Let’s find me a football team

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The Houston Texans, my team since their inception in 2002 and my Oilers-replacement after their own ownership-led revolt which led them to Tennessee after the 1996 season, are currently in the final stages of becoming the Houston Easterbys.

The writing is on the wall and I am beginning to lean towards washing my hands of this toxic franchise after 20 years.

But first, how did we get here?

The only team president the organization has ever known has resigned this week after objecting to the direction that failson CEO and chairman, Cal McNair, and executive vice president Jack Easterby continue to push the franchise in.

That direction has led to all-world, Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson to demand a trade, remove all Texans imagery from his social media accounts, and absolutely shun the same organization he signed a five-year contract extension with just a cinch under a year ago.

It has resulted in Andre Johnson, the greatest Texan of all-time and sure to be the franchise’s first-ever Hall of Famer, putting out a completely out-of-the-blue tweet in support of Watson, declaring that the Texans organization is “known for wasting players careers,” and calling out Easterby BY NAME!

People, this is Andre Johnson. He was, and is, one of the quietest humans on Earth. In an age in which star receivers spent even their sleeping hours telling you how great they were, Johnson let his play do the talking — all the talking.

Except that time Cortland Finnegan went too far. Johnson waited until the game was well-in-hand and then he let his hands do the talking.

I’m sorry, let’s just put that here for posterity.

Sometimes, the best solutions are the easiest. See a bitch, hit a bitch.

I digress.

The Texans have alienated Watson, Johnson, JJ Watt, the organization’s interchangeable 1B to Johnson’s 1A when it comes to greatest players to ever don a Texans uni.

All season we watched as Watt, who is entering this coming season on the last year of his contract which may very well lead to his release considering the Texans’ perilous cap situation, carried a lifeless, effortless, expensive defense through the doldrums.

It was a joyless march that featured Watt’s 100th career sack, but was otherwise summed up with this snippet from Week 17 after the Texans let yet another win slip through their fingers by way of defensive ineptitude.

Two of Houston’s three greatest players ever may have both spent their final moments in those uniforms having that exchange.

But Watt’s discontent came out a week earlier after yet another loss which could be squarely placed upon the shoulders of the defense.

The tragedy is that those two guys actually play for the Texans as of this very moment. They’re both on the roster and have been together for four years. These are the kinds of players you want representing your organization, your team, and your city. But the Texans have other ideas.

This was a playoff team just last season.

But the blown 24–0 lead against Kansas City in the AFC Divisional Playoff, and the ensuing 51–31 loss in that contest, wasn’t the crescendo to an up and down season. No, sir, it was just the beginning of a downward spiral that saw the Texans respond to said loss by entrusting head coach Bill O’Brien to be the general manager as well!

How could this go wrong, you ask?

After serving as de-facto GM in 2019, O’Brien, with the full trust of McNair and the guiding hand of Easterby, traded off all-world wide receiver, one of Watson’s best friends, and a player Houston had under contract for three more years, DeAndre Hopkins, to Arizona, along with a fourth-round pick, for a 2020 second-round pick, a 2021 fourth-round pick, and… David fucking Johnson.

Johnson, a running back of some repute years ago, was basically the hollowed-out husk of Johnson, but with all the debt of his contract still intact.

O’Brien actually lost a pick in the deal! How is that possible?!

If you’re going to trade Hopkins, the price starts at two first-round picks or you can go to Hell. It’s literally in the Bible. Probably.

O’Brien responded to the hole at receiver by signing free agent receiver Randall Cobb, another injury-prone player and barely half the receiver Hopkins would be if he were cut in half, to a three-year deal worth $27 million, with $18 million miraculously guaranteed, and then trading a 2020 second-round pick to the Rams for receiver Brandin Cooks!

Recap: The Texans traded DeAndre Hopkins and paid an additional two high draft picks for the privilege and then acquired two lesser receivers who, cumulatively, cost more than Hopkins did.

Watson’s trade demand is the colossal freight car of straw that broke this incredibly loyal camel’s back, but this has been building for some time.

