The NFL in 2014: Does Houston Have a Problem?
By Russell S. Baxter
Pro Football Guru
What to do?
For the third time in their brief existence, the Houston Texans are in possession of the first overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Back in 2002, the team chose Fresno State quarterback David Carr with the first pick in franchise history. Four years later and following a 2-14 season, the Texans opted for North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams.
So isn’t it interesting that general manager Rick Smith and new head coach Bill O’Brien may be deciding soon between a quarterback and a defensive end in early May?
Before we look forward, let us look a bit backwards.
Just how did one of the league’s most talented teams find themselves in this situation?
In 2011, the team finished 10-6 and won the AFC South despite its share of injuries. One year later, the Texans improved to 12-4 and again won a division title. In both of those seasons, the club defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card Playoffs only to fall a week later in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
This past season, Houston got off to a 2-0 start before everything seemed to cave in. The team lost its final 14 games and then-head coach Gary Kubiak lost his job before the season ended.
So it’s start-over time for the franchise. But hope springs eternal considering the last two seasons we have seen two clubs (2012 Indianapolis Colts and 2013 Kansas City Chiefs) bounce back from 2-14 campaigns to win 11 games and grab a playoff berth.
But that’s September talk. This is draft talk and the looming question is who should the Texans take with that first overall pick?
For the sake of making it simple and off what everyone saw at the NFL Combine in recent days, let’s say Smith and O’Brien have to choose between former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
That’s not to ignore what each of those players have done in college the last few seasons. In fact, it is those performances that make them more the frontrunners (as of now) for that top pick than the combine results.
But let’s not bury the point here. The real question here is whether the Texans should opt for the quarterback (be it Manziel, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, etc.) in this rumored-to-be quarterback-driven league? Or does defense still truly win championships, as we continue to see in various forms season after season?
Manziel would hopefully bring instant excitement, one way or another, for a team that has fallen out of love with quarterback Matt Schaub recently. Of course, slumping late in 2012 and then eventually throwing an interception returned for a touchdown in an NFL record four straight games early in 2013 will do that.
But imagine Clowney teamed up with star defensive end J.J. Watt and some of Houston’s other defensive talent, a unit that will be led by new coordinator Romeo Crennel in 2014. Remarkably, the Texans gave up the seventh-fewest total yards in the league this past season (although being ranked 23rd vs. the run skews that figure a bit).
So do they take the offensive guy or the defensive guy? Fortunately for Smith, he has more than two months to make a final decision before the Texans hand in their card on Thursday night, May 8, in New York City.
For those who opted to read this piece, we would like to have your answer now.
Russell S. Baxter is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com has been covering the NFL for 30-plus years on numerous platforms, including Bleacher Report and Pro Player Insiders. Follow me on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru and Facebook at Pro Football Guru.