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Value of Things: The Ins and Outs of the 2022 Houston Texans

Was firing Lovie Smith the right move?

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Hopefully by now everyone has had the requisite time to digest Sunday’s improbable victory and the immediate aftermath. Lovie Smith didn’t even make it to Black Monday. We’ve dedicated this space every Tuesday to looking at the numbers from the previous game. Now, it is time to look at the season as a whole. Did Lovie deserve to go?

Before we break into that, I feel I owe it to the readers to offer my commentary on Sunday’s folly. Should the Houston Texans have lost that game? Yeah, they should have. The odds against completing two passes greater than ten yards on fourth down is astronomical. Beating the Indianapolis Colts is always satisfying on some level, but this wasn’t really a win. Jeff Saturday and the Colts were simply offering a master class on how to lose a football game.

They had done this throughout his tenure. So, were they trying to lose or was this simply a show of incompetence on the grandest scale? Does it really matter? At the end of the day we put all three Texans wins in the same bucket. Did they really outplay their opponents on those days or did they just have fewer unforced errors? There is a certain amount of that every Sunday in every NFL game, but eventually you have to do something to win. You can’t design a strategy over simply hoping the other team falls all over themselves.

Inside the Numbers: Offensive Comparison

Total Points: 2022 289 (30th Tie), 2021 280 (30th)

Total Yards: 2022 4820 yards (31st), 2021 4727 yards (Dead-Ass Last)

Rushing Yards: 2022 1476 yards (31st), 2021 1422 yards (DAL)

Passing Yards: 2022 3344 yards (25th), 2021 3305 yards (28th)

Yards Per Play: 2022 4.7 (DAL), 2021 4.7 (31st)

Penalties: 2022 88/644 (8th), 2021 114/978 (28th)

Turnovers: 2022 28 (31st), 2021 25 (10th)

First Downs: 2022 277 (DAL), 2021 266 (DAL)

Punts: 2022 88 (30th), 2021 88 (DAL)

I’m all for managed expectations and a dose of realism. The Texans weren’t making the playoffs this season with any coach. Vince Lombardi? Bill Belichick? Don Shula? Jimmy Johnson? Nope. It just wasn’t happening. However, they should have gotten better. They just didn’t. Offense was down throughout the NFL this season, so the rankings are probably more valuable than the raw totals. The Texans were dead ass last in two categories this season. They were dead-ass last in four categories in 2021. So, slight improvement. Yet, they were 30th or below in seven of nine categories. This was with the majority of the players coming back and presumably better blocking and a better running back.

Of course, the biggest area of concern was the quarterbacks, but we will get to that more specifically below. This is simple. The Pep Hamilton offense was not better than the Tim Kelly offense. It should have been. It wasn’t going to be the Greatest Show on Turf or a Kansas City Chiefs offense, but it should have been better. It wasn’t.

Inside the Numbers: Defensive Comparison

Total Points: 2022 420 (27th), 2021 452 (27th)

Total Yards: 2022 6452 (30th), 2021 6535 (31st)

Rushing Yards: 2022 2894 (DAL), 2021 2418 (31st)

Passing Yards: 2022 3558 (11th), 2021 4117 (23rd)

Yards Per Play: 2022 5.7 (26th), 2021 5.9 (29th)

Turnovers: 2022 27 (7th), 2021 25 (10th)

First Downs: 2022 372 (31st), 2021 382 (27th)

Punts: 2022 73 (11th), 2021 57 (27th)

This time they are both Lovie Smith defenses. Still, you added the number three overall pick, a second round safety, and a third round linebacker. You added a starting corner and a bevy of veteran defensive ends. You jettisoned the worst statistical safety in football and cut the worst linebacker in football early in the season. This should have been better. Maybe it wasn’t going to be a good defense, but it should have been a better one.

Remember, offensive football wasn’t as good league wide as it was in 2021. So, look at the rankings. They made teams punt more. They improved a little comparatively in yards per play. That’s it. Otherwise they were comparatively as bad as they were a year ago. So, when you put it all together they somehow managed to score a few more points and prevent teams from scoring more points. Fewer games were blowouts on the scoreboard. Is that because the Texans were better or because other teams just took their foot off the gas? This isn’t to say that David Culley got a raw deal. He was a historically awful. Obviously, this means that Smith wasn’t statistically better. He talked a better game. He inspired a little more confidence, but at the end of the day the results were the same.

The Mills Report

Okay, let’s dispense with something right now. People made fun of Lovie Smith for saying he deserved a second year and they made fun of Davis Mills for saying he had earned a chance to start again. Coaches and players have to have self-confidence. If they don’t have that they might as well quit. So, I’m not going to crack on Davis Mills for thinking he deserved another chance to start. He should think that. I’d be more concerned if he didn’t think that. Yet, side by side we look at the last two seasons of Davis Mills.

2021 Mills: 66.8%, 2664 yards, 6.8 YPA, 16 TD, 10 INT, 88.8 Rating, 35.5 QBR

2022 Mills, 61.0%, 3118 yards, 6.5 YPA, 17 TD, 15 INT, 78.8 Rating, 33.1 QBR

If you want one statistical breakdown of why this coaching staff is moving on then look right here. You don’t have to know what is good and what is bad. For instance, knowing that he led the NFL in interceptions isn’t particularly important. It’s knowing that he is worse this season. Mills should have improved. Even if he produced the 2021 numbers again he would still be a borderline starter at best.

Even if you blame everything on Pep Hamilton, we still would consider him a borderline starter. We still would have to acknowledge that the team ultimately won’t go anywhere until they get someone better. Of course, we will have all the time in the world to explore that. First, we will move on to looking at various candidates for the head coaching position. Numbers can help us determine who those guys should be. Stay tuned.