Interested in rooting for one of the NFL's 32 teams -- but don't know where to start? Adam Rank has you covered with this series, which will present a handy guide to becoming an instantly rabid fan of each organization in the league. Below, find out why you should root for the Houston Texans.
What you need to know so you don't sound stupid
The Texans are the youngest franchise -- No. 32 -- and it almost didn't happen. The NFL needed an extra team after the Cleveland Browns rejoined for the 1999 season, pushing the total to 31 teams. The league conditionally awarded the 32nd franchise to Los Angeles, which was without a team after the Rams and Raiders left. Living out here in Southern California, the news of a brand new expansion team was met with overwhelming apathy. I mean, I was excited; I was an intern for NFL Publishing at the time. But the guy running the PR campaign for the Houston franchise, Chip Namias, was right when he told me I was the only guy in L.A. who cared. Unsurprisingly, L.A. couldn't get its poop together, and Bob McNair was ready to pounce. Thus, the Texans were born. People in L.A. would instead go on to enjoy a Lakers three-peat, so we were fine.
It took about a decade, but the Texans have become one of the most consistent teams in the NFL. They have secured a winning record in five of the last six seasons, reaching the playoffs four times in this span. The defense has seemingly always been legit. The quarterback position has been, well, under construction. But the Texans are coming off a second consecutive AFC South title and they could be even better this season.
They have a franchise quarterback ... I think
Over the last four years, the Texans have gone through quarterbacks like a millennial swiping through Instagram filters. Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, Tom Savage, Ludwig Mayfair and Brock Osweiler all started games for the team since 2013. And right now, you might be thinking, "I don't remember Ludwig Mayfair. Was he some FCS star who played his college ball at Azusa Pacific or something?" No, that's actually me combining two Instagram filters to make one name. But it does sound like a quarterback, no? Try that tonight when you're out with your friends -- just say something like, "You know, it's a shame Ludwig Mayfair didn't get a chance to shine in this league. He could have really been something." It will be extra meta if you can capture this and post it on Instagram.
Moving on. The Texans paid a pretty big price to get rid of Osweiler (they basically had to trade a second-rounder to Cleveland so they could be like, Hey, take this dude's ill-advised monster contract) and also spent to bring in first-round pick Deshaun Watson. Consider me a Watson fan. Loved his game at Clemson. Feel like he's going to be the starter soon -- hell, let's just say, "Week 1."
Oh, and since we're talking about quarterbacks, I need to address this ...
Not enough credit
David Carr. For all of you [expletives] who like to put Carr on your lists of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, I have two words for you: Forget you.
Oh, I'm sorry -- David didn't get a chance to sit behind a Hall of Fame quarterback for a number of years before stepping into the starting lineup of one of the winningest organizations in recent NFL history? Shame. On. Him. Some players get thrown into the fire quickly for a bad team. David had to join an expansion team. And remember, the NFL owners were chagrined when the Panthers and Jaguars reached the championship round in their second year. The Texans weren't going to be afforded such luxuries. No one was going to take them lightly -- like, Hey, it's just some expansion team ... Kind of like when the new kid moves to town and everybody is just kind of cool to him. That wasn't going to happen this time. So his career was basically over before he had a chance to even start. And you know what? He did pretty damn well, given the circumstances and a complete lack of an offensive line. So step off.
Look, David made some good money. He won a Super Bowl title with the Giants. And he's got a pretty sweet head of hair. So we shouldn't cry for him too much. But I would like to believe there's an alternate universe in which he fell in the draft, was taken by the Bears and proceeded to lead Chicago to a Super Bowl win over the Colts, and again a few years later against the Steelers. (We sometimes have a lot of downtime to talk about things like this on the set.)
Poor DeAndre Hopkins. He should be considered among the league's best, along with Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, Mike Evans, et al. But last year, he was shipped to the NFL's version of Mustafar by virtue of his team's quarterback play, and we barely heard from him. Thankfully, the Brock Osweiler era is over, and we can go back to Hopkins ruling as a receiver. Really, we don't need Savage or Watson to be mega powers at quarterback; just get the ball into Nuk's vicinity and let him do his thing. Hopkins could very well be the best receiver in the game if given the opportunity.
Turn down for Watt
J.J. Watt. He's everywhere. He's in commercials. He starred in movies like "Bad Moms." (No worries, dude -- it's not like I've dedicated my life to the entertainment field and have never been given a chance to act in a movie with Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell). He's even stolen touchdowns from your fantasy team. Say it with me, "That! Helps! No! One!"
