Prepared to wash away the ills of 2020, the Texans entered the new year determined to usher in a new era in their football program. The canvas of the 2021 Texans lies bare, and beckons to those executives that remain with promises abounding of a fresh start. A large and unwieldy pursuit, it is a challenge tantalizing to the ambitious, whom I believe Texans’ love to call themselves one of. Open seats at head coach and general manager, and an implosive situation with the cap that will require releasing several players and a full reset of the franchise. This is a moment that will go down in Texans lore, an inflection point in our history.
It’s already gone haywire. In a moment where ownership, executives, and the like had an opportunity to rewrite their narrative as incapable or unqualified, they showed how brighter pastures can always feel hopelessly out of reach. Within days of the new year, the Houston Texans hired longtime Patriots assistant and front office employee Nick Caserio to be their next general manager and deliver Houston from the depths of despair. Under normal circumstances, Caserio’s hiring would have been met with praise or lukewarm approval by most. But with connections to local Boogeyman Jack Eaterby likely being the reason for his abrupt hiring, Caserio was met with almost universal disapproval both inside and outside the Texans facility. An ongoing controversy that is nowhere near its end, the Texans first splash onto 2021’s canvas was so terrible that even quarterback Deshaun Watson is furious about it.
Deshaun Watson’s frustration with the Texans organization has become so publicized and discussed that it has now completely overshadowed the hiring that caused such a reaction in the first place. Rumors circulate every day about Watson’s desire to be traded and bail from what he sees as a sinking ship. Reports have even stated Texans employees are preparing for a world where Deshaun must be traded, and that his days playing for Houston may be already over. The Texans haven’t even begun to write their story for 2021, and it already appears they have unknowingly penned their demise.
This unfinished disaster story led me to the question: what timeline of Texans history are we living in? Is there another dimension where things are going better? Is this the worst timeline? Step into this fold between worlds, this gap between dimensions, and gaze through the branching pathways that may be or soon will be for this Houston Texans team:
Timeline #1: Come in a Lion And Go Out a Lamb
This is what I believe to be the most likely timeline. This timeline sucks. Our new general manager hire was a fairly mediocre hire, Deshaun Watson could be gone any day now, the cap is a mess, and the head coaching position is still an open question. The Texans will be a completely different team by August, regardless if Watson is here or not. J.J. Watt will likely be gone since he has made it clear he does not want to be part of a rebuild, the running back and wide receiver groups will likely be very different since we’ll have to dump several contracts, and the defense will still be bad. After I climbed out of my own Gobbler’s Knob, however, I did not see a shadow as large as others fear. The Texans have yet to hire a head coach while most other vacant franchises have found their tenant, with the only popular candidate left being Eric Bienemy—Bienemy was already my favorite candidate for the Texans’ job, and we should count our lucky stars that he’s somehow still available. Regardless if Cal McNair and Jack Easterby share my enthusiasm, I believe they will hire Bienemy to be the head coach since he’s clearly the best candidate left and to give Deshaun Watson some confidence in this franchise.
After Bienemy has been hired, the offseason and draft will become the focus. The Texans will release or trade several players to clear cap space, including but not limited to David Johnson, Randall Cobb, J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Bendardrick McKinney, and possibly Brandin Cooks and Eric Murray. Removing these players and some others will clean up our cap situation and give Caserio and Bienemy some spending money to find cheap players in free agency. The rebuild is on.
One of their major first gambles will be on Will Fuller, who will be offered a generous two to four year deal that should keep their #1 in Houston. Without a first or second round selection in the upcoming draft, a lot will be riding on these third and fourth round picks for Houston to find a diamond in the rough. They will take a chance on some unknown prospects, but I think they’ll find at least one or two starting caliber players. Make no mistake, though, this team is gonna be BAD. The offense will be much better with Bienemy at the helm, but the defense will now be bad and inexperienced. It’ll be another banner year for Watson, but a top ten pick in 2022 will be the focus. The future is bright, just not this year.
What else is going on in this timeline? What world and what histories have we just leapt into? It looks like the Chiefs have won another Super Bowl, helmets are now a bit larger with some thin, replaceable sheet of foam-like material on the inside, and the Washington Football Team is now their permanent name. Or is it Washington Football Club?
Timeline #2: The End of The World
This is the worst timeline. If you leap to this dimension, Deshaun Watson is traded, Bienemy says no to the head coaching gig, and the Texans hire Leslie Frazier to be the face of the worst football team in the NFL. If you look out the window you’ll also see Houston is on fire while Watson leads the New York Jets to a 16-0 record.
Leslie Frazier is not a bad coach by any stretch of the imagination, but he already had the opportunity to be one several years ago and yielded average results. With a team as bad as this, he won’t be able to do much better than 3-13. The positive to this hellscape would be the bounty of draft picks and/or players we would get from whatever team snags Watson off of us. I expect it to be a top five selection, multiple low-first round or second round picks, and several lower round selections. Houston could also end up getting Tua Tagovailoa if Miami were to get Watson, but I think they would give Houston back their third overall pick back, as well. For the next two years, the Texans would have tons of cap space and draft capital, but would have to nail every draft pick if they want to be a winning team by 2023 (as well as hope Tua develops or they draft a quarterback that does). There would be a lot to talk about during free agency and the draft, but the depressing apathy that is all too common in the Houston faithful would subsume our collective psyche when the season would begin in 2021 and 2022.
