Nothing like a bunch of “thick boys” who don’t score, don’t generate sacks, or don’t snag turnovers, or otherwise perform a duty fans think is exciting to bring out the yawns. Often described as the least sexy role in professional sports, an offensive lineman’s life is one far from the spotlight.
However, it’s the single most important position group on the field. If the offensive line doesn’t work well, the running game can’t get going, the quarterback rarely has time to pass, the receivers don’t have time to get open, and in general the offense struggles to move the ball.
When the offensive line does work well, watch out.
Since none of the guys ranked below are on the current Houston Texans roster, it should be easy to grasp why the team has had one of its worst offensive lines in recent memory. Thankfully, the team is moving in the right direction with the drafting of Tytus Howard and Max Scharping last year, the trade for Laremy Tunsil, and the growth of Nick Martin. Still, none of those guys has earned a spot on this list yet - not even Tunsil, the highest paid offensive lineman in all the land. Hopefully they will someday, but that day is not today.
With that, here are the five best offensive linemen in franchise history.
#5 Wade Smith
How can you not love the first offensive lineman to score a touchdown in Texans’ history? That’s right—on October 16, 2011 Smith recovered a fumble against the Baltimore Ravens and put six points on the board for the good guys. Over the three seasons Smith played in H-Town, he started every game, helping to anchor the left side of the offensive line. He was a key contributor to the Texans’ 12-4 2012 season.
Off the field, Smith gave back (and still gives back) to his community through the Wade Smith Foundation, reading programs, and anti-bullying campaigns. His efforts to make a difference in both Houston and Dallas are commendable.
Leaving the Texans during the mass exodus to the Philadelphia Eagles that saw DeMeco Ryans, Connor Barwin and others bolt for the City of Brotherly Love, losing Smith was one ingredient in the recipe of disaster that was the Texans’ offensive line in recent years.
#4 Chester Pitts
With a name like Chester Pitts, how can you not love this guy? The third draft pick in franchise history, Pitts had the unenviable job of trying to keep rookie quarterback David Carr on his feet in an offense that didn't even win half its games until the sixth season of its existence.
From 2002 to 2008, Pitts was a rock solid fixture on the Texans’ offensive line, starting every game over that span. Before an injury that led to dreaded microfracture surgery (see Jadeveon Clowney), Pitts was about as dependable as a Houston summer storm or traffic on 290. Oh, how the team could benefit from a prime Pitts right now.
And he plays the oboe.
#3 Eric Winston
Another player whose departure contributed to the deterioration of Houston’s offensive line, Winston anchored the right side of the Texans’ offense from 2006 to 2011, going down (in my mind) as the greatest right tackle in franchise history. Taken in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft, Winston was a key part of Gary Kubiak’s zone running game, opening up holes for running backs and leading the way on more bootleg plays for Matt Schaub than anyone has time to count.
After his release in 2012, Winston bounced around the league a bit, playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks before calling it quits in 2014. Winston became increasingly active in the NFLPA, eventually rising to the role of President, which he just recently vacated in March of this year.
#2 Chris Myers
If ever there was a player who epitomized the Bill O’Brien “lunch pail” mentality, it was Houston’s longtime center, though Myers never had a chance to impact the O’Brien era the way he did the Kubiak years. Acquired from the Denver Broncos for a single sixth-round draft pick in 2008, Myers immediately became a fixture in the middle of Houston’s offensive line, helping to elevate the Texans’ run game to one of the best in the league. Myers was specifically instrumental in Arian Foster’s best years, including his 2010 1,616 yard campaign.
Over the course of his seven seasons with the Texans, Myers committed less penalties than Laremy Tunsil did in 2019 alone. Over that span, Myers started 112 games, made two Pro Bowl appearances, and was widely regarded as one of the best centers in the NFL. His is, no doubt, the greatest center the Houston Texans have ever had.
And all he cost was a sixth-round draft pick. That trade is on a very short list of candidates for the title of “Best In Franchise History.”
#1 Duane Brown
While Chris Myers was undoubtedly best center in Texans history, Duane Brown is one of the best offensive players the team has ever seen. The difference with Brown in the lineup was night and day. Very few players have ever made the level of difference Brown made when they stepped on the field. The four-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro not only protected the blindside of Matt Schaub and every other QB who set foot on the field during Brown’s time with the team; when he wasn’t out there off tackle, runs to that side seldom worked, and with him they almost always did. Unfortunately, the stats of the Texans’ run game with and without Brown aren’t easy to find (if they’ve been tabulated at all), but anyone who watched his career in Houston knows it’s true.
Sadly, Brown’s time in Houston came to a tumultuous end after former owner Bob McNair (RIP) made one of the worst comments in sports history. McNair didn’t seem to no when to stop, either. Once the dust settled, Brown and the team had irreconcilable differences that led to Brown’s trade to the Seattle Seahawks for what amounted to Martinas Rankin and Lonnie Johnson Jr. (a foreshadowing of horrific Bill O’Brien era trades, maybe?).
Instead of dwelling on the terrible things some rich people say, let’s choose to revel in all the great memories of Duane Brown blowing up opposing defenders, stifling opposing pass rushers, and helping to lead the Texans from mediocre to better-than-average. It’s no wonder Pro Football Focus still ranks Brown as an elite player, even on the back end of his career.
How good could Deshaun Watson be with these guys in front of him? Imagine Watson taking a snap from Chris Myers, knowing there would be no pressure from the blindside as Duane Brown built a brick wall on that edge, allowing DW4 the ability to see the field clearly as Eric Winston kept pressure out of his face while Pitts and Smith made sure the interior of the pocket stayed clean. Hopefully the new version of the Texans’ offensive line can get there someday.
There you have it—the newest five best list to add to your collection. If you missed the others, here’s your chance to get caught up:
What do you think? Want someone else on this list? Think the order is all wrong? Let us know.