A Revolting Development

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October 20, 2005
A Revolting Development

by Bob Hulsey

I thought we were past this.

Everybody knew the expansion Houston Texans would have to struggle for a few years before they would seriously challenge for a playoff berth. I thought a four-win season would be their low-water mark for a long time to come. Just 10 months ago, they were on the cusp of a .500 season.

You’ve dropped a long way, baby.

The 0-5 start is just the forerunner to more bad struggles. I don’t see any way Dom Capers survives this season. Charley Casserly may not either although I’d say the odds right now are good he will stay unless a top-notch coach demanding GM duties as part of his contract enters the picture.

I didn’t like most of what happened in the off-season. I said so. I didn’t like the way the team looked in the pre-season and said so. But even I wasn’t prepared for how awful this team has looked in the first five weeks. They’ve yet to be seriously competitve in any game so far. The natives are beyond restless. They are ready to overthrow the government.

Being imports from other places, perhaps Casserly and Capers aren’t familiar with the Houston sports mentality. Guys, let me clue you in. The typical Houston sports fan has known serious disappointment and heartbreak. They’ve suffered some really awful teams, miserly owners and breathtaking defeats.

"We’re Number One" in H-town is more likely to reflect their position in next year’s draft than winning another title. They’re afraid the minute they thrust their index finger in the air, somebody like Albert Pujols will be there to chop it off. Bad experiences can be a hell of a teacher.

The legacy continues: 35-3. Lorenzo Charles. Six outs away. One strike away. Houston fans have been the victim to some of sport’s cruelest practical jokes. When the Rockets finally broke through with an NBA title in 1994, I’m sure I’m not the only one who had a difficult time believing there wasn’t one more whistle, one more fluky seven-point shot New York had up their sleeves to steal our thunder yet again. Fans were too stunned to riot. Heck, when the Astros finally won a post-season series for the first time in eight tries, they did so fighting through the tears of ex-teammate Ken Caminiti’s death the day before. Even triumph isn’t allowed here without some heartbreak.

So it was with much relief that the Texans won their first game and played respectably for an expansion team. And with each year, the pieces appeared to be falling into place. Before long, we could have meaningful games in January. So we thought.

Then the air got let out of our inner tube halfway across the river.

Houston sports fans are tired of being played for suckers. They are tired of getting laughed at by the rest of the country. They saw the Oilers go through three different periods of purely awful football. They already know what that looks like. That’s why there weren’t too many teary eyes when the Oilers fled for Nashville. They knew things would be better if they could just get a fresh start.

From all appearances, Bob McNair is a model owner. Charley Casserly is a competant general manager and, while I’ve had my disagreements on some personnel moves, I’ve never thought he couldn’t run a winning franchise. Dom Capers has some very good seasons in his background and looked like a good fit to get the Texans started in the right direction. That it has all disintegrated so swiftly and so completely hits the gut as hard as Pujols’ Game 5 homer. If any of them are stunned at how quickly the locals have turned on them, perhaps you have to understand what the Houston sports fan has suffered through – not just a lot of losses but some humiliating losses as well.

The 2005 Texans are, so far, worse than what took the field in 2002. They don’t even appear to be trying hard. They can’t block. They can’t sack a quarterback other than their own. They can’t tackle. They can’t create a turnover. The offensive line blocks like a New Orleans levee. The Texans are as awful as Dan Miceli in a playoff appearance. A quick infusion of draft choices isn’t going to be enough to right this ship. They are going to need to go through at least three years of rebuilding to make up for the iceberg they slammed into somewhere before last year’s Cleveland game.

What’s worse is they are becoming laughingstocks. David Carr may have his sack totals written on the first line of his AP obituary someday. Even Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte tackle him in commercials now. The blocking scheme in that commercial looked familiar too. When ESPN did their own commercial before the 2003 draft of Carr behind a non-existent offensive line, we chuckled because we thought this was a short-term problem. Three seasons later, it’s not only still with us. It’s worse. ESPN could run the same commerical for the 2006 draft except now the rest of America is in on the joke.

This couldn’t happen at a worse time for the franchise either. The Astros have gone deep into the postseason two years in a row and even the loss of a superstar center fielder and a Hall of Fame first baseman haven’t stopped them. The Rockets appear to be loading up for a long postseason run themselves and they’ve just sewn up their top player for several more seasons.

For all his manic behaviors, Jerry Glanville was exactly right about one thing. When he came to Houston as Defensive Coordinator for the Oilers in the mid-80s, he realized that the Oilers got no respect around the league. They didn’t play hard. They weren’t tough. When they were punched in the mouth, they didn’t punch back. They expected to lose. Some of Glanville’s solutions, as Chuck Noll can attest, were somewhat over the top. But he made the Oilers a group other teams became wary of, even if they had yet to respect them. Opponents knew, win or lose, they’d have a fight with the Oilers. That’s what that whole "House of Pain" schtick was about. Eventually, the Oilers started to win. With winning came respect. Jerry may have been too unstable to stay around for the finished product but he did quite a bit to boost the team’s self-confidence until they became winners again.

Now perhaps we need a new Glanville. Only, please, no Elvis jokes.

Bob Hulsey wishes at least one Houston team could blow away opponents all season long just to know what it feels like.

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