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2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week Five

Where do they got our Texans this strange week?

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NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After a horrible start, it was the common belief that our Texans were ready to turn the corner and actually start their season against a shredded Minnesota Vikings team. Little did we know, the abyss can always get darker. Much darker, in fact. 0-4, a lost locker room, and the head coach/general manager is fired.

In the long run, removing Bill O’Brien from his position of Houston football arsonist is a positive move. But, like a farm exiting drought season, there is still plenty of work to do. The Texans, at this point, are absolutely one of the worst teams in football. No question about it. Until they shock the world and play above the extremely low expectations placed on an interim coaching staff and a transitory season, they will remain at the bottom of the pit. Such is the passage as the first team of 2020 to fire their head coach, managing to beat even the Falcons and Jets to the punch.

Here’s what NFL.COM’s Dan Hanzus had to say about us this time around last year, where we were coming off a similarly disappointing game, defined by offensive confusion of the highest order against a Newton-less Panthers team:

NFL.COM (2019)

15. Houston Texans (2-2)

Previous rank:*No. 12*

Sunday’s loss to Carolina was undoubtedly a tough watch in the film room for Bill O’Brien and the Texans. From Deshaun Watson’s missed home-run balls to Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins, to Hopkins’ doomed red-zone pass that went for a crucial interception, to O’Brien’s strange decision to challenge an obvious Christian McCaffrey circus catch in the fourth quarter (costing Houston a valuable timeout in the process), the Texans let a winnable game slip away. The offensive line also struggled, allowing Watson to absorb six sacks and 10 quarterback hits. This came after the oft-maligned unit performed extremely well in a win over the Chargers last week. The loss sends the AFC South into a dogfight, with four teams tied at 2-2. The Texans are the most talented team of the bunch, but consistency has been a problem in the season’s first quarter.

The offense struggling was an issue extremely similar in fashion on the same exact weekend last year. The Texans failed to take advantage of their talent, Watson missed some crucial throws, and coaching incompetence orbited the entire game. Despite all of that, we still had a shot to win it in the final minutes, and, like clockwork, goofed it up again. Even in our best year under Overlord O’Brien, luck played a major role, and without it, a team that should have finished 11-5 or even 12-4 would have likely finished 7-9, 6-10, or worse.

There were several moments in my Texans fandom where convincing myself O’Brien was actually a good coach was paramount, citing to myself over and over, “Good coaches win close games, and that’s how winning teams and losing teams are separated.” While this is true to an extent, one cannot deny the offensive inconsistency that defined O’Brien’s era.

Savior Deshaun Watson was supposed to write an end to those troubled times, but alas, nixing a brief glimmer of hope offered in the first half of the 2017 season that ultimately proved to be Fool’s Gold, those confusing and conservative drives only got worse as talent on offense grew. It was almost as if O’Brien compensated for growing ability on offense by becoming more conservative and boneheaded as a play caller and coach.

Eventually, that luck in close games would wear out, and those Panthers and Saints games would become less of the exception and more of the norm. Unfortunately, what was a year undoubtedly touted as one where Super Bowl aspirations could be realized would mark the moment that luck ran dry (eerily similar to Kubiak’s final season as Texans’ HC and firing in December). Upon entering O’Brien’s cave and realizing his well of fortune had run thin, Jack Easterby and Cal McNair had seen enough. The offensive incompetency and managing gaffs could no longer be saved by playing close games and winning in the end. The writing was on the wall. Welcome to the final game of the Bill O’Brien era.

This is the first power rankings in seven years where our organization is not spearheaded by Bill O’Brien. We’re in uncharted territory for many Texans fans (including myself) and similarly for many NFL analysts trying to get a read on a team with a seemingly elite quarterback that just fired their coach a quarter into the season. As exciting as it is to see the end of O’Brien’s reign now when it appeared years away, we are still deep in the woods of uncertainty. Nobody has any clue as to how the Texans will perform for the rest of the season or who they may hire at the Head Coach and General Manager positions. As such, we will hang in the trenches with the Giants, Jets, and Jaguars for the foreseeable future.

As bad as this sounds, I am far more excited to see what becomes of this season now. With such low expectations, so many unknown factors, and no conservative overlord, it will certainly be much easier to be excited about Houston football again. Here’s what the analysts are saying about your Houston Texans:

PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS:

24. HOUSTON TEXANS

Projected Win Total: 5.3

Playoff Odds: 3%

Highest-Graded Player: OT Laremy Tunsil (82.6)

PRO FOOTBALL TALK:

30. Texans (No. 21; 0-4): They may not be tanking for Trevor, but they could be tanking for Trevor’s head coach.

YAHOO! SPORTS

26. Houston Texans (0-4, LW:20)

Don’t be in a rush to give the Texans credit for firing Bill O’Brien after four games. It’s the same franchise that kept increasing O’Brien’s power to Belichick-ian levels even though O’Brien hadn’t done much to earn it, and he was pretty clearly in over his head. His moves as the head of personnel have set back the Texans for a long, long time. Nobody will say O’Brien should have kept his job. But let’s not forget that team ownership shares in this mess, too.

CBS SPORTS:

25. Houston Texans (0-4-0)

They fired coach Bill O’Brien for a reason. He wasn’t getting it done. At 0-4, they are likely done.

THE RINGER:

26. Houston Texans (0-4)

The Texans’ last-straw loss

If the Vikings’ win has the potential to act as a catalyst for change this year, the Texans’ loss just might be the turning point for the franchise’s direction in the next decade. Houston owner Cal McNair had apparently seen enough following the team’s demoralizing 31-23 loss, and announced Monday that he’d fired Bill O’Brien as the team’s head coach and GM.

