It's fair to wonder if there's been a team like the Texans in recent football history.
Houston's roster is filled with recognizable names, veterans on short-term deals looking for another chance to play in the NFL and prove they're still deserving of legitimate opportunity. It's a combination of the leftover pieces -- some of legitimate quality -- assembled by a previous regime and a collection of stopgaps who could play their way into more secure situations.
They're riding high after a blowout win in Week 1. One of these short-term veterans, Mark Ingram, credits their first-time head coach David Culley for keeping them on a stable plane despite being surrounded by uncertainty (directly related to Deshaun Watson's ongoing legal matters and desire to be traded elsewhere) and external negativity.
"Ever since I've been with Baltimore two years ago, he's just always been consistent," Ingram said of Culley during a Thursday appearance on Good Morning Football. "He's always been the same guy, he's always been encouraging, he's always been a guy who cares about his players and just been true to who he is, what he believes in, his values, his principles. He's been the same guy since the first day I met him, and I respect that as a man.
"He's just super consistent, man. He cares about his guys. He's going to do whatever he can to put his guys in position to have success. He's a players' coach, and we're gonna fight hard for him. We want to make sure that we have success and we make him be successful too as a head coach."
Culley's efforts produced a season-opening victory over one of the few teams with a roster that's in worse shape than Houston's. Powered by veteran Tyrod Taylor's sharp performance (21 for 33, 291 yards, two touchdowns, 112.1 passer rating), the Texans ran out to a 34-7 lead over Jacksonville and rode that advantage to a win. Ingram finished with 85 rushing yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, and Brandin Cooks once again shined, catching five passes from Taylor for 132 yards. Late arrival Danny Amendola reached the end zone, while former star running back David Johnson caught a touchdown pass. Justin Reid intercepted Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence, and veteran additions Christian Kirksey and Vernon Hargreaves III joined him with picks of their own.
Taylor might best embody the mindset of these Texans, who are out to win games even when most expect little from them. He's on his fifth team in his career, his latest stop in which he arrived as the starter, but unlike his trips to Cleveland and Los Angeles, he's not merely a bridge because these Texans don't quite know what's ahead. It's not about 2022 and beyond, at least not right now for a team that's just trying to focus on each week ahead.
"We just know that there was a scenario that Deshaun and the team was going through and that we just had to work with what we had available," Ingram said. "The guys who are on the team and the guys who are on the field practicing, taking reps, that's what we had to work with, that's what we had to deal with, that's what we had to prepare to have a season with.
"We all just believe in each other, we trust in each other, that's from coaches, player-coach, player-player, everyone in the organization, we have the mindset. We want to be good, we want to win games, we want to execute, we want to be physical. I think we have like-minded people. That's when you have success. He's just been transparent, he's been consistent in who he is and delivering his message, and I think that resonates throughout the team with everybody."
The future is now for these Texans. For a week, it proved successful, and a few Texans have a revenge game ahead of them in Week 2 with a return trip to Cleveland, former home of Taylor, Kirksey, Terrance Mitchell and Pharaoh Brown.
This entire campaign could end up being about revenge for Houston. Perhaps a better way to describe it would be redemption.
"I think we were just all on the same page, everybody's saying this, saying that," Ingram said. "We don't care what nobody say. We know that we got good players on this team we know that we got good players in this locker room, we know we have guys who've played ball over several years in the league and many different places and who have played it at the highest level. And we knew that if we just prepare and went out there and just do what we need to do, hold each other accountable, compete with each other and be the best version of ourselves, that would be fine.
"We don't care what nobody say. It's all about what we believe in this locker room, it's all about what we believe in this building, and we believe we have a team that can be great, win games and be a championship-type team. That's what we have all aspirations for. If you're not playing this game to be a champion, if you're not playing this game to be the best, if you're not playing this game to win, then you're in the wrong business. And that's what we all believe and that what we're all pushing for, that's what we're working for."
We don't expect the Texans to end up champions. But they just might end up being a squad everyone can root for. Amid adversity, Houston rose to the occasion in Week 1. They have 16 more chances to shock the football world in 2021.