The Houston Texans are the 32nd expansion team to join the National Football League, making them one of the youngest teams in American Football. They have been blessed with a large and loyal fan base from the start, who have not been repaid by the team’s performance.
Although the team started as successfully as could be hoped for, things have taken a turn for the worst in recent years. The 2007 campaign saw a slight improvement and fans are hoping that in 2008 they will end the season with their first winning record. They compete in the Southern Division of the AFC.
A Team For Houston?
In 1998 it was announced that Houston, LA or Toronto would be awarded the location of the 32nd National Football League expansion team. Houstonians began to worry that this team would automatically be awarded to LA due to it being the second-largest television market in America.
In March 1999 the NFL confirmed their fears by declaring that LA could be awarded the expansion franchise if they were able to put together a stadium deal and acceptable ownership team by September of that year.
Just a month after this announcement, the NFL discovered that LA was not putting any tax money into a new stadium, whereas Houston had put together a plan for a state-of-the-art centre.
This put a rocket up officials in LA and, the following month, they proposed plans to the NFL for a new stadium in the city. However, at a whopping $225 million, the NFL was concerned that the LA council would not be able to deliver on their promises, and so talks continued with the expansion committee.
Houston was asked to serve a proposal, which was weighed up against the one offered by LA. On 6th October 1999 the NFL announced, after a unanimous vote by the owners, that they were awarding Houston the 32nd expansion team, with the added bonus that the 2004 Super Bowl would he held in the city.
Although the team had still not been given a name, plans started to materialise at a rapid rate. Houston formed focus groups across the state to establish the team’s image. The identity, logo and name were hotly debated, and the front office was formed when Charley Casserly, the former Redskins General Manager, was hired as the Executive Vice President/General Manager of the franchise.
In the spring of 2000, Reliant Stadium was opened in Houston as the official home ground of the new team. This facility could seat 69,500 and was the NFL’s first stadium with a retractable roof. To coincide with the opening, the team was christened the Houston Texans the following September, although the secret of their name had been let out of the bag long ago.
A Start On the Right Foot
With Dom Capers the first man in charge, it was not until September 2002 that the Texans played their first game against the Dallas Cowboys at their new stadium. They started sensationally, shocking the world and delighting their fans with an outstanding 19-10 victory, making them the first ever expansion team to win their first game.
Unfortunately they went on to lose their next five games, until they came up against the Jacksonville Jaguars, setting a pattern of defeat. With only a few more victories that season, the Texans finished the season 4-12. However, that same year they managed to send two Texans to the Pro Bowl – Aaron Glenn and Gary Walker – the most ever by an expansion team.
Another Positive Season
The next two seasons were a steady road for the Texans, and they managed to repeat their previous success by winning their opening game, this time against the Dolphins. Although improving their win tally by just one game, the season was deemed more of a success due to their win over the Carolina Panthers, who were the eventual NFL Conference Champions that season.
Fans expected the Texans to start the 2004 season with a win as they had with the others, but after losing their first three games, optimism began to wane and Capers’ future at the franchise was under threat.
Things began to improve slightly as the season progressed and a short winning streak meant the Texans would finish the season 8-8 if they could beat the Cleveland Browns. The Texans sadly fell short though, as the Browns stormed the match, 22-14. For once, the fans kicked up a fuss and Carr was booed from the stands. This was a sign of what was to come.
The Start of The Fall
The Texans started the 2005 season with an uncharacteristic defeat courtesy of the Buffalo Bills, 22-7. The following week, the embarrassment continued when they played the Steelers at home, only to be defeated 27-7. The fans grew increasingly frustrated with the team and pointed the blame at the selection decisions of Charley Casserly, as well as the tactical acumen of Capers and Carr.
After six defeats, they managed a win against the Browns, only to have another six game losing streak. As well as the ill feeling against the management team, conspiracy theories began to emerge about why the Texans were losing so many games. Many thought they were ‘tanking games’ so that they could be the number one pick due to many of their later losses occurring around the time of the so-called ‘Bush Bowl’.
Accordingly, the 49ers and the Texans both entered this competition with two of the worst records ever held in the NFL and the loser of the game would receive the right to select Reggie Bush, the USC running back, in the 2006 NFL Draft.
The Texans lost this game, 20-17, which gave them a spectacular record of 2-14, the worst in the league. One of the few positive aspects of this season was Jerome Mathis, the kick returner who managed to return two kicks with touchdowns. He was the only player from Houston to be chosen for the 2005 Pro Bowl.
An Even Darker Time
After the Texans’ appalling efforts during the previous season, many of the management were fired, apart from Casserly. However, Casserly eventually left after the draft was picked to be replaced with Rick Smith, while Gary Kubiak was hired to lead the franchise.
Prior to the 2006 season, the debate amongst fans was whether the club should select Reggie Bush or Vince Young, a star player from the University of Texas, in the draft. However, this debate was rendered entirely academic when the Texans incredibly ignored both these players and hired Mario Williams, a defensive from North Carolina, as their number one pick.
Fans were not happy with the choice, and when the draft party was held at the Reliant Stadium, many booed the players. To compound matters, Bush was signed by the New Orleans Saints, who went on to play in the NFL Championship game, and Young was drafted by the Titans and was awarded the title of Offensive Rookie of the Year 2006.
The 2006 season
Williams did bring some success to the Texans, however, finishing with 4.5 sacks and 47 tackles during the 2006 season, despite suffering from plantar fasciitis throughout. Nevertheless, Williams could not stop Kubiak’s debut season in charge from being a rather disappointing.
Barring a series of victories against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Colts (who would later become the Super Bowl champions), the Texans continued to disappoint, particularly in their spectacular 40-7 defeat courtesy of the New England Patriots. They did manage to improve on the (admittedly) very low standards of the previous campaign but, with six victories, it was hardly remarkable stuff.
The Best Record To Date
The pickings for the 2007 season included Matt Schaub, a quarterback from the Atlanta Falcons. This draft seemed to be the spark the Texans required, and they started the season with two victories.
The players were then hit with numerous injuries, including Schaub and Andre Johnson, who missed seven games each, Steve McKinney, who was knocked out of the rest of the season in only their third game, and Dunta Robinson, who was knocked out in the ninth game. The Texans yo-yoed through the whole of the season, with losses following wins following losses.
Nevertheless, they finished the season 8-8, which was a dramatic improvement on the previous season and their best record to date. While nowhere near play-off form, there is some small hope for the future in this gradual improvement and who knows what 2008 will bring?