It’s really, really easy to make judgement calls on all sorts of things without considering the surrounding context. Often that context infects the judgement, whether it’s valid to do so or not.
Think the person behind the counter at Whataburger was a jerk the last time you stopped by? If you knew their spouse just died from cancer and the medical bills had them so financially torn up they couldn’t take time off work to grieve, would that change your judgement?
Did the Houston Texans have the greatest offseason in all the land? Well, the offseasons since [Name Redacted] became a Texan have all essentially been one continual nightmare, so 2022 looks pretty spectacular so far.
As we begin The Bench with @johngranato and @LanceZierlein, we ask this to the #BenchMob. If you had to give a grade for this year's @HoustonTexans #NFLDraft, what grade would you give and why? #NFLTwitter— ESPN 97.5 Houston (@espn975) May 2, 2022
So, instead of getting caught up in the hype-mob of heaping superlative heavy praise and Super Bowl expectations on this team, let’s consider it for what it has been: a good offseason with some moves that might turn out great, but might not.
Houston Texans add Lovie Smith as Head Coach
If you didn’t think 2021 head coach David Culley needed to be replaced, you’re either Culley’s mom or you weren’t paying attention. Sure he was a great guy, but he was so far out of his depth he couldn’t even fathom there was a bottom, much less see it.
In considering the context of the coaching search, the team atmosphere, the fan exodus and all.the.things, Lovie Smith was actually a great hire. Is he the second coming of Bill Parcels? Bill Walsh part two? The Chuck Noll of the 21st century?
But he is a great mentor and a level headed guy with great people skills. He’s a coach a lot of young men want to play for and a guy who’s been to the top of the mountain, so seeing the trials and tribulations at the base won’t shake him.
Lovie Smith is a solid, calming presence this team desperately needed to settle the churning waters of uncertainty and lost trust.
Not to mention, Smith teaches the players at mini-camp and training camp, unlike Culley who was surprised the rookies benefited from playing football.
No matter how many victories Houston gets on the field this year, hiring Smith was a win.
Houston Texans offloaded Deshaun Watson
Despite how amazing Watson was on the field, the off-field aspects of his life did far more harm than good for this team. The fact that Texans general manager Nick Caserio found himself in the untenable trade situation constructed by Bill O’Brien and Jack Easterby in the form of a no-trade clause is the very context mentioned above.
Should a team trade a franchise quarterback in their prime for the biggest return in NFL history? Yes.
Was that possible with Watson? No.
Houston Texans don’t make Boom-or-Bust moves in free agency
The veteran signings Caserio has made so far in 2022 aren’t exactly the giant, sexy, headline grabbing moves made by other teams. No mercurial wide receivers came to H-Town, no Defensive Player of the Year contenders joined the team. They didn’t reach for players whose names dominated the “Top Free Agents” lists. (See: Ed Reed.)
Caserio made some head scratching moves, for sure, particularly in bringing back some of the not-so-great starters from 2021. However, if he and Lovie Smith truly see those guys as part of the solution and not part of the problem, then contextually, these weren’t the worst moves.
Houston Texans have a top rated 2022 draft
ProFootballFocus called the efforts of Caserio and company “One of the Best This Year”. As everyone knows, it’s way, waaaayyy too early to slap grades on these rookies. And, as the aforementioned Bill Parcells was fond of saying “potential means you haven’t done anything yet...” None of these young men have done anything on an NFL gridiron. Sure, they had stellar NCAA careers, but history is littered with guys who did amazing things in college only to flame out in the pros. (See Ryan Leaf, Jamarcus Russell and D.J. Swearinger.)
However, there is a lot of reason to believe these new players will contribute heartily to the Texans future.
Derek Stingley Jr. joins good company as a 1st round pick selected by a brain trust that included Nick Caserio. While the Texans GM was part of the New England Patriots draft room they selected Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Benjamin Watson, Logan Mankins, Jerod Mayo, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Sony Michel, N’Keal Harry and others who all contributed to the success of their team.
Kenyon Green has the sort of versatility to move around the interior offensive line, allowing the Texans to field the best five guys, instead of having to address the line as five compartmentalized positions.
Jalen Pitre gave up a total of ZERO touchdowns... who does that? The newest Texans safety, that’s who.
So on and so forth...
Grading the Houston Texans 2022 Off-Season
Most pundits have been kind to the Texans this offseason, both in free agent and draft class grades. Again, these are all far too premature to hang your hat on, but it’s nice to have something positive to embrace as a Texans fan...
Offseason Grade: A-
Free Agency Grade: Average
Draft Grade: B+
Houston was able to trade away Deshaun Watson after he sat on the sidelines as a pariah for an entire season, with 22 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct still hanging over his head. Not only did the Texans trade him away, but they were able to get something approximating full market value.
That move happened a little too late in the free agency period for the Texans to take advantage this season, so they used free agency to largely re-shuffle players at the bottom end of the depth chart. The draft was where we saw the first steps of the roster building.
Derek Stingley Jr. brings some of the highest upside in the draft. His play in 2019 as a freshman at LSU was the best cornerback play PFF has graded in college since 2014. He earned a 91.7 PFF grade that year before injuries set him back. Houston is banking that the 2019 version of Stingley is still there, and that’s game-changing. The Texans added players that have a clear pathway to starting or being featured heavily all the way down to the fifth round. The Texans might finally be heading somewhere positive.