It’s been hard to figure out where to go these past few months. Not leaving a house and not going to the places and spaces that we’ve become so accustomed to being in can be jarring. For many, including myself, not having those constants can leave you discombobulated, unsure of where to go next, and whether the thing you now have is what you really want.
For many of us, the return of professional football will act as a reprieve from what has been an extraordinarily long year. Much like how this year has left many of us without a clear path to follow, the path ahead for the Texans appears equally unclear. Heading into the start of the new season tonight against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Texans are in the midst of trying to shape how the team will look for the next 5-10 years and figuring out what the path forward looks like.
As of last week, we know it’ll most likely be helmed by Deshaun Watson for the next six years at the very least. Watson has been a supernova since he exploded during his rookie season in 2017. Since then, the Texans have attempted to make sense of what a team should like with this kind of player as their quarterback. It’s not surprising that this has been a challenge, considering Watson is unlike any quarterback the Texans have ever had. His first three years were marred partially by injuries and frustrating inconsistencies that lay in stark contrast to those moments where Watson performed feats and acts that beggared belief.
One of the quiet complaints about the Texans in recent seasons is that their top heavy roster has been exposed by injuries to key positions; that has proven disastrous because of a lack of depth. It’s impossible not to have this thought when Johnthan Banks gets burned down the sideline endlessly; we have to wonder if there really isn’t anything better out there.
That complaint can no longer be registered about this team, though. Over the past few offseasons, the Texans have transitioned from a team that put the emphasis on individual talent over the collective. I know that I’ve mentally argued back and forth about some of the recent moves that the Texans have made and wondered, “Where are we going with all of this?”
One of the most difficult things to deal with regarding the Texans over the past few seasons hasn’t been the fact they have underperformed and have capped out as a team that suffers a predictable loss in the NFL Playoffs at the hands of a better team, like the Chiefs (kudos for making last year’s loss one of the most entertaining yet!). It’s often typical to see a team with a talented young quarterback like Watson consistently improve year over year until they reach a peak. The question with this Texans team is whether they are at their peak right now. Every season since Watson was drafted and proved he’s a supreme quarterback talent should have been building towards a deeper playoff run than the Texans have achieved thus far. In their attempt this season, Houston has gone from top heavy, to gambling by getting rid of some of its most talented players in exchange for a collection of lesser talented players in hopes that they can recreate the aggregate production through cheaper or shorter means.
We’re back at a moment of impasse with the Texans. We’ve sat through the past three seasons wondering why it hasn’t all come together yet. Why does this team feel like it’s stuck in a crippling sensation of arrested development at times? Why can’t it move forward? As the season kicks off with minimal or no fans in the stands and the constant risk of the league shutting down at a moment’s notice, the question for the Texans is this: After three seasons of Deshaun Watson and Bill O’Brien, where do they go now?