For this week’s Groupthink, we look for some perspective on what’s going wrong:
Welp, the Texans are 0-2-1 and only the Las Vegas Raiders have a worse record (0-3). However, they just as easily could be 3-0 with three or four plays going their way. Do you think it’s a lack of depth or lack of culture that’s hampering the Texans?
After being force-fed the culture rubbish before the 2021 season, at least we haven’t been overly subjected to it this year. You see, dear reader, culture isn’t created when some magical little GM fairy sprinkles enchanted pixie dust on a printout of a roster. Alas, culture can only be created by one thing: winning. It doesn’t matter how many “Hang in There” cat posters Jack Easterby posts around the locker room, either. Until the Texans have a roster that’s competitive, and it starts winning, there is no culture. Teams like the Texans lose football games for one primary reason, which is that they don’t have the talent to win.
I actually will take door number three. There is a lack of depth, but as any good coach knows you can win with less talent. In order to do that you have to use what talent you do have, wisely. Why is Rex Burkhead such a featured part of this game plan? Why is a receiver like Dorsett not active in favor of Chris Conley? Why are you passing it twice as often as you’re running it? These are questions that are somewhat related to depth but not culture. You play to win. When you play to win you put your best eleven guys on the field. You call the plays (or defenses) that are most likely to succeed. You play to the strengths you do have. Yes, you capitalize on mistakes and try to make as few as possible.
The problem is that culture becomes an issue when guys see players that have no business being on the team or on the field as often as they are. It becomes a problem when you put more faith in a shaky quarterback than a promising young one. It becomes a problem for defensive players that see their offense go three and out constantly. So, I think things are okay on that front for now, but it won’t be if this continues.
Culture is an impossible object to obtain when the pillars of it can never be established. Three head coaches in three years. An atmosphere that any player can get released and any job is up for grabs. A completely overhauled team over three years. How would one expect a culture to even arise?
Sure, the Texans lack depth across the board and are categorically worse than the three teams they’ve faced thus far. And to be fair, they’ve played at a low-tier professional level for all three of the games. However, it’s a culture of winning that turns those losses and ties into wins. It’s not even a quality QB, it’s guys in the locker room who can communicate and evoke confidence that we will see this through. The veterans have to earn the right to be leaders by winning and enforce a higher resolve for this team to begin to start winning again.
I do think that the Texans were just a handful of plays away from being 3-0, and I think it that they would’ve been more likely to have made those game-changing or game-sealing plays if there was more depth across the board. They are still certainly not a great roster, and the shallow depth and reliance on short-term veterans reveals as much.
A lot of the plays that you look back on afterwards - third down incompletions, bad throws, dropped touchdowns passes - where we failed to capitalize against Indianapolis, Denver, and Chicago are mistakes that often haunt inexperienced teams with a lack of depth. The problem for Houston, however, is that many of these mistakes are coming from our starters (Davis Mills, Brandin Cooks) that wouldn’t be immediately replaced if we filled in the roster a bit more.
A deeper roster, especially at receiver and anywhere/everywhere along both lines would go a long way in improving our ability to control the line of scrimmage, and hopefully make it so these gotta have it plays are a bit easier on a quarterback that clearly has a long ways to go. But, before Davis Mills shows some more consistency, a better surrounding roster can only get them so far.
It’s hard for us, as outsiders to the inner workings of all football organizations, to really get a good understanding of the tangible effect “culture” can have on any team. While bringing back the same cast and creating a good work environment goes a long way in improving how the team operates, it’s hard to tell how much more “culture” Buffalo has over Jacksonville, and whether or not that has made a big difference in their play. Consistency and camaraderie certainly go a long way in improving how a team of workers work together, but winning, and therefore a better roster, cures all. I do think there’s elements already in place for a good “culture” to start, but a positive workplace culture for a losing team will always fly under the radar of our peering eyes.
It boils down to straight up lack of talent from all the roster spots. Culture is nice, but if you ain’t winning, it means nothing. Bad culture can derail a talented team, but good culture does not a winning team make. The Texans should be 2-1 at least, if not 3-0, but they are 0-2-1, and that could easily be 0-3. There are some signs of talent, but they don’t have the top tier guys to really win in this league. Their 3rd/4th tier guys can match their counterparts, but the 1st/2nd tier players, the ones you need to win, aren’t good enough. Maybe we can get that talent over the next couple of seasons, but so far, this year’s team ain’t any better than the last two.
Good arguments on both sides. Depth, obviously would be beneficial to this team winning close games down the stretch, but winning is a mentality. It’s trained, developed, cultivated, and built. The Texans don’t have that right now, and I don't think the game on Sunday against the Chargers will be of any help.