And don't take that as any kind of knock on J.J. Because he's pretty [deity]damn good, and he's earned most of it. (Seriously, I would just like to read for a role.) I personally love him. Mostly because he likes jalapenos on his pizza. I know it seems bizarre that I would have that knowledge, but I was doing a podcast here once, and J.J. was the guest. His time as a pizza boy in Wisconsin was brought up, and we bonded over the most amazing pizza topping ever. Really, you should try it.
He's also a great football player. So much so that the haters are already nitpicking his every move. I mean, there's probably some jerk out there right now upset that he got a role in "Bad Moms" or whatnot. Oh, wait ... But look, all of that shows you he's made it. And even though he missed most of last year, he's going to be out there dominating on the field. If nothing else, we'll always have jalapenos and these dancing GIFs.
But there are other guys, too
Watt missed most of last season, and the Texans still made the playoffs, because they have some other dudes on defense. Jadeveon Clowney broke out a couple of years ago, so that's nice. Whitney Mercilus sounds like the name of a dude who should be headlining NXT, but he might be the best dude on the defense. If D.J. Reader becomes the player we all think he's going to be, this squad is going to be a bigger nightmare for the rest of the league.
Don't ever talk about ...
The varsity jackets. Never bring this up. If you don't recall what this was all about, the Texas wore jackets (strikingly similar to high school letterman jackets) to a Sunday night game at Foxborough. I don't give a [poop] if you were 11-1; don't do that. You're facing the Patriots. Why would you anger them? That would be akin to a giraffe parading around the Serengeti in some sweet leather jackets, just taunting the lions. It's a bad look. Especially after the Patriots took the Texans out behind the woodshed and went to work. I don't recall the score, but I think it was 59-0 or something.
The franchise's best
Andre Johnson is the easy answer here. He's the longest-tenured player in club history. Led the NFL with 103 receptions in 2006. Nabbed 115 two years later to again lead the league. He topped 1,500 receiving yards three times in his career. As a fantasy enthusiast, my only gripe is he didn't score enough touchdowns -- but that's just a minor quibble.
I would have to say it's NRG Stadium. NRG. Like energy. Oh my god, I just got that.
The stadium is nice. I mean, it's what you expect from a new domed NFL stadium, so I don't have a true gripe. But man, when you see the Astrodome sitting there across the parking lot, looking all awesome and stuff ... well, I feel like they should have just redone it instead of investing all of that loot in a new building. Like, would you rather drive a nice Nissan Altima or a classic, rebuilt, sweet-ass 1961 Dodge Dart? I mean, I drive an Altima, but only because I have a long commute. I'm just trying to say it was unnecessary to have this new stadium when you had a chance to redo the Eighth Wonder of the World! (BTW, hit the 8th Wonder Brewery if you're down there for a Houston sporting event. It's closer to the ballpark and the hoops arena. And good news: NRG is better than Enron Field or whatever that thing is called.)
Man, if you bought an Ed Reed No. 20 jersey after he signed with the club prior to the 2013 season, you didn't get a lot of time to enjoy it, as he played just seven games before being released. If you have it, wear it with pride. Or at least question the wisdom of purchasing the jersey of a veteran you knew wasn't going to have a long tenure with the club (though he had signed a three-year deal). Even wearing a Reed shirsey is crazy.
Closing fun fact
The team name came down to Apollos, Bobcats, Stallions, Texans and Wildcatters. I like the Apollos, but holy lord: How did Wildcatters not win? That would have been an amazing name. What would the logo have been? Since the team was born in the late 1990s, I feel they could have played off the popularity of the movie "Armageddon" and made the logo the silhouette of Harry Stamper. Oh my god. What an opportunity missed. Holy [poop]. You could have had William Fichtner out there after every game, being all, "Col. Willie Sharp, requesting permission to shake the hand of the best quarterback who ever lived." Damn it, Houston. I was with you up until now. This changes everything.
The Texans are kind of a fun team. There is a charismatic superstar in J.J. Watt and a really good defense. Having that good defense means your team is always going to be competitive. And it has, even without a lot of consistency at quarterback. If the Texans could ever get that quarterback position figured out, oh lordy, it would be amazing. But then again, there are franchises that have been looking for an answer to the same problem for years. Decades. I also didn't get much of a chance to mention this, but Houston is a kick-ass city. I didn't know what to expect when I traveled down there for the Super Bowl this past winter, but I spent two weeks there and really loved it. The downtown area was coming along. Food was amazing (eat at the Dizzy Kaktus). Some of the stuff on the outskirts was fun, too. I could really get into this team. But only if they change the name to Wildcatters.