coincidence itself. Events and details arrive too neatly together to be luck, or random chance. The term to define instances like this is synchronicity, which is the acausal connection of two or more psychic and physical phenomena.

This idea is reserved to the strange and outrageous, and isn’t something to be taken lightly. If every connection is defined as a synchronicity, then the word becomes another silly word like outrageous, or awesome (!), or epic, it’s just a coin in your pocket. Texting a friend about getting a double decker heart attack quadruple epic bacon avocado wrangler burger and then seeing a Facebook ad for the same thing isn’t synchronicity. This is targeted marketing. The Houston Texans throwing the ball downfield because you sit on the right side of the couch, and then stopping doing so, when you sit on the left side of the couch, isn’t synchronicity either. That’s a random occurrence.

The conclusion to Sunday’s game was more than a roll of the dice, it was an event seven years in the making.

The last time Gary Kubiak was in Houston, he was fired in the middle of a 14 game losing streak that continued even after Wade Philips took over. The 2013 Houston Texans went from a preseason Superbowl hopeful, to the worst team in the league, thanks to Matt Schaub’s flaccid arm, injuries to Brian Cushing and Arian Foster, Ed Reed duping Rick Smith, a horrendous turnover differential, and an awful one possession record after winning two overtime games to start 2013. Kubiak was gone. Bill O’Brien was hired to replace him.

The 2014 Houston Texans weren’t a rebuilding team. They were a talented team that was mired in a set of disastrous circumstances. With cap space, better quarterback play, luck, and the first overall pick, going from last to first wasn’t unreasonable. O’Brien and Smith didn’t understand this. They failed to address the quarterback position in 2014. Making the decision for Ryan Fitzpatrick to be the starter, and hopping on the ostrich and the walrus to ride the quarterback carousel until getting off it in 2017, when the Smith traded up to select Deshaun Watson.

In 2015 the Texans won the division, and did the same thing in 2016. They also won the division in 2018 and 2019. The 2015 and 2016 teams were built from the talent Houston had leftover from the Kubiak era, and the 2018 and 2019 team were the remaining fumes. J.J. Watt, and Whitney Mercilus are the only starters left over from the previous decision makers. The binds tying the Kubiak era and the O’Brien era together are gone.

Bill O’Brien pushed everyone out of the organization, taking over as offensive coordinator, and general manager, and mortgaged the team’s future by making a reactionary trade for Laremy Tunsil, because Matt Khalil and Tytus Howard couldn’t play left tackle. He significantly mangled the roster by receiving less than what they sent out for Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins, because he botched the timing of the trades, and failed to understand the value of their limited resources. This is O’Brien’s team entirely, and his team alone.

So now, here Houston was, sitting at 0-3, and trying to resuscitate their purple season, by beating the Minnesota Vikings. On the other sideline sat Kubiak, the offensive coordinator, the pale horse of revenge, and the first coach in Texans franchise history, Dom Capers, as a defensive assistant. The past meets the present, with the present trying to maintain his position for the future. Three timelines converging to a single point.

It ended in too perfect of a manner. O’Brien got precisely the game he wanted. Down 31-23, a one possession game, a game Houston could come back and win at the end, the type of game Houston has won dozens of times before, the type of game Houston won nine out of twelve times last season. The Texans found themselves at Minnesota’s four yard line, and the Vikings had three timeouts left.

Two inside hand offs to David Johnson failed to push the ball across the goal line. This forced Mike Zimmer to use two of his timeouts. On third down, the Texans tried a speed option play that worked earlier. Watson screeched off the edge. He flipped it to David Johnson, the same David Johnson the Texans traded DeAndre Hopkins for. Johnson had his eyes up on George Iloka. Knowing he had to make him miss, and if he did, the Texans would have a two point attempt to tie the game. Eyes up, he dropped the pitch, falling on it, it pushed Houston back further away from the goal line.

On fourth down, Watson threw a high pass over the defensive back and towards the sideline to Will Fuller. A receiver who has had a long history of drop issues, reached up, flipped the ball to himself, wrangled it in, but failed to place his hands under the ball as he went to ground. The football found the turf. Incomplete pass. The Texans lose 31-23, after Fuller dropped a pass that Hopkins has caught 15 (?) or 20 (?) times when he was in Houston.

