October 10, 2003
We Are The Texans Who Say, “Win!”
by Ric Sweeney
That noise the rest of the NFL is hearing these days is Dom Capers sounding the horn, leading the charge and putting each and everyone one of his 31 NFL brethren and pansy-ass peers on notice. This notion of playing for next year? That’s soooooo 2002. The Texans have officially told their secretary to hold all calls because from this point forward, they mean business.
That’s what happens when your head coach pushes his chips to the center of the table as Dom Capers did two weeks ago against the Jags. The Texans are all in, so buckle up and get ready – this is gonna be fun. And fun kicks off this Sunday against the Tennessee freaking Titans, who continue to defy… well, everything that’s sane in this world by once again fielding a competitive team this year despite a roster dotted with a bunch of “Who?” and “He’s still playing” guys surrounding Steve McNair, who seems to have more resiliency than The Black Knight. But more on the Titans later; I want to quickly jump back to the Jacksonville game and wrap it up.
I’m not going to bore you by recapping the final moments since it’s been forever since it’s happened and, let’s face it, the memory of it will probably last us a lifetime anyway. It was that great a moment. Nor am I going to exert too much effort lifting Capers up over my head in celebration of his decision to go for the win. But I do want to say this: it’s easy to dismiss Capers’ call (“It’s not like they’re going to the playoffs anytime soon” was the most-repeated refrain I heard), but there’s a Grand Canyon-like chasm between the right decision and pulling the trigger on the right decision. So I doff the cap to Capers and offer two more quick observations before moving back to this weekend’s game against the Titans:
1) Caper’s call made a lot of us forget that moments earlier, the Texans’ offensive braintrust may have made one of the truly worst calls in the entire history of mankind. Houston’s ill-fated halfback pass that nearly blew the wheels off of Houston’s victory train with four minutes left in the game was so unforgivably moronic, so inconceivably bad, whoever was responsible for it should be made to dress like a small boy and sent to Michael Jackson’s ranch for an unsupervised weekend retreat.
And here’s why: a) it took the ball out of Carr’s hand at the exact moment he was warming up, if he wasn’t already hot. And that’s simply unpardonable. He had completed 4-of-5 passes on the drive and had rediscovered his go-to-guy, Andre Johnson. The two were working it, had re-established a rhythm and were connecting; b) I can’t imagine how it made Carr feel. The team sent him to slaughter each and every week last year, rewarded him by drafting not one, but two quarterbacks in April and then, in one of his rare opportunities to exorcise a few demons, the team decides they’re better off letting Stacey Mack have a crack at the end zone.
Unreal. And just because Byron Leftwich handed Houston a second chance, and Houston took advantage, doesn’t mean we should shrug our shoulders and move on. That kind of bush league, Sam Wyche-like playcalling is, on every single conceivable level, indefensible. Even more galling, after the game, offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, who, at the very least, had a hand in the Mack decision, was conflicted about what to do on the final play of the game, saying, “My conservative personality is … conservative.”
What, exactly, is conservative about asking your running back to complete one of the biggest passes in franchise history? It’s one of those calls that leaves you incapable of doing anything beyond furiously rubbing your forehead. And then Palmer’s postgame declaration of conservatism is enough to make you wish you had fallen in love with Siegfried, learned to tame white tigers and wound up being dragged by one after it dug into your jugular during a show in Vegas. I’m so flustered, I’m not even sure what that means. Let’s get back on track…
2) It finally gave this team an identity. Last year, the Texans were a novelty, but once they proved to be anything but a novel expansion team, the “newness” factor wore off and you were left with, well, a bad football team. They generated next to no buzz in 2002. Even after their win against the Dolphins this year, a lot of pundits dismissed it as a fluke. But Carr’s sneak put this team on the radar. I read a plethora of grab bag NFL columns every Monday and they all prominently mentioned, and applauded, the Texans last week. Even Brent Musberger pulled his tongue out of Vince Young’s ass long enough to reference Capers’ call during Saturday’s K-State-UT game.
And, as I stated earlier – best of all, it marked a philosophical turning point for the organization. It’s last call for losing, so drink up now because the Texan bandwagon is firing up and lucky for us, Jet defensive end John Abraham is behind the wheel, so it should be a fun ride.
And that means, as fans, we can finally pack away the kid gloves and start to dig into this team, get our hands dirty and, I think, start to develop some passion for them. The expansion label is no longer valid. Nor is the expansion excuse. It’s time to start setting expectations, and it’s time to invest in this team fully. We can bitch about penalties, dropped passes, missed tackles and mental mistakes, not to mention, of course, losses. And that starts right now. Beating Tennessee has to feel like a reality to this team, they need to expect that they can, and frankly, they can.
To me anyway, it feels like this team is way ahead of schedule. I have no idea where I thought they’d be at their bye week in year 2, but I know where they were at this point last year: 1-3 and doing everything in their power to make the Cowboy win a distant memory. From that to this, the difference is staggering. How much better will they be this time next year? Too early to tell, but Dom Capers had made it abundantly clear against the Jags; he expects the answer to be “a lot.”
Ric Sweeney thinks it’s just a flesh wound.