It was an obvious, if somewhat curiously timed move for a Texans team that had ridden a league-high $249 million payroll to a 0-4 start. That underwhelming on-field performance was the straw that broke the camel’s back for McNair, at least in O’Brien’s capacity as a head coach, which included an impressive track record of overcoming obstacles and getting the most out of his team going back to 2014. O’Brien’s, uh, troubles as the team’s GM, though, would have made any amount of coaching prowess irrelevant over the long term.

Now, the team finds itself at a crossroads. With O’Brien gone, Romeo Crennel reportedly steps into the role of interim head coach. But the team has a relatively blank slate to work with, both on the front office and coaching fronts―which, by the way, should absolutely be separate going forward. The good news is the team doesn’t have to marry an existing GM with a new coach, or vice versa. The replacements they find for each position will need to work hand in hand to rebuild a roster O’Brien spent the past few years stripping of depth and talent. Unfortunately, the new leadership won’t benefit from first- or second-round picks in 2021; both of the Texans’ top two picks belong to Miami.

Still, it’s hard to look at this Texans move as anything but a positive for the team’s long-term prospects, and the prospects of Deshaun Watson, who deserves to be surrounded with a strong supporting cast.

BLEACHER REPORT:

29. Houston Texans (0-4)

High: 27

Low: 29

Last Week: 25

Week 4 Result: Lost vs. Minnesota 31-23

In four of the last five seasons, the Houston Texans have captured the AFC South championship.

Barring a miracle, it ain’t happening this year. Not after the Texans fell to 0-4 with a home loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

That woeful start was the end of the line for the Bill O’Brien era in Houston. The Texans fired the head coach and general manager Monday.

O’Brien finishes his tenure in Houston with a 52-48 regular-season record, and he led the Texans to the playoffs four times. But the team had little success in the postseason, and O’Brien made several puzzling moves as GM. Houston shipped wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona in the offseason, and the Texans’ first two picks next year belong the Miami Dolphins as the result of the Laremy Tunsil trade.

For a team with all the high-priced talent Houston has, the Texans are a mess.

“Everybody wants to blame the schedule,” Gagnon said, “but the Texans have the second-highest-paid quarterback in league history and a tied-for-NFL-high 10 players making at least $10 million a year. They’re supposed to be able to go toe-to-toe with teams like the Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers and Vikings, but instead they were owned by all four. That’s an indication they just don’t have it in them.”

ESPN:

23. Houston Texans (0-4)

Week 4 ranking: 20

FPI chance to make playoffs: 4.9%

It’s certainly not too low. Only one team in NFL history has ever started a season 0-4 and made the playoffs (the 1992 Chargers), and the Texans don’t look like the second, especially after firing head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien on Monday. Houston had a tough start to the season with games against the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers, but their showing against the now 1-3 Vikings indicates they’re not a playoff team in 2020. — Sarah Barshop

NFL.COM

29. Houston Texans (0-4)

Previous rank: No. 2 1

The Texans’ putrid start has cost Bill O’Brien his job. Houston fired its head coach and general manager on Monday, a stunning move that leaves the organization with a massive leadership void amidst an 0-4 start to the season. O’Brien was a polarizing figure in Houston, but his deeply unpopular trade of DeAndre Hopkinscoupled with a winless start to 2020 conspired to end his time with the Texans after four AFC South titles in six-plus seasons. Assistant head coach Romeo Crennel takes over as interim coach, inheriting a top-heavy roster that has struggled on both sides of the ball to start the season. While Crennel is tasked with producing better results on the field, the Texans as an organization will be busy rebooting the machine from within.

And, of course, here our my rankings for Week Five:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 1)
  2. Green Bay Packers (Last Week: 2)
  3. Buffalo Bills (Last Week: 4)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (Last Week: 3)
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: 5)
  6. Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: 6)
  7. Los Angeles Rams (Last Week: 7)
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Week: 10)
  9. Tennessee Titans (Last Week: 8)
  10. New England Patriots (Last Week: 9)
  11. Indianapolis Colts (Last Week: 15)
  12. New Orleans Saints (Last Week: 13)
  13. Cleveland Browns (Last Week: 17)
  14. Chicago Bears (Last Week: 12)
  15. Arizona Cardinals (Last Week: 11)
  16. Las Vegas Raiders (Last Week: 14)
  17. Carolina Panthers (Last Week: 21)
  18. Los Angeles Chargers (Last Week: 18)
  19. Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: 16)
  20. Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: 22)
  21. San Francisco 49ers (Last Week: 20)
  22. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: 24)
  23. Minnesota Vikings (Last Week: 27)
  24. Cincinnati Bengals (Last Week: 28)
  25. Detroit Lions (Last Week: 23)
  26. Houston Texans (Last Week: 19)
  27. Atlanta Falcons (Last Week: 25)
  28. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week: 26)
  29. Denver Broncos (Last Week: 30)
  30. Washington Football Team (Last Week: 29)
  31. New York Giants (Last Week: 31)
  32. New York Jets (Last Week: 32)

After such an abysmal showing against a inexperienced and injured Vikings defense, I am still bearish on the Texans even after they ridded themselves of what I believe was the largest issue plaguing the staff. Tim Kelly will likely be calling plays again; that isn’t encouraging since he deserved losing that privilege after Week Three. The Texans’ defense has played about as expected—poorly. The Texans’ offense, in short, is nothing that I could have ever expected. Pending a miraculous turnaround that would stun even the 2018 Texans, this team will remain low on the rankings for showing an impressive ability to waste talent on the offensive side of the ball.

What are your rankings? Where do you rank the Texans? What do you think of the rankings above? Let us know in the comments section!

Follow me on Twitter: @FizzyJoe