Failing in the backdrop of a global pandemic, the Texans football operations have been a localised epidemic of inadequacy.
2020 has been a challenging year, that most will want to banish its memory when said “normality” rolls around. Similarly, Houston’s on-field fortunes have been a low point in our recent memory. The global impact of covid-19 and its origins are still yet to become wholly clear.
However, Cal McNair’s inherited franchise has knowingly stumbled into dissolution. The wrongs were correctable and entirely within the realms of control. Never the less, decisions were allowed to continue with obvious consequences. A global health crisis and a stumped football owner’s imparted misery aren’t truly parallel but have compounded by their timing, none the less this year.
Though the current pandemic and the Texans do have a characteristic in common – a struggle to define its turning point. Like a public health trauma, addressing cultural rot is not visible. So when can we truly declare a change?
The time-lag of vaccine distribution to quell societal fears of an ever changing threat is one thing. But similarly for Houston, medication is only the beginning of a long journey. Neither have easy fixes. Neither can make up for the lost time. Neither can cure, only lessen symptoms. Both have issues that will linger and could feasibly become worse before it getting better.
As the world attempts to address its imbalances into 2021, Cal and his various hired-help will look to people around the football community. Who they entrust with the keys to address the Texans current plight is anyones guess.
Though quite how far the Texans have fallen from the top-tier of football in two years, we will likely only know the true extent of the damage, once the rescue is attempted. The notion that ’21 season could well have the O’Brien & Easterby stench still permeating around it, not being in play-off contention, is a realistic one.
Regardless of the quality hired in the front office and coaching staff, there are limits to what the regime will be able to achieve in a single off-season. Considering they will have less than two months to prepare for free agency. Less than 4 months to prepare for the draft, amongst the fragmented landscape of college football. These are restrictive conditions that even the self-claimed “optimists” will need to thoroughly consider.
Time and perspective is 20-20 clarity for most, but can be clouded by the emotive on looker in a sporting context. The 2018 season was a talent-peak in Houston but a combination of a poorly coached team and the missing final few pieces, left this team short. The defence had already reached it’s peak in 2016 – see the admirable New England play-off defeat. This defensive unit was already two years into a decline when helpless watching their 24-point lead in Kansas City disappear. That watershed moment, if it had been addressed that off-season, the 2021 outlook may be vastly different. Never mind the meek play-offs loss the year prior to a divisional rival no less.
Alas, it was not and we are now standing at the bottom of the pro-football totem pole, reminiscing about it used to be like, when the top was almost in sight.
The lone jewel in the crown is of course Deshaun Watson. A player who if paired with the level of Houston defences of years past, you have a championship calibre roster. The irony of allowing defensive talent to erode so grossly whilst having the most coveted need in all of team sports filled, is a feat of certified incompetence.
This franchise, is required to deep clean more than its surfaces after Sunday’s NRG finale against Tennessee. There will be casualties that would seem unfair but starting with Jack Easterby, the remnants of the O’Brien debris needs to be cleared from the crash site. The only way to admit you have a problem, is to hit rock bottom. A team with Watson only winning a handful of games, is indeed the floor that none us will want to be left on ever again.
Cal is faced with the biggest decision he will ever make, getting it wrong or even partly right will leave this team confined to what they always been – irrelevant. But previously the odds were stacked against his expansion franchise. They were stacked even more firmly against him when they incorrectly selected & managed David Carr’s career. However this time the odd’s should be stacked in his favour with the asset of Deshaun as the teams centrepiece.
By no means can we underestimate C-19 and it’s impact on families and people or comparing Houston Texans football is any attempt to belittle the threat. But hopefully 2020 has taught us all to be grateful for the finer points in life and taught us to be better at whatever we try our hand at.
Just as some day we will cheers a beer at the tailgate, morn the previous weeks loss whilst chewing on some BBQ. Hiding under a gazebo from the searing Houston heat, talking to complete strangers about the team we share a love for. Just like those days will come again, so will a winning Texans team, it may just not be next year.