In a word, the 2013 Houston Texans season has been disappointing. Unfortunately, under achievement has become the expectation of many fans and the anger they once felt after a crushing defeat has been replaced with a numb acceptance of their failure.
After the team came up well short of expectations during the 2010 season, to borrow a line from one of my favorite TV shows 'Breaking Bad', the Texans took a half-measure to fix the issues that caused the failure. Replacing the latest unqualified defensive coordinator Kubiak buddy in 2010 with Wade Phillips made a big difference, but that half-measure didn't fix the glaring problems with the head coach and quarterback. Kubiak and Schaub seem like good men and I really wanted them to succeed, but it's obvious at this point that they're simply not capable of reaching the next level. Three years after the disastrous 2010 season, the Texans have found themselves in the same position of being forced into making franchise altering decisions on personnel. No more half measures Mr. McNair.
Before we move on and look ahead in the coming weeks and months to what the future holds for our favorite NFL franchise, I wanted to compare the failures of the Texans two most disappointing seasons. I was a huge fan of wrestling as a kid during the mid to late 1990's, so I'm here to tell you which season would win a cage match for the saddest championship belt you could imagine. Think of this matchup between the 2010 and 2013 seasons as the Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart cage match from Summer Slam 1994. No excellence of execution here however, this is a battle to decide the worst of the worst.
Only one season can make it over the top, back down to the mat, and be declared the "winner" of the most disappointing season in Texans franchise history.
The Preseason Expectation - The Houston Texans came into the 2010 season not just hoping to make the playoffs, but expecting to reach that level for the first time in franchise history. During their first seven seasons, the Texans never came close to reaching the postseason. That changed in 2009 when the Texans won their last four games and missed out on the playoffs based on a tiebreaker with the New York Jets. Expectations coming into the 2010 season were obviously high, riding on the momentum of the season before with fans for the first time feeling like their team had shed the image of an expansion team, and were poised to take the next step to become a contender.
The Highs - In his second career start and his first season as the Texans main running back, Arian Foster ran for an incredible 231 yards and three touchdowns in the Texans week one victory over their AFC South oppressors, the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans didn't just run all over the Colts suspect defense that day, it broke their will with defenders visibly moving out of the way of fullback Vonta Leach as he ran through the hole looking for defenders to put flat on their back. At the time, that victory felt like a statement win. It felt like the momentum from how they finished in 2009 had carried over and would propel them to a division title.
The Lows - Oh there were many. After a 4-2 start, which included beat downs from the Cowboys and Giants that were so bad they might be considered bullying in today's world, the Texans season got dropped into the ocean in black bags from the 'Slice of Life' boat. The phrase "that's so Texans" was uttered frequently that season with come-from-ahead losses to the Chargers and Jets, a last second loss on a Hail Mary to the Jaguars, and a Schaub special in their overtime loss to the Ravens on Monday Night Football. They even allowed some fullback named Tim Tebow to "pass" for over 300 yards against them to put the cherry on top of the misery sundae.
At the end of the season, the team that was expected to reach new heights, had their balloon popped and finished with a 6-10 record; the same record they had in 2006 during Kubiak's first season as their head coach.
The Preseason Expectation - The mindset of the team and a lot of their fans, was that this season was the season the Texans had been building towards since Kubiak took over in 2006. They had their first non-losing season in 2009, they reached the playoffs for the first time in 2011, and won 12 games in 2012; "there will always be next year" was finally this year. I didn't share that view, but several players claimed that this season would be 'Super Bowl or bust' and a lot of fans bought into that expectation. My feeling was that they had hit their ceiling with Kubiak and Schaub, but I still thought they would make the playoffs.
There will always be doubters who love to be negative every year, but nearly everyone believed that the Texans would at minimum win 10 games and make the playoffs as a wildcard team. Whether you thought they were a Super Bowl caliber team or a wildcard team, no one saw this type of collapse coming.
The Highs - Before the bottom fell out, the Texans rallied from a 21 point second half deficit against the Chargers and came from behind to beat the Titans in overtime. Difficult to call games from the first two weeks of the season a 'high', but that's how bad this season has been.
The Lows - Eight straight losses low enough for you? Really, where do you even start? They've had losses like the week three Ravens game every year, that game wasn't fun to watch but it wasn't shocking. The wheels really started to come off with the week four debacle against Seattle. At that point, the losses still hurt, and hurt bad. However, as the weeks went on with beat downs from San Francisco and St. Louis, and another collapse against Indianapolis, the losses started to lose their sting. The 2013 Texans season has been so bad that it's turned the feeling I have after losses from anger to apathy.
Both seasons are/were soul crushing, but in different ways. The 2010 season teased us with all the late game collapses, but since they hadn't made the playoffs yet, it still felt like 'the same ol' Texans'. The losses that season hurt, as did their failure to meet our expectations, but as Texans fans we'd built up calluses over the previous eight years and learned how to cope with disappointment on Sunday.
Like a divorcee in a new relationship, the 2011 and 2012 seasons taught Texans fans how to love again. The 2011 season was exciting and new with the first trip to the playoffs in franchise history. Things began to get serious and heat up during the 2012 season, which led us to talk about the future of the team with the potential of so many young stars. In 2013 we expected to take the big step, but the Texans left their fans at the alter.
The "winner" of this misery cage match is the 2013 season. The 2010 season wasn't tasty but I could swallow it, whereas the higher expectations of the 2013 season made it impossible to digest. The expectation going into the seasons being debated made the difference. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. The longer the fall, the greater the pain.
The winner, and neewwwwww Texans misery champion, the 2013 season! (Done in my best Howard Finkel voice)