The night before I dreamed of a golden scarab, the archetypal symbol of death and rebirth. The fumble and the dropped catch was death. The end of seven years, four AFC South Championships, three Divisional Round appearances, an 0-4 start, Kubiak’s revenge, and Bill O’Brien’s reign of terror. Hopefully soon, the McNairs make the decision to stop waiting, and start moving on, and rid Houston football from this reactionary, hot headed scorn, who ruined the best opportunity this team had to win a title since 2011 with personnel mismanagement, a ball control offense that limited the ceiling of this team, and cowardly ingame decision after cowardly ingame decision. It’s time for rebirth.

Serene and perfect. Everything about Sunday ties things up way too nicely. Will Fuller’s drop didn’t feel like a drop, but a small torn stitch in the fabric of the universe that showed a glimmer of the inner workings of reality itself.

These events, these examples don’t mean anything, unless the individual acts on it, and makes it real. Now, from here, it’s up to Texans ownership to make a decision they should have made two years ago, and finally fire Bill O’Brien.



Congratulations to the Bill O’Brien homers out there. This is the team you wanted; this is the team you deserve.



Before the season began, I did an article discussing the doomsday scenarios that could wreck the Texans season. Today, we hit one of them. At least before the season started, we could look at the first four games (@KC, BAL, @PIT, MIN) and figure that no one had a rougher schedule. Yet, with a healthy Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt and some luck, Houston could at least weather this challenge with no worse than a 1-3 start. I felt that 0-4 would be the death knell for this team, given what remained of the schedule. With Minnesota getting off to just as bad a start, it was not unreasonable to expect that the Texans could get into the win column today.

They didn’t. The defensive problems continued to haunt this squad, as another team gashed the run defense for over 160 yards. Again, zero turnovers, and while they had three sacks, Kirk Cousins was generally not troubled all that much by the pass rush. The offense was way too inconsistent, settling for too many red zone field goals over touchdowns. That the squad somehow was there at the end is mainly a testament to Watson’s prowess and Minnesota’s own defensive weaknesses.

If I were BO’B, I would really not look in on any social media feeds, or really any media, this week. Minnesota’s week was upended by COVID-19 and they did not get near the preparation time that Houston did. Even with a smaller crowd, Houston had home field, but even over the radio broadcast, the crowd was dead, and especially in the first half, the team played like zombies in football jerseys and pads. Much of this deservedly falls on BO’B, as he is now HC/GM and the primary play-caller. The team, in this desperate game, should not have been so blah in its play for much of the game. I thought they might slug it out to a tie, but I fear I was too generous.

Mathematically, the team is still alive for all of its goals. However, after seeing this team’s performance over the past 4 weeks, is there really much hope for grabbing one of the 7 playoff spots out there? Looking at the roster, is there that much hope for developmental improvement? With our top draft picks over the Miami Dolphins (aren’t they set up nicely for a 1990s Dallas-style revival), the team is staring down the barrel of not just a bad season, but perhaps the start of several ugly seasons.



It pains my soul to continually say negative things about this team - but if it walks like a duck and mismanages the clock like a duck... I’m not normally a ‘glass half empty’ kind of guy, but man, Bill O’Brien’s system emptied the glass Gary Kubiak left him, knocked it over and shoved it off the table to shatter on the floor of NFL mediocrity.

Deshaun Watson once again proved he’s one of the best in the league and gave a glimpse of what this offense could be if there was a true offensive genius running it. So far, the Texans have faced two middle of the pack defenses in Kansas City and Baltimore, a top 5 unit in Pittsburgh and a bottom 5 in Minnesota. If this offense was operating in a quality system, that would relate to at least a 2-2 record, several games with more than 28 points on the scoreboard and at least a little hope for the future.

As of this writing, the Texans offense is the 6th worst in the league, with only 1,310 yards total so far in 4 games, 80 points and a points per game average that’s only better than the New York Giants, New York Jets and Washington Whatevers. Even the Cleveland Browns have managed to average 31.0 points per game this season.

Anyone, including Cal McNair, who doesn’t believe Bill O’Brien’s system is a failure is either not paying attention or a fan of a rival team. The longer McNair allows this to continue, the deeper the hole the next general manager and head coach will have to dig out of...