It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was pretty damn ugly. The Texans were down 28-0 at halftime before falling behind 42-0 at the end of the 3rd Quarter. In the 4th Quarter, the team replaced struggling QB Ryan Mallett with journeyman Brian Hoyer. Against the Falcon's 2nd and 3rd string defenders Hoyer and the Texans scored 21 straight points before surrendering 6 on Cecil Shorts III fumble, returned for a TD, on the final play of the game as time expired. Even worse, it appears that Shorts was hurt on the play, bringing additional weakness to a WR group that's already pretty thin.
So, offensively, the Texans are a shambles right now. Defensively (projected to be the stronger unit on the team) they're a sieve, and special teams are still a disaster. The Texans got out-coached, outplayed, out-hustled and out-talented by a Falcon's team who is turning things around off of a disaster of a season last year.
This raises the following questions:
Why can the Falcons turn it around but the Texans cannot?
During the entire history of this team we've heard (from the media) that the Texans are building it the "right" way by not looking for quick fixes but building slowly, incrementally, and getting better every year. Blessed with a fan base whose loyalty doesn't seem to require actual results, the Texans executive office seems content with maintaining the status-quo and not worrying about the bigger-picture things like winning actual games.
Because of this, instead of addressing quarterback which is the team's greatest need, the Texans have made a lot of curious draft picks choosing to pick defensive players in the first round before trying to fix a talent-deficient offense. Without a quality QB (Matt Schaub is the best QB in franchise history, think about that) the Texans have gone from mediocre to worse on offense, while the defense is not doing much this year to stop the other team.
The Falcons can turn it around fast because 1. They have a quality QB and 2. they've drafted wisely. The Texans will never get better until they increase the talent level on this team.
What is the quickest way for the Texans to turn things around?
The answer to this question lies in two parts, one the fans are going to like and one that they won't.
First, Rick Smith needs to go. It was clear watching Hard Knocks this year that he's very soft as a GM, taking a position on a player and then immediately caving when challenged by O'Brien. Whatever O'Brien's strengths, he doesn't have the pedigree in the NFL to earn the ability to "buy his own groceries". The Texans need to bring in a strong personnel guy who can stand up to O'Brien and back him down when they have conflicts over players.
Second, drastic roster changes need to happen. And by drastic I mean bringing in a new GM, and giving him a mandate to do whatever is necessary to turn this around fast. The Texans should even go so far as to consider trading JJ Watt for draft picks. I would put Clowney on the block as well. You let Arian Foster go, and basically just blow up this team. You then make a couple of key FA signings, grab a QB in the first round of the draft and use all of the draft picks you received in trades (hopefully in rounds 2-4, or even a 2nd 1st rounder) to bring up the talent level on this team.
This is why Smith needs to go, because he can't be trusted to run a draft. I've outlined his futility in picking players in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and we're already seeing more of it this year as 2nd round WR Jaelen Strong was on the inactive list this year. On a team with virtually no depth at the WR position, him not making the active roster is an indictment on the player evaluation process that Smith has in place.
Is there hope?
Amazingly, there is a slight hope for the Texans still. IF they can stop the bleeding and start playing smart football they have the fortune of playing in the AFC South. This is shaping up to be the worst division in the NFL by a long-shot. At 2-2 the hapless Colts lead the division while Jacksonville, Houston and the Titans all are looking up at one win each. The Jacksonville Jaguars almost beat the Colts at home today, needing to miss two FG's to lose to Indy 16-13 in Indianapolis. All the Jaguars did last week was lose to the Patriots 51-17.
As bad as the Texans have been, they are still only one game out of first place. While this is a small hope it is a hope. The problem is as follows: The Colts are still probably much better than the Texans and the Jaguars and Titans might have passed them in terms of talent.
Last place in the AFC South was hardly in the scope of vision for most Texans fans, but it's a possibility they might want to start entertaining.
Things look horrible right now, and let's just hope that the Houston media doesn't try to focus on the 21 meaningless points the Texans scored in the 4th quarter. The fact is, except against the bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Texans haven't looked competitive against NFL teams unless it's garbage time.
I said 6-10 to start the season, it's looking more like 4-12 and a high draft pick unless something changes fast.