The Houston Texans enter into the 2014 NFL Draft picking first for the third time in their brief thirteen season existence. In 2002 Fresno State QB David Carr was their inaugural selection to build the base of the expansion franchise upon. A 2-14 record in 2005 not only brought the Texans another 1st round – 1st pick, but also jettisoned their original head coach Dom Capers for then Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. General Manager Charley Casserly passed on popular University of Texas QB Vince Young for defensive end Mario Williams out of North Carolina State.
Neither Carr nor Williams (injured in ’11) would ever participate in a playoff game for the team that drafted each first overall. David Carr was easily the consensus pick by all the prognosticators in ’02, but a lack of an offensive line and a loss of confidence led to 249 sacks over a 5 year career with the Texans, ending in a 22-53 record. Mario Williams would log 53 sacks over his 6 seasons as a Texan, garnering Pro Bowl honors in ’08 & ’09. A torn pectoral cut short his final year in Houston and Williams moved on to Buffalo through free agency.
The failure of Carr and passing on Young has hung over a franchise that attempted to make the elite level jump on the shoulders of free agent Matt Schaub. Schaub spent 3 anonymous seasons in Atlanta as a little used and otherwise obscure backup until Kubiak brought him to Houston. Schaub would flourish under the tutelage of Kubiak, grabbing Pro Bowls in ’09 and again in ’12. Inconsistency, a major loss in confidence, and a penchant for pick 6’s left Schaub looking on from the sidelines after an injury in ’13. The season was a total loss and the Texans decided to make another coaching change after a ten game turnaround (for the worse) from a 2012 playoff run of 12-4.
So what goes around, comes around. Houston is once again faced with the decision of choosing a franchise QB or an impact DE with their first pick. Jadveon Clowney of South Carolina is seen as one of the most dominant college defensive players in decades. Coupled with J.J. Watt’s 36.5 sacks in his first 3 seasons, and the rest of a Texan defense that finished 7th in total yards allowed, Houston would have on paper one of the most dominant units in pro football.
Matt Schaub will not be the starter or perhaps even on the roster in ’14. With the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, or Johnny Manziel as options at QB, the Texans would be relying on a rookie signal caller to improve on their 31st rank in points scored. Add that to rookie head coach Bill O’Brien’s four total seasons in the NFL (only one as an offensive coordinator) and Houston fans will most likely be looking at a unit trying to reestablish their identity this season.
The Texans, who have the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, have fielded one of the league’s top defenses the past few seasons. Adding a dynamic athlete like Clowney would make the unit downright scary. He would join with 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt to create a formidable front that would have every opposing offensive coordinator and quarterback shaking in their boots. When one factors in the return of Pro Bowler Brian Cushing from injury and the continued development of Whitney Mercilus, it’s clear the Texans could feature one of the best front sevens in the NFL. Given that the past two seasons have seen the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks ride defense to the Super Bowl, it’s not inconceivable that Clowney could put Bill O’Brien’s first Texans squad on the path to Super Bowl XLIX.
Then Johnny Manziel recently added;
“It would be the worst decision they’ve (the Texans) ever made,” he told The Houston Chronicle of the possibility. “I’d be in the same division playing against them twice a year. Sorry, but you just turned that chip on my shoulder from a Frito into a Dorito.”
Really they both have a point. Seattle showed what a real defense can do to the most vaunted offense in the history of the NFL. And fifteen teams (9 in the 1st round) have changed starting QB’s through the draft over just the past three seasons. Clubs are willing to turn to youth and ride out their chances in hopes of a quick reversal of fortune. Seven of those fifteen have already taken their team to the playoffs.
So where should the Texans turn in their efforts to catch the ever maturing Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts? Offense or Defense? Quarterback or Defensive End?
It’s said that defense wins championships, but clearly it’s offense that gets you to the playoffs in the first place. Generally speaking, clubs lacking in offense struggle over the long haul of seventeen weeks to even get a chance to show off their dominant ‘D’ (should they have one).
This isn’t a scientific study, but over the past six seasons;
- 85% of playoff teams rank in the top half of points scored.
- 72% of playoff teams rank in the top half of Total Yards – Offense
- 75% of playoff teams rank in the top half of Net Yards per Pass Attempt
- 61% of playoff teams rank in the top half of Total Yards – Defense
The Texans could very well have one of the best defensive fronts by drafting Clowney but chances are they won’t even sniff the playoffs, much less Brooks’ prediction of Super Bowl XLVIX, until they can find some stability and productivity at the quarterback position.
But also consider that NO rookie QB has ever won a Super Bowl Championship, and only 2 rookie head coaches have ever won a Super Bowl; Don McCafferty BAL (Super Bowl V) and George Seifert SF (Super Bowl XXIV).
So let’s get real, the Texans aren’t likely to even make the playoffs without shoring up on offense, and as for Johnny Manziel? That’s another post.