|Houston Texans: Getting Back to Glory
The Houston Texans are the youngest franchise in the NFL. But football-mad Houston fans remember long before the Texans’ establishment in 2002.
Some might even recall the old AFL days when Houston pretty much ruled the roost. They were the Oilers then, and after the AFL was established in 1960, the Oilers won the first two championships right off.
Many more will recall the 1970s, when Bum Phillips was coaching and Earl Campbell was running over people. And still more will remember the competitive years in the 1980s and ‘90s when Jerry Glanville and Jack Pardee were head coaches, and quarterback Warren Moon was running up numbers.
It was a competitive franchise, full of highlights and people willing to buy tickets. But in 1996, when the city and ownership couldn't figure out what to do about the aging Astrodome, the team shipped out for Tennessee, leaving a football void in Houston.
|Winning at Last
The Houston Texans finally made a breakthrough in 2011. That was the year that the squad’s top two quarterbacks, Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart both suffered season-ending injuries, and the team relied on T.J. Yates to lead. They muddled through, marching to a 10-3 start, before tailing off to 10-6.
It was good enough to get the Texans their first AFC South Division title. They plowed through the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round, before hitting the road and losing to the Baltimore Ravens, 20-13.
That was also defensive lineman J.J. Watt’s first season for the Texans. The colorful and imposing defensive end would claim the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award in his second season, and would pretty much become the force – and face – of the franchise.
In 2012 the Texans were back in the playoff hunt again. With Schaub behind center and Arian Foster making his own mark on the team as a running back, the Texans captured their second straight AFC South championship and rolled into the playoffs with a 12-4 mark.
The postseason scenario was much the same. Though they got by the Bengals in the first round, they had another rough road trip and succumbed to the New England Patriots, 41-28, in the divisional round.
With the whole town hyped over football again, and people willing to buy tickets to Texans games, the 2013 campaign would be a bitter disappointment. Their best season ever would be followed by one of their worst.
Something happened to Matt Schaub that year. He piloted the Texans to rousing comeback wins in the first two games, before things went haywire. Suddenly he couldn’t play a game without tossing an interception … or multiple interceptions. It got so bad that when Schaub went down with an injury after four straight games with pick sixes, it was a relief to see T.J. Yates take the helm. But even Yates stretched the pick-six run, with an interception for a touchdown of his own.
Things went downhill from there. Yates got hurt, Case Keenum made an appearance and even he had to be lifted. McNair and the front office had had enough, and they sent the Texans’ longest tenured head coach, Gary Kubiak, on his way. The team finished 2-14.
|Bouncing Back from Disaster
But the Texans bounced back under Coach Bill O'Brien in 2014 and '15 with 9-7 records, the latter of which was good enough to get them another AFC South title and a wild card berth. Four different quarterbacks started in 2015, and it was third-stringer Brandon Weeden who got the call for the final regular-season game which took the Texans into the playoffs. Brian Hoyer took the helm for the wild-card game. They were stomped by the Kansas City Chiefs, 30-0.
In 2016 Houston earned another 9-7 record and their fourth AFC South crown. Brock Osweiler quarterbacked the team for the vast majority of the season, but he was pulled for Tom Savage late in the year. The bigger story, however, was on defense. Their star and three-time Defensive Player of The Year, J.J. Watt, suffered a season-ending back injury after Week 3.
Still the Texans got a wild card bid against the Oakland Raiders, and they conquered the men in black, 27-14. But again they got a road trip to Massachusetts and again got bounced by the Pats, 34-16.
|A New Team
That did not suit Houston fans, or entrepreneur Bob McNair. He and partner Steve Patterson founded Houston NFL Holdings to form a football project and get a team back in town. Through their persistence, and a commitment from the city to build a new domed stadium, the NFL agreed in 1999 to bring an expansion team to Houston. NFL tickets were again a thing in Houston.
The team began play in 2002 in the newly built Reliant Stadium. The Texans of the 2000s struggled, relying on solid defenses to keep them in games, but not crossing the goal line enough for positive results.
The team experienced during those lean years what they have experienced throughout their existence: a lack of consistency at quarterback. Either because of injury, poor offensive support or just mediocre performance, the Texans have tried at least nine QBs in starting lineups. It took the stalwart performance of defenses to get the Texans victories.
|Watson Takes the Reins
During the offseason the Texans spent their first-round draft pick on the college champion quarterback from Clemson, Deshaun Watson. He appears to be the new hope at the position for the Texans. Though he suffered an injury, and the Texans struggled to a 4-12 record in 2017, the next season would be different.
With Watson back in the fold, the 2018 version of the Texans earned their fifth AFC South title with an 11-5 record.
The season was marred by the loss of the team’s founding owner, Bob McNair, who died at age 81. His wife, Janice, and son, D. Cal McNair, have been heading up the organization.
On the field, Watson’s favorite target was another Clemson standout, DeAndre Hopkins, who led the league with 13 touchdown catches. The Texans also benefitted from a strong defense, led by the defensive end tandem of Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Hosting the wild card playoff game, they faced division rivals, the Indianapolis Colts. It was a disaster for the home team, as the Colts and QB Andrew Luck jumped on the Texans for 276 first-half yards and went on a 21-7 win.
This new look on offense and a continued tradition of defensive prowess should give fans new hope and a reason to buy tickets to Houston Texans games.