Lost. It’s not just an old TV show that aired on ABC anymore, it’s where the Texans have ended up in the past two years. I’m more of a “Survivor” fan myself, but the one thing I do know about “Lost” is that mysterious and supernatural events take place once a plane crash-landed. That metaphysical theme rings true for the Texans. It’s inconceivable they are in the position they are in, especially when compared to the talent they had a few seasons ago.
It could be possible that they haven’t even crashed yet and are still spiraling in a ball of fire towards the sea. No matter where they are in their disaster saga, we know that the team is in a perilous position.
The Texans have entered the Talent Bermuda Triangle. No one wants to be here, their best talent has left, and the organization can’t bring anyone good here. In sports terms, they don’t have the assets to rebuild, yet they don’t have the talent to “win now”. They are lost without the tools, leadership, or support to find their way out.
When your talent—the highest paid, highest profile, and highest performing players—is actively seeking to leave their current situation, you know there are troubling times ahead. In the past three weeks, the two biggest names in the franchise have either requested a trade or asked (and gotten) to be released. Potentially losing Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt will have a catastrophic effect on Houston’s locker room. Even before the last few months, players such as Duane Brown and Jadeveon Clowney found ways to get out of Houston to seek greener pastures.
Watt would have required significant compensation from another team if it was to trade for him. It’s understandable that the Texans wanted the greatest player in franchise history to have the opportunity to pick his new franchise. However, there was a game to be played where the Texans could have gained something from the precarious situation. Instead, since the Texans allowed him to happily walk into free agency, not only did they fail to get anything in return for him, they didn’t damage their opponent’s salary cap nearly as badly as they could. This is especially true if Watt decides to sign with Tennessee.
The second corner of the Bermuda Triangle for the Texans is the talent that has already left. The first signs of the Texans’ lack of direction came during the successive trades and releases of top talent. The media has rightly ripped the Texans for not receiving a single first round pick in exchange for Jadeveon Clowney, Duane Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, or anything for Watt. It is one thing to trade away talent. It’s another if you aren’t getting an adequate return for it. To not receive anything substantial for Clowney or Hopkins and to not receive anything for Watt is embarrassing. The rest of the NFL is taking advantage of the Texans both on and off the field.
The other players in the locker room aren’t any different than Watson and Watt—they don’t want to waste their careers. Athletes only have a few years to cash in on their entire life’s work. No one wants to waste it with an incompetent franchise. It would not surprise me if a dozen players have been aimlessly walking the halls of NRG Stadium begging to speak to someone who has the power to trade them. Unfortunately, for most of them, they either don’t have the value required for other teams to want to do so or their contracts are too enormous for teams to want to absorb their salary.
The Bermuda Triangle isn’t dangerous because there are perilous creatures actively trying to bring you down. It’s dangerous because the people who enter it don’t have the ability to get themselves out. The third and final point of the Bermuda Triangle is the inability to bring in the talent needed to win. With the flurry of trades executed by now-fired general manager Bill O’Brien, the Texans have thrown away their compass, turned off the radio, and thrown their emergency flares into the ocean.
With no picks in the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Texans lack sufficient draft picks to rebuild their team. Not only that, their salary cap position is so perilous, they cannot currently even pay for free agents to help them out. With only $10 million in salary cap space (much of that due to releasing J.J. Watt), they don’t have enough money to bring more than two average rotational pieces onto the roster. More money will have to be shed to combat a shrinking salary cap before the team can even attempt to improve the roster via free agency.
The question now is, how do the Texans escape the Bermuda Triangle? It comes down to the pilot being able to fly blindly and maneuver his way out of a seemingly lost position. Unfortunately, the Texans are not only =directionless, they are indifferent about the passengers (fans) aboard.
It will take time, reinvestment, and a bit of luck. The early 2010s saw the Texans hit on a couple of long-shot bets in Arian Foster, Matt Schaub, Chris Myers, Antonio Smith, and Kevin Walter. These were players who performed at a level vastly greater than they were initially invested in. It will take a handful of players like that and several key decisions to right the ship and steer the organization’s way out of the Bermuda Triangle they have willingly put themselves in.
Let’s just hope Nick Caserio is the pilot who can fly this plane.