They say when a person experiences a traumatic event, the brain will sometimes repress memories of the event as a coping mechanism. You could, in theory, find yourself in the middle of a massive train wreck, surrounded by mangled steel with smoke and fires emanating from the wreckage, watching people straggle out of the carnage with the same blank thousand-yard stare you have, go to bed, and not remember a single moment of what happened before, during, or immediately after the wreck.
That is my experience from watching the Houston Texans 2021-22 season: A massive train wreck that I cannot for the life of me recall off the top of my head; nor do I particularly want to.
That said, there have been a lot of changes this last offseason.
It all began with the end of the Texans’ 2021 season, where the Texans were without the team’s so-called franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson for the entire year for two entirely unrelated reasons. The first was because Watson threw a tantrum about how the general manager search went in 2021. That began the holdout that would ultimately end with his departure to the Cleveland Browns. The other was, as we all know now, due to the 25 women who filed lawsuits against Watson accusing him of sexual misconduct and assault during his time with the team.
In March, the Texans parted ways with Watson. That trade resulted in a king’s ransom of picks — though not nearly as rich as the Russell Wilson deal that sent Wilson to the Broncos, but still, three first-round picks, a third-round pick, and a fourth-round pick are nothing to sneeze at.
The end of 2021 also resulted in the end of the short, yet largely hilarious, David Culley era in Houston. While Culley was clearly in over his head, I applaud him for his effort and the fact that he got to take $22 million of Cal McNair’s money for his trouble. However, the same problem that plagued the Texans after the 2020-21 season plagued the team again. The Texans needed a new head coach, and they couldn’t afford to miss the way they did with Culley.
So naturally, the Texans were a stone’s throw away from missing again. They had their choice of Brian Flores, Jonathan Gannon, Kevin O’Connell, and perennial backup quarterback Josh McCown.
Somehow despite all these coaches with bona fide NFL coaching credentials to their name, the Texans were inching closer to naming the perennial backup quarterback without any coaching experience, save for being a volunteer at his kid’s high school football team. Then Brian Flores sued the NFL for racial discrimination in their hiring practices; alleging his interviews were all a smokescreen for NFL teams to skirt the Rooney Rule. The Texans were one of the teams that Flores added specifically in his suit.
Because of the attention the Flores suit got, it put the Josh McCown hire on ice, thank goodness, and resulted in the hire of someone who had always been on the Texans’ radar: former Bears, Bucs, and University of Illinois head coach and then-defensive coordinator Lovie Smith. Never mind that there is little evidence to suggest the Texans were looking at hiring Smith at any point prior to the Flores suit until the very last second when he was hired. It’s hard to not look at this hire as a purely cynical move by management (owner Cal McNair and front office cheerleader Jack Easterby) but at least Lovie Smith is a legitimate NFL head coach, even though his explanation for why he wanted to be Texans head coach can be boiled down to “it was just there.”
As for free agents, the Texans didn’t lose many noteworthy players simply because they didn’t have a whole lot of them to lose. Watson is in Cleveland as mentioned before (and good riddance), but the only other noticeable FA loss was safety Justin Reid, who signed with the Chiefs in the offseason.
The Texans made a lot of small changes to the roster, shuffling players to accumulate depth, but very few big-name free agents decided to cast their lot with the Texans. The only one that comes close is former Colts running back Marlon Mack, who signed with the Texans on a one-year “prove it” deal. Mack is trying to come back from a torn Achilles tendon, and he did not prove it as he is no longer on the team.
For Houston Texans fans, this ball of bedlam we’ve sat through for the last year, for the last three years, really, this is how it’s going for us. It can only get better from here.