From the moment late owner Bob McNair used the troubling analogy of prisoners running the prison in regards to players kneeling for the anthem back in 2017, it’s been one brutal PR disaster after another for an organization that does not own enough goodwill to perform this poorly on and off the field.

There was the trade of perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown to Seattle during the 2017 season for his public displeasure of McNair’s use of the troubling analogy.

“I think it was ignorant,” Brown said to ESPN at the time. “I think it was embarrassing. I think it angered a lot of players, including myself. We put our bodies and minds on the line every time we step on that field, and to use an analogy of inmates in prison, that’s disrespectful. That’s how I feel about it.”

There was also the shocking firing of Texans vice president of communications Amy Palcic in November 2020, which led to public ire from Watt, as well as the NFL media community at-large.

Sources within the organization told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Palcic was no longer deemed a “cultural fit” in Houston.

“If Amy Palcic isn’t a ‘cultural fit,’ then the Texans’ culture is absolutely rancid,” tweeted ESPN’s Jeff Darlington.

Palcic, who had been with the Texans since 2013, had won the 2017 Pete Rozelle Award for best public relations staff in the league.

The trades of Brown and Hopkins, the elevation of someone like O’Brien to a role he was clearly ill-suited for, the loss of copious amounts of draft assets by O’Brien to plug gaps on the roster, the alienation of Watson, Watt, and Johnson, the resignation of Rootes, and the firing of Palcic have combined to form a ceaseless storm over the Texans franchise that forces one to wonder — is it even moral to support this franchise?

Being an NFL fan these days is already an exercise in at least light hypocrisy given the league’s previous attitudes towards things like concussions, domestic violence, and social justice. I guess it depends on where you stand with said issues.

But being a Texans fan is like taking those issues and pouring various accelerants all over them by the bucket.

If McNair and Easterby are eventually found to be colluding as saboteurs, that would make an insane amount of sense considering the damage that’s been done and the damage that remains to be done. Anything outside of that is nonsensical.

Easterby and McNair

Make no mistake, the Texans will not be able to make things right with Deshaun Watson. His mind is made up and, unlike past conflicts between players and management, this will not be a situation resolved by money.

Remember, Watson just got paid. This is not a contract dispute. This is between him and the CEO; a man who cannot be fired and a man determined to win this staredown that he has no spine for.

What the Texans have committed is organizational malpractice and it does not deserve, in return from its fan base, loyalty or respect.

That’s where I come in.

I have long-believed that you should root for the team in which you were given at birth. My rules can bend here or there, but they are remarkably rigid in most cases. I was born and raised in Houston. I love the Astros, Rockets, and Texans. Before them, I loved the Oilers.

When the Oilers left, I lived life as an unaffiliated fan; rooting for players instead of teams. It was a good life.

Bob McNair changed that when he beat overwhelming odds to get Houston an expansion team. I was there when the Texans were unveiled to the city for the first time, and I still chuckle when I spot a stray Tony Boselli Texans jersey, the Hall of Fame offensive tackle and the Texans first pick in the 2002 expansion draft, which got more wear from manicans in Houston than it did Boselli himself.

He never played a game for the Texans.

I still have the front page of the Houston Chronicle the day after David Carr and the Texans stunned the Dallas Cowboys in their first-ever game, defeating our cross-state rival, 19–10.

I lived through it all and I dreamt of a day when I could watch as the team celebrated its first Super Bowl victory, wondering what that team would look like and how many years it would take.

You could forgive me if I believed, even somewhat recently, that that first title team would be led by Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and JJ Watt.

They were, after all, a colossal collapse in KC away from an AFC Championship berth against what would have been a favorable match-up with division-rival Tennessee. Win that game, and who knows what happens in last year’s Super Bowl against San Francisco?

But I remember saying, even that year, that it felt wrong somehow to root for a team led by such an increasingly incompetent room of jackals.

McNair, the son of the late owner who has literally had every job and opportunity given to him by his father, and Easterby, the clergyman-turned-football executive in way too short a time for that to make any semblance of sense.

How about O’Brien and his special knack for alienating top players and showing them who the boss is by trading them for peanuts?

That’ll show ‘em!

