We made it! Inaugurating with as calamitous of a tie as could be, the 2022 season for the Houston Texans scraped from week to week across the bottom of the barrel, promising a foundation upon future successes would be built that never seemed to fully materialize. Expectations were still low entering a season headlined by Davis Mills and Jerry Hughes, optimism still echoed across Houston halls. Maybe an improved offensive line would complement Lovie Smith’s popular zone defenses; Maybe Nico Collins and Brevin Jordan would usher in some sort of revitalized passing offense, or at least a teaser for the future; Or, with luck, we would all bear witness to Davis Mills transforming into a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL (it may sound ridiculous now, but Davis Mills’ last games of the 2021 season made a surge to stardom almost feel possible).
These tempered expectations flanked by the predictable preseason optimism stirred for a season that would amount to something. The Texans, woefully complacent through much of the 2022 offseason, would eventually have to get this season over with, and after the train wreck of the 2020 season and a slog of a 2021 season, something substantial must be made of 2022.
Do some cool plays from Davis Mills count…?
I really can’t believe they won this game. After all of this season, they actually won this game.
In the end, the Houston Texans reached the end of the 2022 season having failed to impress practically anyone, either positively or negatively. In a fanbase full of pessimists and and star gazers, the Texans failed to make either happy by the end of the season. In fact, they had done something remarkable: For the first time since 2016, the Houston Texans completed a season without losing to the Indianapolis Colts, to nearly everyone’s dismay. The Texans hadn’t swept the Colts, which would have been far too impressive, nor had they lost to them, which has become a sort of routine embarrassment for fans to anticipate when the leaves turn brown. With a tie to start the season and an exceptionally embarrassing “victory” in the season finale, punting away the first overall pick, Houston had succeeded in making pretty much everyone unhappy with the result. As it turns out, the opening tie couldn’t have been a better harbinger (or herald) for the season to come. This was going to be an aggressively mediocre season, and there was nothing we could do to stop the aggressively mediocre result.
But, that isn’t to say the season was a complete wash. Even though we did not get some kind of revitalized defense nor a step forward from Davis Mills, we did get the first year of a new era of rushing in Houston, led by rookie running back Dameon Pierce. Pierce was unfortunately absent from the Texans late-season surge, but still surpassed 1000 yards from scrimmage and countless broken tackles. As a rookie third round pick, Dameon Pierce becoming the engine of the offense almost immediately says a lot about how excellent of a player he is, but also how little else Houston has surrounding him.
We also got a full season’s worth of borderline pro-bowl play from rookie second rounder Jalen Pitre. Pitre, similar to Pierce, quickly became one of the most important elements to Houston defense, leading the roster in interceptions, tackles, and passes defended. He even had a pretty impressive play at the worst possible time in the season finale:
Jonathan Greenard was a big story entering the 2022 season, seeking to capitalize on a starting opportunity opposite new free agent signing Jerry Hughes, who performed well above expectations and finished with a team-high 9.0 sacks. Greenard’s early injury that kept him out of the picture for the majority of the season was a crucial loss to a defense starved for pass-rushing and another lost chance to see if Houston had found a diamond in the rough back in the 2020 Draft. Instead, we got to see a lot more of Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Rasheem Green, two players who played well enough above expectations to secure a contract elsewhere in 2023. But, Greenard did play in the season finale, and made quite the difference!
First round picks Derek Stingley, Jr. and Kenyon Green did not live up to their high expectations. Both started every game that they were healthy, but were inconsistent in their performance to say the least. Green would go through long stretches of the season of being more of a liability on the line than an asset, and even though Stingley complemented Steven Nelson, Desmond King, and Jalen Pitre on an improved passing defense, it wasn’t enough to stop the defense from being ranked 27th in the league. However, there is something to be said in being ranked 10th in passing defense and 1st against touchdowns, a feat few other teams picking around the Texans can lay claim to. Progress was here, but not enough to make a meaningful difference, either for the Texans team nor Lovie Smith’s job security.
Lovie Smith is out as Texans head coach, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 9, 2023
Another one-and-done year for the Houston coaching staff, another offseason were the likelihood of anyone good at their job accepting this opening sinks. Why would anyone want this job? Why would any player want to sign with a team that asks them to learn under a new coaching staff every year? The draft capital and cap space is attractive, but Smith’s firing makes the position look like the most insecure in the NFL, and with several teams vying for a new coach in 2023, who would take an opportunity like this?
Now, staring down the barrel of yet another pivotal offseason, the Texans try and make this last month of competent performance mean something by embracing the second overall pick and hoping another head coach can build off of the late-season progress the last left behind. Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are now not quite as close as we had hoped, but still close enough to make optimism cheap in the offseason.
Here’s where everyone is ranking the Houston Texans after their victory against the Indianapolis Colts:
27. Houston Texans (3-13-1)
Previous rank: No. 31
The Texans had the No. 1 overall pick in their back pocket. Then things got weird: A desperation fourth-and-20 heave-turned touchdown, a two-point conversion, a final defensive stand. Almost impossibly, the Texans exited Lucas Oil Stadium as 32-31 victors, gift-wrapping the first pick to the Bears in the process. The comeback showed gumption from a competitive-spirit standpoint, but it didn’t do much for the majority of Texans fans, who likely just wanted their team to be on the draft clock after a miserable season. Lovie Smith was fired hours after the unlikely win, the second straight year the Texans gave their head coach just one season before showing him the door. It’s something any prospective candidate needs to consider.
- Dan Hanzus
PRO FOOTBALL TALK:
31. Texans (3-12-1; No. 30): The Texans are the gang that couldn’t tank straight.
- Mike Florio
31. Texans (32): What more could fired coaches David Culley and Lovie Smith, both ousted after one season the past two years, realistically have done given the constraints of this job? Makes you wonder what the next guy will have to do when expectations might actually rise to middling.
- Nate Davis
Points in poll: 16
Highest-place vote: 30 (2 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 32 (2 votes)
Season result: Fourth place in AFC South
Good for Lovie Smith, who coached his guys to keep playing hard in the final month of the season. A thrilling last-second win in Week 18 cost the team a shot at the No. 1 pick, and it may have ripple effects that haunt the Texans for a decade or more. But the draft is such a crapshoot, anyway, it was fun to see a team try to win.
- Albert Breer, Connor Orr, Greg Bishop, Michael Rosenberg, Andrew Brandt, John Pluym, Gary Gramling, Mitch Goldich
30. Texans (3-13-1)
They won to blow their chance at having the first overall pick in the April NFL Draft. They can’t win for losing and now they are looking for a coach.
- Pete Prisco
31. Houston Texans (3-13-1, LW: 32)
The Texans fired Lovie Smith, and let’s offer a quick reminder of how drastic it is for the Texans to have two straight one-and-done coaches. Since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger, only three times has a team had two straight one-and-done coaches. The San Francisco 49ers did it in the 1970s (they actually had three in a row) and again in the 2010s with Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. The Texans join that dubious list. The Texans job will be a very, very tough sell to candidates during this cycle.
- Frank Schwab
At 3-13-1, The Houston Texans will be looking forward to the 2023 NFL Draft, where they have two picks in the first round (#2 overall and #12 overall from the Cleveland Browns), one pick in the second round (#33 overall), two picks in the third round (#65 overall and #73 overall from the Browns), a fourth round pick, and fifth round pick, and four sixth round picks. Regardless of the disaster this season has been, this will be a very crucial offseason as Houston prepares to take a franchise quarterback and hit the ground running in the 2023 season. This amount of draft capital is the opportunity to transform their fortunes, only time will tell if they can finally seize the moment.