Only a flake would doubt the Curse of Doug Flutie.
If you didn't believe in the Curse before this week, it's time to walk toward the light after we learned Monday that the high-flying Texans have lost quarterback Matt Schaub with a foot injury, most likely for the year.
This poltergeist of pigskin speaks to earthly beings through an extra-large medium, the Cold, Hard Football Facts. And what the Curse of Flutie tells us is quite simple: any team that employs Wade Phillips, now the defensive coordinator with the Houston Texans, is doomed to miserable failure -- usually due to some sort of downfall at the QB position and always on the heels of cruelly heightened expectations that make the pain all the worse.
The Curse of Flutie is karmic retribution from the great spiritual beyond for the fact that Phillips benched our pint-sized hero passer before the 1999 playoffs when both were with Buffalo, despite the fact that the Bills had gone 10-5 with Flutie at the helm.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts named that move the worst head-coaching decision of the 20th century. And the Curse wasted no time spreading its tangled web of misery and cruel defeat: with Flutie watching from the sidelines, the Bills immediately suffered one of the most memorable and painful defeats in NFL history. They lost to the Titans in a postseason finish so improbable and controversial it's known only as "The Music City Miracle."
Twelve years later, and Buffalo has never returned to the playoffs.
But that was just the start of the Curse of Flutie. It's left a predictable trail of misery, defeat and missed opportunity in its wake from one end of the NFL to the other. Any team that employs Phillips is doomed to suffer.
Consider the most recent victim of this cruel and vindictive force: the Houston Texans, who offer a textbook study in the paranormal acts of pigskin that define the Curse of Flutie.
The Texans had already overcome injuries to star players Andre Johnson and Mario Williams and were rolling through the 2011 season. They boasted a 7-3 record, a dramatically improved defense that was one of the great statistical storylines of the year (we wrote about
Houston was fresh off a 37-9 deconstruction of the Buccaneers, they held a two-game lead in the AFC South with just six to play and even boasted the top scoring differential in the AFC (+107), a reliable indicator of Super Bowl potential.
The Texans would be the AFC's No. 1 seed if the season ended today.
The first 10 weeks of the 2011 season, in other words, were the giddiest of times in the brief and inglorious 10-year history of the organization: the best record in franchise history and the high water mark of organizational fortunes.
The timing of the Schaub injury is a particularly cruel twist of fate -- but particularly cruel twists of fate are a Curse of Flutie specialty.
In the wake of this joy, Texans fans learned Monday that Schaub, the team's prolific Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, will likely miss the rest of the season. He's being replaced by Matt Leinart in what can only be described as a dramatic downgrade at the most important position on the field.
Leinart, like Flutie, is a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. But Leinart has not been a full-time NFL starter since 2006, he has won just seven games in his NFL career and has produced a career passer rating of 70.8 -- a number so low it makes Tim Tebow look like Dan Marino.
The Curse of Flutie is beaming with pride after engineering this particularly delicious twist of misfortune.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts do not wonder if a higher power is at work. We are intimately familiar with the history of this guiding hand of the gridiron.
In fact, the Curse of Flutie is so predictable and reliable that we announced just two weeks ago on CHFF TV that it was certain to strike the Texans.
Here's what we said about Houston in the clip on Nov. 3:
It is not the first time we warned of misery ahead.
In fact, we issued the very same warning in 2007, soon after the Cowboys named Phillips their head coach. Here are
The State of Texas is now 0-2, twice foolishly tempting the Football Fates when they should have heeded our warnings.
The misfortunes of the Bills since Phillips benched Flutie in 1999 and the likely misfortunes of the Texans here in 2011 are merely the bookends of the Curse.
The Curse of Flutie has followed Phillips from job to job, haunting each franchise that makes the mistake of hiring him. You might think the Curse of Flutie would have been broken when the Bills fired Phillips after the 2000 season.
But the Curse of Flutie is not so easily satisfied.
It continues to plague the Bills and it lingers with any organization that hires Phillips, even long after he's gone.
Here's the Phillips career timeline since he foolishly unleashed the Curse of Flutie upon Planet Pigskin in 1999:
• Defensive coordinator in Atlanta (2002-03)
• Defensive coordinator in San Diego (2004-06)
• Head coach in Dallas (2007-10)
• Defensive coordinator in Houston (2011)
All four organizations have been defined by high hopes followed by miserable and unexpected failure -- the two signatures of the Curse of Flutie.
For example: Since hiring Phillips, the Chargers, Cowboys and Falcons have all produced top-seeded playoff teams. All three of these No. 1 seeds failed to win even a single playoff game: the 2006 Chargers, 2007 Cowboys and 2010 Falcons. And Houston, of course, was on pace for the AFC's top seed before losing Schaub this week.
Here's a brief look at how the Curse has haunted every organization that has employed Phillips since the day that he benched Doug Flutie before the 1999 playoffs. Note that the Curse of Flutie often dictates that teams lose because of poor play at QB:
The Bill lose to the Titans via the "Music City Miracle." The loss is made possible after a poor day by Johnson (10 of 22, 131 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 64.8 passer rating.)
The Chargers earn a first-round bye and a home playoff game against the 9-7 wild card Jets. Rivers passes for 298 yards, compared to just 100 for Mark Sanchez. But the Chargers lose 17-14 thanks to an 0-for-3 effort by kicker Nate Kaeding -- a particularly tragic victim of the Curse of Flutie.
Remorseful Bills fans suffer nightmarish visions of Rob Johnson and his Olivia Newton-John-style 1980s headband trotting out onto the field for the final seven games.
Forced to make a choice between one of its victims for another, the Curse of Flutie will always hand Buffalo the cruelest outcome. The 44 points were the most scored by the Cowboys since Week 1 of the 2007 season -- the team's first game with Phillips as head coach. Yes, the Curse of Flutie works in mysterious ways.
The 13-3 Falcons of 2010 have responded with a disappointing 5-4 record through Week 10 and Atlanta QB Matt Ryan has taken a step back with Jones in the lineup (91.0 rating in 2010; 83.0 in 2011). Even fellow Boston College alumni are not immune to the vindictive retribution of the Curse of Flutie.
Football fans have two choices: they can believe in the Curse of Flutie or they can wallow in their ignorance and misery.
Before you decide, consider the statistical signature from the Gridiron Gods to affirm the Curse:
In Flutie's last game in a Bills uniform in 2000, he pitched the proverbial perfect game, completing 20 of 25 passes (80 percent) for 366 yards, 14.6 YPA, 3 TD, 0 INT, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
It was and remains the only "perfect" passing game in the history of the Buffalo franchise. Jack Kemp never posted a perfect passer rating for the Bills. Joe Ferguson never posted a perfect passer rating for the Bills. Jim Kelly never posted a perfect passer rating for the Bills. Ryan Fitzpatrick never posted a perfect passer rating for the Bills.
Only Flutie has accomplished this feat ... and then he never played another down in a Buffalo uniform. It was a fitting middle-fingered statistical salute to the organization that wronged him so badly in 1999.
Today Flutie's earthly body works the broadcast booth analyzing college football and running his charity, the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. He occasionally walks on water.
But his aggrieved spirit roams the NFL, seeking vengeance upon Phillips for the worst coaching decision of the 20th century.