Away from the piercing eyes of the general public, under the cloak of secrecy, the Texans dodged their ninth consecutive loss thanks to their bye week. Playing no one, they successfully performed all tasks necessary to win a football game without the resistance of another team. They met together, decided on a game plan, and executed each play with impressive efficiency both on offense and defense. Under normal circumstances, we would collectively agree to call these actions “practice” or “scrimmage,” but these are not normal circumstances.
What does it mean to play a football game? The most common definition of football is for two teams of players to battle one another for possession of the football and thus the opportunities to score points, with the victor being the most successful of the two in scoring during the allotted time.
But, what if we were to consider another way of playing football, or a new way of expressing oneself on the gridiron. What if the rules that have become entrenched in our collective definition of “football” were examined for their impact on the game, or removed from the game entirely? What if football was more than what we, the fans, see it as?
These are the questions the Texans are asking, and what fans of the Texans are being forced to ask. Beyond just what is considered a successful football team, we must ask what should be considered a successful football team. With failure comes self-reflection, and with humility comes a greater awareness of the self within the sport and what the sport has become.
This past week, the Texans played football. Their opponent was themselves, and they executed plays both on offense, defense, and special teams necessary for a game of football to considered played. They did everything needed for it to be considered a successful performance on the gridiron.
Under that lens, the Texans are a success. They are active participants in the performance art of football, of which we are fans of. They’re talented, athletic, coordinated, competitive enough to be considered NFL caliber, and enjoyable enough to watch frequently.
In the eyes of a classical spectator, here to enjoy the show, the Texans are a necessary character in the story of the 2021 NFL season. They’ve won, they’ve lost, they’ve caused surprises and disappointments. Their performances have had enough of an impact on the greater story of the season to be considered successful participants in the sport. They have done exactly what was asked of them, and they did so beautifully. But, we are not indifferent spectators or intellectuals of the medium, blessed with the freedom to accept whatever occurs on the field. We are fans. Cursed with sentimental chains we have attached to our favorite performers, we have fashioned ourselves a part of this football world and made it indistinguishable from reality. Our role as fans is to celebrate with every success and mourn every loss, and in that, we find our truth.
Here’s where everyone has ranked the Texans after their bye week:
31. Houston Texans (1-8)
Previous ranking: 31
Most important remaining game: Nov. 28 vs. Jets
Two of the Texans’ final eight games come against teams with only two wins: the Jets and Jaguars. The best chance at a victory might be against the Jets at home in Week 12. It’s a game that will likely impact draft position the most. Houston’s lone triumph this season came in Week 1 against the Jaguars. The Texans (1-8) are currently a half-game behind the 0-8-1 Lions for the No. 1 pick. — Sarah Barshop
32. Houston Texans (1-8)
Previous rank: No. 32
When we look back at the history of the Texans a decade from now, 2021 will be remembered — if it’s remembered at all — as the lost season for Houston’s NFL franchise. The depressing Deshaun Watson saga overshadowed anything that happened on the field from the summer through October, and when that drama was (temporarily) tabled post-trade deadline, all that was left was the worst team in football playing out the string ahead of what could be a massive organizational reboot. The coaches and players live in football purgatory: They exist, but everything about this team feels ephemeral. The wrecking ball is coming. Collect your paychecks and try to compile some decent tape.
PRO FOOTBALL TALK:
32. Texans (1-8, No. 31): To settle the St. Louis lawsuit against the NFL, Houstonians are willing to let the Texans move there.
32. Texans (31): They emerge from bye week owners of the league’s longest losing streak (8) ... only to face Tennessee squad riding NFL-high six-game winning streak.
32. Houston Texans (1-8)
31. Houston Texans (1–8)
Last week: Bye
Next week: at Tennessee
The Texans have eight games to go until the 2021 season is over and they can proceed to the next stage of their rebuild.
31. Houston Texans (1-8)
They come off their bye with a tough road game against the Titans. Remember when those two teams used to be comparable? They aren’t anymore.
