An institutional mess: How the Texans enabled a culture of losing

In The Loop
September 24, 2018 - 11:41 am

© Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

By John P. Lopez

Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins deserve better. So does J.J. Watt. Arian Foster deserved better, just like Andre Johnson before him and so many promising talents that have donned Texans uniforms.

But the Texans as an organization have failed their players and, worse, a legion of fans that have flocked like sheep to slaughter for going on 17-years.

Sunday’s humiliating, inexcusable loss to the awful New York Giants was not an affliction. It was a symptom.

The Texans, as an organization, are cowardly and paranoid. And that’s what led to Sunday’s low-point. They are more concerned about what people think of them than what they actually are.

As someone who has watched how this organization works since before this franchise even had colors or a nickname, it’s been the only consistent prevailing theme – and biggest shortcoming – over the last nearly two decades.

The real reason this much-hyped season already has been derailed? It’s the same reason Dom Capers’ start ended miserably, Gary Kubiak’s tenure unraveled and Bill O’Brien is captaining a sinking ship.

It’s a culture too gutless to make the toughest decisions. Rather than keep people on edge and accountable, the Texans have become the Stepford Wives of football. They look the part, and play it up, and want you to believe they are perfect.

But rather than make tough decisions and break a few eggs along the way, they take the path of least resistance – and most heartbreak.

They gave their 31-33 head coach a four-year extension, rather than make him prove it on the field in the final year of his contract. They probably have kept Bill O’Brien around too long, just like they did Kubiak. They could not even fire an underachieving general manager for under-achieving. They called Rick Smith’s ouster a, “leave of absence” rather than a firing, just to soften the blow.

This is the culture of nice, the culture of soft, the culture of paranoia, that emanates from NRG Plaza. They’d rather have good PR than the best chance to win. They ran off Duane Brown for having an opinion. Any edgy player with a past was not even a consideration. Time and again, they sweep up bad moments like shattered glass – telling us there’s nothing to see here.

Yet while the rest of us pick shards of glass from our bloody feet, all the while they make sure to promote that nowhere is tailgating quite like it is at NRG. They remind us the stadium’s always full. The cheerleaders are wholesome. The players are – quote – good guys.

One story continued to pop into my mind Sunday, as I watched everyone in the organization try to put on a happy face amid yet another flailing, underachieving season.

A few years ago, I was party to a conversation that included a Texans executive. Someone asked about the marketing successes the organization experienced.

The executive quickly pointed out, “but we’re not going to rest on our laurels. We’re never going to rest on our laurels.”

I thought to myself: What laurels? These are the laurels this franchise values most? Yeah. It appears so. Again.