It’s been very well established that the 2021 Houston Texans are in no way a threat to make the Super Bowl. In fact, they’re not a threat to win the AFC South. They’re not even expected to win a handful of games.
That’s what “competition” does, apparently.
However, while new general manager Nick Caserio has made a record 72 roster moves so far this offseason (that in and of itself is mind-boggling, considering there are only 55 available jobs on any given Sunday and the Texans already had a full roster at the end of 2020), most of those moves were to acquire older veterans who have cemented their careers as backups and bench warmers. Could Caserio find the next Rich Gannon in all this? Maybe. Will he? Doubtful.
Where Houston can turn this head-scratching ‘strategy’ into smart gamesmanship lies in how they treat the youth of the team, although those players are seemingly few and far between. Instead of solidifying a depth chart full of aging, ineffective veterans like wide receivers Donte Moncrief and Chris Conley; cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Terrance Mitchell; or any of the 700 linebackers they signed, Houston needs to employ as many youngsters as possible.
The following players are all younger than 25 years old: quarterback Davis Mills, running back Scottie Phillips, tight ends Kahale Warring and Brevin Jordan; wide receivers Nico Collins, Keke Coutee, and Isaiah Coulter; offensive linemen Max Sharping, Tytus Howard, Charlie Heck; defensive tackle Ross Blacklock, defensive ends Charles Omenihu and Jonathan Greenard, linebackers Garrett Wallow and Tae Davis, and defensive backs Justin Reid and Tremon Smith. All of these players need to see the field early and often—no matter if the head coach puts them in the doghouse or not.
The preseason exists mainly to fine tune the team for the regular season while giving decision-makers a hard look at players to see how they perform in-game. If Nick Caserio is smart, he and head coach David Culley will treat all of 2021 like a prolonged preseason for 2022. Trying to win games, or “put the best product on the field,” is a pipe dream with this team, this year. The whole “competition” mantra is ignorant at best and insulting at worst. Developing young players for the future while maneuvering for high draft picks in 2022 is the best path forward for this organization.
It’s not just about evaluating the players. It’s about evaluating the coaches, too. Anyone who’s been paying attention over the last decade clearly saw Bill O’Brien’s staff was entirely incapable of developing young players. Don’t believe it? Just ask Jaelen Strong to direct you to the host of young players cast off in the O’Brien era. Or go straight to the authority and check with Andre Johnson.
Can Culley’s staff do any better? Will Lovie Smith foster talent faster than Romeo Crennel did? Can Andy Bischoff coach up Warring and Jordan? Will James Campen help Houston’s offensive linemen realize their potential? Will Pep Hamilton actually do something with Mills, Coutee, Coulter, and Collins? That’s where the Texans will truly win or lose under this new regime.
How the Houston Texans can totally lose it all in 2021:
Field a pile of place-holder veterans in the name of “competition” just to win four or five games. Miss out on the #1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Don’t develop any young players along the way. Doing these things would put us right back here next year, with nothing accomplished other than further evidence the team needs new leadership.
How the Houston Texans can actually win in 2021:
Build a core of young rising star players for the future. Sacrifice dubs in 2021 for wins in the future. Develop young coaches who are able to actually teach and improve their players instead of just being yes men for a coach with anger issues.
This is what we should root for this season. Not beating division opponents. Not trying to eke out a handful of meaningless wins. Cheer for development and look to a day when the Texans can consistently win again.