32. Houston Texans (1-8)
Last Week: 31
Week 10 Result: Bye week
Week 10 was the best week for the Houston Texans since they defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars in the season opener.
Of course, it was also Houston’s bye week, which tells you everything you need to know about the 2021 Texans.
As the losses have mounted in Houston, first-year head coach David Culley has attempted to maintain a positive attitude. He also has consistently defended his players, telling Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press that the team’s poor play has less to do with the team itself than the people coaching it.
“I’m frustrated that this team doesn’t play as consistent as we need them to play to have success and win football games,” he said. “That’s on us as coaches. We haven’t done as good a job as we need to do to do that.”
The cold reality is that the Texans need better players. On both sides of the ball. Especially at quarterback. Houston is all but certainly going to have a top-five pick in 2022. Trading Deshaun Watson will land the franchise that many more draft picks.
If general manager Nick Caserio makes good use of those picks, the future in Houston could be bright.
But the present is a mess.
32. Houston Texans (1-8, Last Week: 32)
The Texans play at the Titans this week and that’s probably not going to end with a win (though given the upsets lately, who knows). But Houston does have games remaining against the Jets and Jaguars. They might not be stuck on one win forever.
Still either the worst or second worst team in football, this is a breeding ground for existential discussions about the meaning of fandom to occur. The perspective of a casual spectator, complacent with any kind of performance of football, gives the impression that the Texans’ consistent failures are just fine. That the weekly performances of the Texans are not something to protest, but part of a greater theatrical performance by all teams where all results are as they should be. This is a real freedom many sports goers get to enjoy, and a freedom I often envy.
But, in that freedom they release the ability to know the Texans like we do, to become a fan of the team, not the sport. As much as they may love the sport, there will be so many things they will not understand, so many feelings they will never know.
Here are my personal power rankings entering Week Eleven:
- Tennessee Titans (8-2) (Last Week: 3)
- Green Bay Packers (8-2) (Last Week: 2)
- Arizona Cardinals (8-2) (Last Week: 1)
- Dallas Cowboys (7-2) (Last Week: 7)
- Buffalo Bills (6-3) (Last Week: 9)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) (Last Week: 4)
- New England Patriots (6-4) (Last Week: 11)
- Los Angeles Rams (7-3) (Last Week: 6)
- Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) (Last Week: 13)
- Baltimore Ravens (6-3) (Last Week: 5)
- Los Angeles Chargers (5-4) (Last Week: 8)
- New Orleans Saints (5-4) (Last Week: 12)
- Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) (Last Week: 14)
- Cleveland Browns (5-5) (Last Week: 10)
- Indianapolis Colts (5-5) (Last Week: 18)
- Minnesota Vikings (4-5) (Last Week: 20)
- San Francisco 49ers (4-5) (Last Week: 25)
- Carolina Panthers (5-5) (Last Week: 24)
- Las Vegas Raiders (5-4) (Last Week: 17)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1) (Last Week: 15)
- Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) (Last Week: 21)
- Denver Broncos (5-5) (Last Week: 16)
- Atlanta Falcons (4-5) (Last Week: 19)
- New York Giants (3-6) (Last Week: 23)
- Chicago Bears (3-6) (Last Week: 26)
- Washington Football Team (3-6) (Last Week: 29)
- Miami Dolphins (3-7) (Last Week: 30)
- Seattle Seahawks (3-6) (Last Week: 22)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7) (Last Week: 28)
- New York Jets (2-8) (Last Week: 27)
- Houston Texans (1-8) (Last Week: 31)
- Detroit Lions (0-8-1) (Last Week: 32)
The Detroit Lions still have yet to win a football game, so they will still remain at the very bottom of the rankings! At this point, however, they are harming the Texans by having the first overall pick. Whether its Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, Malik Willis, Sam Howell, or someone else entirely, I’d rather have the Texans making that decision instead of the Lions.
In embracing the role of the fan, I find my reason to keep loving the Texans. I believe the Texans will have something substantial to show for putting their fan base through this. Why do I think so, even when all else says to abandon ship? Because I’m a fan.
Follow me on Twitter: @FizzyJoe