Future Shock

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August 20, 2003
Future Shock
by Keith Weiland

Anyone can predict the future of the Houston Texans. The hard part is actually getting it right.

As fans, we watch the games, read websites, magazines, and newspapers, talk with friends and co-workers, all searching for that teensy bit of insight into the future of our favorite football team. Heck, some of us even play video games hoping to model what will happen on any given Sunday.

Fact is, we don’t know, so don’t get carried away.

What happened yesterday is not a true indicator of what will happen tomorrow. Sure, it’s easy to look on paper and see that the Texans have possibly the least amount of depth in the league. That may be reason enough to expect a second consecutive losing season, but let the Texans play the games first.

Houston has one of the toughest opposing schedules heading into 2003, but that means nothing in today’s not-for-long NFL. Parity reigns. Last year’s record is a mediocre litmus test of a team’s pending success.

Well, except for maybe that the Cardinals have won only one playoff game in like six decades. And the Cowboys will be working on a fourth straight five-win season. But trust me, they’re the anomalies here.

We’re living in an era when the Rams can go from a 4-12 won-loss record in one season and a 13-3 in the next, then only two years later take a 14-2 team and follow it up with a 7-9 stinker.

So the four wins the Texans notched in their inaugural campaign give us little indication as to how many wins they will garner this fall. Might they win more? Sure. Might they win less? A definite possibility.

Que sera, sera,
Whatever will be, will be.
The future’s not ours to see.
Que sera, sera,
Whatever will be, will be.

Still not enough to satiate your need to know that whatever will be? Maybe this will help in between those Madden 2004 simulations…

When Charley Casserly sought to be the Texans’ first general manager almost three years ago, he penned a blueprint for how to take a team with nothing and turn it into something. Then he mailed his plan, unsolicted, to owner Bob McNair.

In the mailing was a three-ring binder that contained sixteen guidelines for building the league’s 32nd franchise. Most of those guidelines have already been executed, including:

#4 – Concentrate on youth in free agency.

The Texans have consistently shied away from anyone over the age of thirty in both free agency and the expansion draft. In doing so, Casserly is hoping to have his key players all hit their prime years of productivity at roughly the same time. With the backbone of the team being the college draft (which, by the way is guideline #16), don’t expect that period of nirvana to begin in 2003.

#5 – Draft a quarterback with mobility and durability.

David Carr took every snap in 2002 and withstood an onslaught of defensive pressure each and every down, absorbing sack after sack. He even showed off a little speed, something few expected from him.

#9 – Keep a close eye on character and leadership because we are going to be tested in the beginning.

In the months leading up to the 2002 draft, Casserly and McNair were almost as interested in Carr off the field as they were in him on it. The other key players acquired in the college and expansion drafts, as well as in free agency, have shown a team focus on the “nice guys” and players with playoff and Super Bowl experience.

Casserly also noted in his blueprint that McNair should seek to hire the best coaches and scouts, saying that those investments can and will pay off as money well spent. As a group, they have many goals still to achieve, but those assembled are not first-timers, and many come from teams with playoff rosters.

He also stuck true to the plan in saying that the first season isn’t measured in terms of wins or losses, but rather by the acquisition of talent. In essence, he wrote, the team should be running a year-long tryout camp. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if this mentality continues.

Casserly’s blueprint does not specify a win-loss goal for the franchise’s encore season. He does, however, offer some insight of what fans should expect:

#10 – Your second year should yield your biggest jump in talent.

So will it? Whether that jump in talent produces wins on the field this fall is anyone’s guess at this point. While showing varying levels of success, the first day draft picks have not proven to be complete busts, and in an optimistic slant, they still show plenty of promise for future development.

Regardless, unless there’s enough wins to carry the Texans into the playoffs, the measuring stick of the team’s success in 2003 will not be whether they produce more than wins than what they had in 2002. It will continue be measured by how many pieces of the puzzle they have in place by 2004.

The Texans should feel as though they’re well on their way, and if they do only eek out three wins or less this fall, we should remember to keep the blueprint in mind. Casserly wasn’t taking an optimistic slant about our ability to do so:

#13 – We must be mentally tough and believe in our plan once it is set. The honeymoon will end fast.

He’s right. The honeymoon might already be over. For all the progress the team has made in acquiring talent over the past season, fans should not expect it to translate into a .500 season this fall. In fact, better to keep those win-loss expectations low, at least one more year.

This is a Super Bowl season for Houston, as the city hosts the big game next February, but the Texans will be at home watching it like the rest of us. Count on them doing the same in another twelve months from then, too.

Watch the games this year and hope the Texans have a shot to win any of them, just not most of them. Look to see how much David Carr improves, and beg that he doesn’t get Jim Everett-esque happy feet from 2002 flashbacks and that he loses his Rob Johnson-esque inability to throw away the football.

Gaze at the size and potential of Andre Johnson as he dazzles mid-air, and pray that those inevitable drops are few and far between. Peer into the blaze of speed offered by the likes of Tony Hollings and Antwan Peek, and plead that those gambles pay off.

And know that not everything will go according to plan. Even Casserly doesn’t bat 1.000 in his blueprint:

#8 – Emphasize now! Secure the offensive tackle positions somehow.

Hey, nobody’s perfect, right?

C’est la vie. It could be worse. The NFL could be in Los Angeles right now.

Keith Weiland just wants to say one word to you… just one word. Plastics.

Charley Casserly Charley Casserly Home

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