The Houston Texans finished the 2013 season an abysmal 2-14 with their only two wins coming in weeks one and two versus the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans. Whereas they appeared en route to a repeat win of the AFC South; instead, they lost their next 14 in a row, thus earning them the #1 draft pick not unlike last year's Kansas City Chiefs. After watching the Chiefs do a complete 180--and now wanting and needing the same--where should the Texans concentrate their efforts to avoid a repeat of their horrific season that was punctuated by the firing of long-time head coach Gary Kubiak?
Obviously, the number one resolution was to obtain a new head coach which they did by hiring former Penn State Nittany Lions' coach Bill O'Brien and firing 17 of their formerly-current assistant coaches including defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Of all of the assistants, only defensive line coach Bill Kollar was kept. Owner Bob McNair wants to see a similar turnaround as which occurred in Kansas City and Indianapolis between 2011-2012 and, thus far, is happy with O'Brien's new choices for coaching staff. So, since this has already occurred, I shall proceed with three more resolutions.
1. Improve quarterback play. Current starter Matt Schaub was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2012 (and was the game's MVP in 2009, in fact); however, this season he was very lackluster. In his 10 games (only eight starts), Schaub went 219-of-358 for 2,310 yards, 10 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, two fumbles (one lost) and managed a paltry 73.0 passer rating. In relief, Case Keenum managed in his eight games to complete 137 out of 253 passes for 1,760 yards, nine touchdowns, six interceptions, six fumbles (two lost) and a slightly better 78.2 passer rating. However, whereas Keenum may have started out strong he dwindled rapidly.
The Texans' offense ranked 31st in points per game with 276 during the season; second worst only to Jacksonville who scored only 247 points. When compared to the season's highest-scoring offense--the Denver Broncos who managed a whopping 606 points--Houston's deficiencies are further exaggerated.
Thus, it would make sense that the Texans, with their #1 pick in the 2014 draft, select a possible franchise quarterback with the potential to lead the team into the future. With Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel announcing his entry into the NFL after two stellar seasons during which he was the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, many so-called "experts" are predicting the obviousness that the Texans should choose Manziel to address some of their woes.
2. Fix the defense and special teams. During 2013, the Texans' defense was ghastly in stopping red zone touchdowns and forcing turnovers. As far as touchdowns by opponents in the red zone, Houston ranked last in the league. The Texans struggled in turnover differential as well. Whereas in 2013 they forced 29 turnovers and finished with a +12 ratio, this season they forced a meager 11 turnovers--the fewest since the 1970 merger--and finished dead last with a -20 turnover differential.
3. Stay healthy. The losses of pro-bowlers RB Arian Foster, TE Owen Daniels, and LB Brian Cushing, as well as S Danieal Manning obviously hurt the Texans on both sides of the ball and this is not the first season in which significant injuries have impaired the team. Of obvious concern is to ensure the health, safety, and strength of the players. However, the proliferation of season-ending serious injuries around the league speak to more than just the strength and conditioning of players but also to improving safety in the game as a whole.
Time will only tell the fate of the Texans in the 2014 season and beyond.