Believe it or not, folks, the NFL season is much closer than you can possibly imagine. So close, in fact, that, if we're going to fit in every NFL team preview by the start of the season, we have to go this early. So there you have it.
Last year, we asked some of our favorite writers to opine why Their Favorite Team Was Better Than Yours. Ultimately, we found this constrictive, and it also might have killed James Frey. So this time, we've just asked them to just run free, talk about their team, their experience as a fan, their hopes, their dreams, their desires for oral sex. All our teams are now assigned; if you sent us an email and we didn't get back to you, we're sorry, and we accept your scorn. But today: The Houston Texans.
Your author is Whitney Pastorek, a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly. Her words are after the jump.
Upon the announcement that Atlanta had sent backup QB Matt Schaub to the Texans, who promptly released long-time QB and black hole of football death David Carr back into the wild, I took my No. 8 jersey and covered the crooked "CARR" on the back with a piece of duct tape reading "SCHAUB."
I'm not going to miss Carr much, but I also bear him no particular ill will. It's not like he arrived as a mercenary, professed allegiance, and then followed his wallet right back out of town (*cough*I am upset with Clemens and Pettitte*cough¬*). No, Carr seemed genuine in his desire to see this franchise succeed. It's just that, well, he sucked. The ability to throw the occasional six-yard completion so long as the scary endzone isn't looming and no one is making too much noise doth not a professional quarterback make. I look forward to the increased, focused mobility of Matt Schaub — a man who, from everything I've seen, understands that he needs to get away from the men who are wearing the other team's uniform and chasing him around the field, and not just plop down with the ball because he's scared and knows the national press is going to blame it on the offensive line, anyway. I think he's already demonstrated that he's a nice guy, a true leader who's psyched to be out from under ol' Dogbreath Mexico's shadow. I want to like Schaub. I want him someday to warrant a jersey all his own. And maybe it's just that $49.99 in my pocket talking (I buy kid-sized jerseys), but I am very nearly what one might call "excited" about the 2007 Houston Texans.
In fact, I'll call it right now: We are breaking .500 this year. You heard me. I think a number of tiny Voltron pieces are finally clicking into place. Like how we only gave up 43 sacks in 2006, and I say "only" because Seattle gave up 49, and they went to the damn playoffs. Our first round draft pick, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, may be all of 20 years old, but at least he ain't hiding at his mom's house, JaMarcus. On the offensive front, I've always sort of pictured the Texans as a bunch of really drooly three-legged golden retriever puppies who bounce around but don't come within a mile of fetching the Frisbee; hopefully, the veteran presence of Ahman Green will settle their energy a bit, and perhaps even function as a serviceable prosthetic fourth leg until science (or ownership) figures out how to grow us a real one. And hey, DeMeco Ryans is the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year! Also, we still have that Mario Williams fellow, somewhere! Look at us go! Wheeeeee!
Now, since I'm no good at responding to sports with anything other than raw emotion and awkward run-on sentences, I've called for backup in the form of Matt Campbell, proprietor of the outstanding Texans blog Da Good, Da Bad, and DeMeco, who rings in with the following intelligible keys to Houston success this season:
1. Ahman Green being at least as good as he was last year. 1059 yards in 14 games blows away anything we've had. If he can play 15 or 16 games, rack up 1100 yards, and get in the end zone at least 8 times, we are sitting pretty.
2. The always-present "find a #2 WR." Granted, I think this is a little overblown—I mean, Andre Johnson has never had a real number 2 opposite him and he's still put up great numbers—but it's important in terms of developing the offense. I want Jacoby Jones in that role by mid-season, but I just want production from anyone early on.
3. The development of Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye. For the former, it's time to put up: I say with zero exaggeration, anything less than 10 sacks is unacceptable. As far as Okoye goes, I don't expect him to be a Pro Bowler, but he sure needs to be visible when he's in the game. If he is disappearing for long stretches, Houston, we have a problem.
[Whitney: Matt, please do not use that turn of phrase. Matt: Sorry.]
4. Somewhat related to #3, we have to beat Tennessee at least once this year. If Vince Young goes off for two more wins, especially with no team around him, I don't know that Mario will ever fully recover in the casual fan's eyes. Well, I mean, 20 sacks this season might counter it a little, but there'll always be the "can't beat Vince" and "Vince just wins games" talk.
5. Figure out a long-term plan for the secondary. Dunta Robinson may or may not be as good as we think he is. Petey Faggins is nowhere near as good as people want to think he is. (Though he would be our best nickel CB... if someone would just put him there.) The safties were so underwhelming last year that we have old CBs trying a position switch this summer. Ugh. This team needs to take real stock of what it has, admit that—barring something miraculous—our first round pick has to be a DB of some form, and be willing to try Bennett/Harrison if the incumbents keep stinking up the joint.
Thank you, Matt, for that insightful analysis and perspective. I hope everyone reading takes the time to frequent your blog over the course of the upcoming season. I'm sure that all those interested in the growth and progress of this still-young Houston team will want to check in regularly to...
Oh, wait. Does anyone out there in Deadspin land actually care about the Texans, or are you all just reading this so you can make "Wow, that had way more words than the Shaw Report" jokes in the comments? I know there's a handful of legitimate fans around here — a couple of Houston residents, one or two displaced natives, whoever's got Andre Johnson on their fantasy team — but is anybody else really sitting at their desk, quivering with anticipation at what the future has in store for the starry-eyed toro squad?
No. No, they are not. No one really gives much of a shit about the Texans at all. For, as I've outlined before, the history of football in Houston — nay, all Houston sports, if you do not count the MLS, which it's been my experience this Web site does not — is a checkered one, and a kind of sniffly checker at that. The Oilers encapsulated futility as a franchise, and upon its inception in 2002, the Texans franchise took one look at "futility" and said, "You want us to do what???" Then the Texans franchise ran for the blankie of ineptitude,and pulled that fuzzy yellow wool right over its head. Every now and again, it peeks out just long enough to win a game. Last year, one of those wins even came against Indy. But this is a new thing they're trying, and no one's quite sure how it happened. Still, for all of us paying attention, it was our Super Bowl.
And that's really the thing, I've decided, that makes being a Texans fan so much damn fun. For every game in which we opt to stay conservative in regulation against Tennessee, thus heading to overtime and handing Vince Young a silver platter with which to shove our non-drafting of him down our guilty, embarrassed little throats, there's a joyous victory — our 27-7 mauling of Jacksonville, for example — that defies all logic. Those are great Sundays. And the fact that they're few and far between — well, maybe that just makes them better. It must get really boring to be a Patriots fan, like someone telling you Christmas is going to be twice a week now and, dammit, you are going to love every minute of it or else. For without the lows, how do you recognize the highs? To be a Texans fan is to experience the full range of human emotion, to know what it means to hurt, to fail, to rage against the dying of the light. To be a Texans fan is to live. And I don't know about you, consistently-victorious-football-team followers, but I wouldn't want it any other way. I think.
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