There was once a time when Houston fielded one of the toughest football teams in the AFC. That team featured name greats like Earl Campbell and Warren Moon, stifling defenses, and played in a large number of memorable games, some wins, some losses. That team, the Houston Oilers, left Houston in the 1990's to become the Tennessee Titans. Houston was given a consolation prize in 2002 called the Houston Texans to make up for that loss. As the history of the Oilers is with the Titans now and the Texans don't have a ton of history to speak of, there is not a whole lot for me to say on the subject of current Houston-based football.
In 1998, the NFL began expanding again, and that year the league meekly placed a team back in Cleveland after some idiot's eye for "area potential" took the original Browns out of one of the most fervently devoted markets in the NFL and to an area with more population, which for some reason most team owners believe will run hand in hand with more fans and therefore more money. The second expansion team that year was awarded to Los Angeles. Seriously, Los Angeles, long as they could piece together a working ownership squad quickly. When NFL executives visited Los Angeles later, they were shocked - SHOCKED! - to learn that the big city which had two great, classic NFL teams totally screw it over just a few years earlier wasn't keen on the idea of giving out more tax money to the NFL. And you now know why each and every team owner threat to move the team to Los Angeles is completely hollow. (Now, if an owner wises up and begins threatening to move to San Antonio, Austin, Portland, or maybe Louisville, he might actually be serious.) In came an ownership group from Houston, and the rest is history.
The Texans launched their inaugural season in 2002 with coach Dom Capers, who had coached the Carolina Panthers to the NFC Championship in just their second year of existence, and quarterback David Carr. They managed to beat their interstate rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, in that first game 19-10. Although the Texans ultimately finished 4-12 in 2002 and Carr was sacked 76 times (yes, that's seventy-six, and it's a record), they did manage to send two players to the Pro Bowl. Having done better than most expansion teams, the season was deemed a success. By 2004 people were confident that Houston was fielding enough honest-to-god talent to at least be competitive with any other team in the league. But in 2005, Capers was fired after slogging the Texans to a 2-14 record.
The one thing that 2-14 record did guarantee Houston was the first pick in the 2006 draft, which is now known as one of the most famous and weirdest draft debacles since people discovered draft beer made them drunk. The 2006 draft was already expected to reel in the league's strongest gang of talent since the vaunted 1983 draft yielded Dan Marino, John Elway, and Jim Kelly. The Texans had their pick between three surefire hits: USC quarterback Matt Leinart, USC running back Reggie Bush, or Texas quarterback Vince Young. Going against conventional thinking and every law of logic in the space/time continuum, Houston took North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams instead. It was a move that pissed off a lot of people, but the Texans eventually laughed best because Williams has proven to not only be a very good, solid player who made two Pro Bowls, but the other projected talent from that draft royally stank up the league: Bush proved effective as a slot player capable of performing a handful of tasks, but was a lousy featured back because he was too easily knocked down, while Young and Leinart were both mechanically terrible and too shocked at the NFL's pace. To be fair, Bush and Young do have their moments, and they've both received Pro Bowl invitations, and Young was on the cover of Madden. But there are reasons their original teams didn't hold onto them. Leinart got to the league and just plain sucked... And is, somewhat ironically, now a backup for the Texans.
In 2006, the gears began to really churn for Houston. They went 6-10, a record which would have been 8-8 if not for a pair of inexcusable defensive lapses against the Bills and Titans. People took note of the fact that Houston had more talent now, and they might have started winning their division if not for the fact that they played in the AFC South, where they were doomed to facing Indianapolis - and their all world quarterback, Peyton Manning - twice a year. (Apparently, Indianapolis, Indiana is a southern city. Who Knew?) In 2007 and 2008, the Texans broke even, and finally tipped the scales in 2009, going 9-7. 2010 saw them recede and go 6-10, but this last season, without having to worry about Peyton Manning, Houston finally broke through, won their division at 10-6, and as I write this, are currently preparing for their first playoff game.
The team's name is an allusion to Texas's first professional football team, the Dallas Texans of the American Football League. The NFL moved in with a team of its own, the Cowboys, and the Dallas Texans moved out of the state and formed their identity as the Kansas City Chiefs. The owner of the Texans, Bob McNair, had to make a deal with Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt to use Texans as the team nickname, and even then it had to beat out four other selections: Bobcats, Stallions, Toros, and Apollos. The logo, an abstract bull's head, is split in a way meant to be deferral to the famed Lone Star flag of Texas.
If there's an identity to be attached to the Houston Texans at this point in their life, it's being a rising potential star. This team is very good in all of the primary aspects of football, and they seem in prime position to compete with Indianapolis for the AFC South with players like quarterback Matt Schaub, wideout Andre Johnson, and a handful of Pro Bowlers on defense like Jason Babin, Brian Cushing, and the aforementioned Mario Williams. Coach Gary Kubiak - the team's second head coach - has an overall winning record. And once Peyton Manning retires, I don't see a whole lot to stop Houston from taking a chokehold on the AFC South for a few years.
Being the newest NFL team, the Houston Texans are a team my Hypothetical New NFL Fan Without a Team will select if he wants to get in on the ground floor and grow with his team in his knowledge and passion for the sport. They're getting good now; only an idiot could deny that. But they're still new enough to avoid having a bandwagon stigma.
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About the reviewer
Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial. Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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The Houston Texans participate in the National Football League (NFL) and are based in Houston, Texas. Houston plays its games in the South of the AFC. The Houston Texans, founded in 2002, play home games at Reliant Stadium and have won zero NFL Titles.