The Houston Texans as they currently exist are not a winning organization—unless you ask the Jacksonville Jaguars, that is. With the disastrous state owner Cal McNair allowed former head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien to create, there’s a LOT of work to be done by the next general manager and head coach in order to build up the roster, install a scheme that better utilizes the talent Houston has, and get back to winning.
A friend recently reminded me of the old adage: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That’s just what the new regime will have to do.
So, the question for this week is: Where do they start?
Well, this could spark a “War and Peace” length response, but for the team, the biggest problems will be in the lap of the new GM. The short term fallout would test the best of GMs, as there is a bloated cap structure and few viable draft picks. Additionally, the personnel with the onerous contracts are going to be tough to trade for draft picks/cap relief. Eating salary is not going to be that easy an option to get rid of the dead weight.
To compete in the NFL, you need talent in quality and in quantity. With this team, it is easier to list the positions that do not need upgrade/improvement (QB, OTs (jury is still out on Tytus Howard, but we are better at tackle than at Guard/Center), LS, P, WR). That’s about it. Yes, Justin Reid, Bradley Roby and J.J. Watt are quality players, but their position groups need so much work. This will not be a 2011 draft/free agency blitz to rectify a dumpster-fire caliber defense. It will take a couple of seasons. Nevertheless, that is where the bulk of the focus has to be. The offensive potential with Deshaun Watson will keep that side of the ball competitive, but the defense needs so much work just to get to the median and most of that is because of a lack talent. Anthony Weaver is not the greatest DC, but given that he is dealing with the NFL talent equivalent of a 2-7 off-suit hand, it is not hard to see how the team is struggling.
As for the new head coach, while it would be great if he was an offensive mastermind (Eric Bieniemy, cough, cough, Bieneemy), said coach needs to be, first and foremost, a head coach. A head coach has to delegate and let the assistants be the assistants. If that new head coach has a defensive background, so much the better. Whoever the new coach is and whatever said coach’s background was before, he needs to learn to balance his strengths with the requirement of being the overall leader. He will need to give the defense all the help it can get, whether it is applying defensive mastery to help the squad without usurping the coordinator position, or helping position the offense to try to mask defensive deficiencies. Oh, and while the new head coach and GM need to be on the same page, the new head coach should never, never, EVER seek, or accept being the GM at the same time as he is the head coach.
There are so many issues with this team on and off the field. However, the weakest link on this squad is the defense. It is not just a weakness; it is a fatal flaw. Pass rush, run D, coverage...it all sucks and it needs all the help it can get. It will take effective leadership to fix that, the type that can be flexible, calculating, and of a fashion that can use emotion in a positive light. It cannot be what we had before, where previous leaders let emotion cloud logic, reasoning, and the ability to delegate and learn.
If I am the incoming GM for YOUR Houston Texans, I am 100% devoting my attention to the defense.
Bill O’Brien overly devoted resources to the offense to make it look barely average at times. The problem is that he ignored the defense entirely. With a QB like Deshaun Watson, a good scheme can cover the holes along the offensive line, which is really the only position offensively that needs to be addressed (Zach Fulton and Nick Martin need to be jettisoned...into space).
Defensively? We are an absolute nightmare. For now, because of where the talent that survives, we need to aggressively improve the secondary and defensive line. We need at least two more cornerbacks and probably three more guys who can get to the QB.
The smoldering husk of a defense, after BOB’s reign of error, is still something to behold.
MATT BLOGZILLA! WESTON:
It has to be the pass defense. As strange as it is to say this, the Texans have more talent in their secondary than they do with their pass rush. The rush is J.J. Watt being very good, no longer great, that’s it, and he no longer has the ability to carry an entire pass rush on his own. We haven’t learned anything more about Jacob Martin, Charles Omenihu, or Ross Blacklock. Watt is probably gone after this season. This facet of the team is stuck.
The secondary at least has Justin Reid, who can be a great bracket defender and a good deep middle safety. Despite his tackling issues, Reid can mash in the box. Bradley Roby is a good corner. He isn’t a CB1 who can handle a team’s best receiver on his own. These two players are more talented than what the pass rush has to offer.