Elsewhere in this world, The New York Jets have won a Super Bowl. Jets fans, not used to this kind of success, are climbing up streetlights across New York City. Those Houston fans speak in a more somber tone when talking about their team. A tone usually only heard in conversation about a practical annoyance that speaks to a sort of shared suffering in life. Why can’t this stupid [insert computer or tech device] just work? Right before falling asleep I had to get up because I forgot to take out my contacts. Of course the Astros couldn’t just win the World Series, there had to be something to suck away the joy. Obviously Deshaun Watson was going to leave us, what did we expect? It’s a longing sort of sadness revealing these Texans fans have just realized that what they thought was a bright future was just a dream filtered by rose-tinted shades.
Timeline #3: A Prolonged Death:
This is another timeline I think has a track towards our reality. Deshaun Watson stays in Houston after all the fire settles, but the Texans end up hiring Leslie Frazier or Jim Caldwell instead of Bienemy. This timeline would play out similarly to the first timeline, except the future would be dimmer. This future will be a lot more murky and will contain a lot more question marks and poor draft choices. Houston passing up Bienemy will light a spark inside of Watson which will ignite at the end of another bad season under Caldwell/Frazier, causing him to request a trade around this time next year. In this case, Houston will again be the worst team in the NFL, they just want to hang onto the tendrils of relevancy for one more year.
Over there you can see the Houston Roughnecks are about to win the XFL Championship Game, so at least we’ll have one good football team. The Yankees bought and absorbed all the assets and players of the Mets. Jeans don’t exist in this world, I guess. Everyone is wearing khakis...
Timeline #4: A Strange New World
This is one of the stranger possibilities. Eric Bienemy is hired, but Deshaun Watson’s faith is irreparable and is traded. Bienemy would be entering sheer chaos, but with his eyes set on shocking the world by turning it all around with a landmark draft selection. With their newly acquired top ten pick after trading Watson, Bienemy and Caserio will pick either Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, or Zach Wilson. Just a few months into the new year, the Texans have thrown away their star and put their faith in another that has caught the architect’s eye. All of these quarterbacks are great prospects that are expected to be taken in the top ten, and it’s possible Bienemy will find his next Mahomes in one of these players. It’d be a miracle if any of them actually become the next Mahomes, but I believe Bienemy could concoct a potent offense with any and a couple years of work. 2021 and 2022 are years we’d be much happier with Watson, but our new quarterback and Bienemy’s system are performing at a high level. Some will wonder if the disaster of dumping Watson might have opened the door to a lucky draft pick that turned into a success. Don’t put much faith in this, but I do believe in Zach Wilson.
Within this dimension, you can see other odd sights. Mitchell Trubisky turned out to be the best quarterback of the draft and Chicago is the best team in the NFL with two Super Bowls to show for it. Kirk Cousins signed with Denver and they’ve won the AFC West every year since 2018. A film released in 1978 called Dune is currently considered the greatest movie of all time and completely overshadowed Star Wars. From here on, things can only get weirder.
Timeline #5: Uhhhh….
This is a genuinely weird place, and I have no idea how the Texans’ brass got to this decision. Watson is traded to the Falcons for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and Houston hires Joe Brady to be the next head coach. This is a genuinely head scratching move for a team that needs to clear up cap space and is in no position to win now, but I can’t put it past guys that willingly traded DeAndre Hopkins for David Johnson to make another psychotic move.
Absorbing the Jones and Ryan contracts requires Houston to cut several of their starting players in order to pay for the new guys. J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, Randall Cobb, and David Johnson are definitely gone, with more to follow. Joe Brady and Nick Caserio are immediately put into the headache of trying to keep Will Fuller and/or Brandin Cooks around to give Ryan the juice he needs to make another run at it, while the defense is an absolute mess unless Caserio pulls off a miracle to end all miracles in free agency and the draft. The Texans zig where everyone thinks zag and shoot for the Super Bowl when the world was expecting a rebuild. Will it work out? Will the Matt Ryan/Julio Jones swan song at NRG Stadium spell success? I don’t think so. A few more disappointing seasons, maybe a wildcard exit if we’re lucky, end both of their careers in Houston while Atlanta is SWOONING for the Deshaun Watson/Arthur Smith combo.
This place is weird. Ketchup is purple here. Grand Theft Auto is banned in every country except Switzerland, McDonald’s doesn’t exist, and Babe Ruth is never traded to the Yankees. If there’s something weird you can imagine, it’s here.
Timeline #6: What Will Actually Happen (I Have No Idea)
Chances are none of my predictions will come true. In a timeline like this, even my wildest dreams cannot attempt to conjure up a prediction strange enough to be worthy of this world. I can’t even pretend to understand their decision making process over there at NRG Park, and regardless of how many scenarios I can think of, good or bad, they will never hold water to what will actually happen. All you need to do is look around to realize that truth is always stranger than fiction. As awful as it can be to have a team as weird as this one, they certainly give us plenty to talk about.
If I had to put my money down on any of these actually happening, I’d probably pick timeline #1 or #2. I think it’s down to we either hire Bienemy and look down the road a few years after the rebuild is complete, or we don’t hire Bienemy and have to realize a world with truly nothing exciting about our team. A timeline like #4 where we hit the reset button everywhere with Bienemy at the helm would be interesting, but chances are we will never replace Deshaun Watson if he leaves. It’s something I’d love to try on Madden, though (foreshadowing, maybe?).
What do you think is going to happen. Have your midday fantasies created any interesting threads you could see the Houston Texans weaving in 2021? Let us know in the comments below!
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