O’Brien is gone, replaced by an underwhelming selection in career assistant and newly-minted senior citizen, 65-year-old David Culley.

I have nothing against Culley, but the fact that the man has never even held down a coordinator job in his 27 years as an NFL assistant, directly oversaw two of the worst team passing performances in NFL history, and has some weird beef with the retired Steve Smith is pretty much all I need to know about Culley.

What say you about new general manager Nick Caserio and his warped and twisted road to Houston?

Two years ago, he was nearly hired by the Texans from the Patriots for the same GM role, but was prevented from doing so when the Pats filed tampering charges against — you guessed it — Jack Easterby, their former chaplain, for attempting to lure Caserio in secret.

Two years later, the Texans announced that a bizarre group of people — Andre Johnson, Michael Irvin, and Jimmy Johnson — would join forces, along with Rootes and Jed Hughes of consulting firm Korn Ferry to search for the team’s new GM and head coach. McNair also sought input from Watson, his franchise cornerstone and already a pillar in the community.

It was all a dog-and-pony show.

The Texans secretly met with Caserio when he lined up interviews with other teams and hit it off over… family and religion?

Hey, man — live how you want to live. Believe how you want to believe and worship if you like to do that, too. By all means, you will not hear a peep out of me.

But this is a football team. A football team within a league that has a major issue on its hands in regards to minority presence in the highest rungs of said league.

There were gobs of qualified minority candidates dying for an opportunity to build a roster around Watson, but instead, the job was handed to yet another Patriots retread… because of family…and religion?

I’m not even pissed that Caserio is white because yes, he is white, but he’s also crazy qualified for the position and would have been a celebrated hire anywhere else.

But the Texans, more so than any other team that seems to live with their mouths welded open to the backend of Bill Belichick’s sewage pipes, has a major issue with attempting to emulate the Patriots by hiring all of their ex coaches, executives, and players.

So, really, this was two things wrapped into one — McNair passed up a literal field of qualified minority candidates… for another Patriots retread.

But also, in doing so, McNair alienated Watson by taking his suggestions which he himself solicited from Watson with the unsolicited promise of including him in their process, then crumbling all of that up for Caserio, a close and dear friend of… you’re getting good at this, Jack Easterby!

Watson did not demand anything! McNair sought him out, made him feel like he was part of the new culture shift in Houston, and then pulled back the curtain to reveal a big, stinking pile of status quo.

Watson was not even informed of Caserio’s hiring before it went out to the press. He found out on Twitter. Like the rest of us who most certainly are not Deshaun Watson.

So that is the situation laid bare.

I’ve had friends and family here in Chicago offer up the Bears as a new rooting interest, but I’m not sure the McCaskey family and the franchise’s century plus-long offensive ineptitude, with brief breaks attributed to Sayers and “Sweetness,” will offer much of a respite from my frustrating football experiences.

I’ve also thought of perhaps waiting to see where Watson and Watt end up, perhaps even reverting to my unaffiliated existence from that stretch between 1997–2001. I suppose that could work.

I’ve long detested sports polygamy and I don’t think I’d be too welcoming of that stench being attached to me after almost 35 years of moral sports purity. But times, they are a changin’.

Still, I would not be opposed to the idea of integrating within a new fan base. I come fully stocked with knowledge on most every franchise anyways, so it’s not as though the learning curve would be that steep!

Some fan bases are more attractive than others. I’ve always admired Raiders fans and their geographical resilience, and I’ve always been keen on fans from Seattle and Kansas City for their sheer volume and level of manic support. I think it would be pretty cool to be the Chargers’ first fan, and I don’t think anyone looks down their noses at Browns fans.

Thing is though, hard as it may be these days, I’m looking to avoid ownership issues. All teams stink from time to time, some longer than others, but I’m absolutely opposed to the McNairs, Dan Snyders and Mike Browns of the world.

This may all end up as nothing at all, but I can honestly say with a straight, solemn face that I am open to a new team.

So, fans of the league’s other 31 teams — impress me. Give me your best pitches and see if you can give a good fan a new home.

Joel Roza Jr. is an at-large writer covering a wide spectrum of subjects ranging from sports to politics and other special interests.