The issue is that corners usually need two seasons to hit their stride. They are difficult to find in free agency. It’s easier to build a pass rush. That being said, the Texans already have two out of five pieces for a competent secondary, whereas the pass rush is empty.
CARLOS COVID-KILLA FLORES:
Obviously, the defensive side of the ball requires the most attention. Specifically, I think it’ll come down to reworking the defensive line.
The Texans are currently ranked as the *checks notes* 31st worst run defense in terms of yardage (second to the Southern Oklahoma Cowpeople, albeit with one less game) and 20th in pass defense. The only reason why Houston’s pass defense isn’t further down the list is because teams are too busy turning our front seven into a quivering puddle of sadness.
J.J. Watt is no longer the one-man wrecking crew that he once was, Whitney Mercilus is treating his contract like it’s Social Securitu/ We’ve yet to see what we really have in Ross Blacklock or Jonathan Greenard.
All aboard the Takk McKinley train! CHOO! CHOO!
DIEHARD DONE-WITH-CAL-MCNAIR CHRIS:
The secondary - Bradley Roby is good. Better than I expected, honestly, but he is not a number one corner. If the Texans had a high draft pick, it would be an ideal time to grab your new CB1, but I have little confidence the team can draft a mid-rounder and develop him to the point he’s even a year one starter, much less an effective one. With cap issues next season, free agency may not be the best play, but teams can always create room.
The pass rush - The Texans have almost none. Twilight era J.J. Watt is still really good, not great, and they have NOBODY else they can depend on to get pressure. Again, no high picks and you pay out the nose for free agent pass rushers. This will not be an easy fix.
Deshaun - build the offense around his skillset, not his skillset around the offense. That seems obvious, but clearly for the first three years and four games of his NFL career, it somehow was NOT. I feel like this one is an inevitability, but if the Texans screw it up - woo boy.
MIKE BLEEDIN’ BATTLE RED BULLOCK:
I’m going to color outside the lines here and be that guy who doesn’t answer the heart of the question.
At the end of the day, the #1 focus, if this team is to ever rise to new heights, is to fully clean house from ownership on down. Cal McNair needs to sell the team ASAP. Since his father died, Cal has presided over a team headed for eventual Super Bowl glory and turned it into a bottom feeder where NFL careers go to die.
At the end of the day, Cal’s the one who looked at Bill O’Brien after the utter devastation of the 2019 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and thought, “You know what? I love it when my team coughs up a 24-0 lead and gives up 50+ points in three quarters to usher in one the worst playoff losses in the 100+ years of the NFL. In fact, I love it so much I’m going to promote the man responsible and let him run the whole show!”
This is also the same man who, after finally firing O’Brien (who should have been kicked to the curb long before then) gave way too much power to O’Brien’s favorite hire, Jack Easterby.
While I don’t share the hate for Easterby that some others do - in fact, I applaud him for leaving the Patriots after owner Robert Kraft was allegedly caught up in the utterly disgusting human trafficking filth (talk about next level deplorable) - it’s clear Easterby has been part of the problem on Kirby for some time. Keeping him around at this point falls right in line with promoting O’Brien after the 51-31 playoff embarrassment.
As long as there are ultra rich people, selling an NFL franchise won’t be hard. Cal McNair could probably make one call to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and have the Texans sold by morning. If not Cuban, Peyton Manning and many others have been rumored to want a taste of NFL ownership. In fact, having Manning in the owner’s suite would make for such a great dig at division rival Indianapolis Colts that he might be a shoe-in for favorite owner ever in a hot minute.
Either way, with the continuing bad press to come out of NRG Park, McNair is making the job of general manager less and less attractive to anyone who might actually turn this team around. Keeping Easterby in house, knowing he has a big voice in the McNair home, just makes it worse - unless of course you’re Josh McDaniels and Nick Caseerio. At this point, I think the fanbase has way too much “Patriots South” fatigue to even want to entertain that notion.
If J.J. Watt’s remaining days in battle red are to count, if Deshaun Watson’s professional career isn’t to be wasted, someone else needs to take the reigns of the Texans and let Cal McNair sail off into the sunset of building shopping malls and cashing in on the next dot.com boom.
If you suddenly found yourself running the Houston Texans, where would you start to fix things?