(every Friday during the NFL season, OOB will run a nostalgic feature about the Lions’ upcoming opponents)
It took the Tampa Bay Buccaneers four seasons to get respectable. The Seattle Seahawks, just three. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers were in their respective conference championship games in their second season of existence. The new Cleveland Browns finished over .500 in their fourth year in the league.
We’re still waiting on the Houston Texans.
The Texans joined the NFL in 2002. They beat the established and in-state rival Dallas Cowboys in their first-ever game. But it wasn’t until last year, their sixth, that they were able to manage even a .500 record (8-8 in ’07).
The Texans whiffed on QB David Carr, who was drafted the same year as Pal Joey Harrington. Part of the reason for Carr’s stunted growth was because he was pile-driven into the turf constantly. Carr set an NFL record for most times being sacked in a season in his rookie year, and it never really got any better. There were times when Carr showed more promise than Harrington, but the team results were the same as in Detroit: double-digit losses were an annual tradition in Houston.
The 1979 Bucs caught lightning in a bottle, making it to the NFC Championship under the leadership of QB Doug Williams and the wit of coach John McKay. The Seahawks of 1978 used a lethal passing combo of Jim Zorn-to-Steve Largent, plus a tough defense, to become an AFC power for the next several years. The Jags used experience on offense and the Panthers did the same on defense to rise to the Final Four in such short order.
The NFL changed, too. In 1976, the way the expansion teams were stocked seems almost cruel compared to today’s method. No extra draft picks. No generous availability of other teams’ players. Just the unwanted dudes — nothing more, nothing less. Old, washed up veterans or under-talented rookie free agents; which would you prefer? That was the choice for the Bucs and Seahawks. So it’s not too surprising that Tampa Bay went 0-26 before winning their first game, but it’s also amazing that they quickly went from that to the NFC Championship just 34 games later.
So what’s with the Texans, whom the Lions visit this Sunday?
Houston isn’t operating under the sadistic 1976 expansion rules. They’ve been able to look at recent history to see how their counterparts in Jacksonville, Carolina, and to an extent, Cleveland have done it.
But as with most expansion teams in their infancy, the Texans’ offense hasn’t been able to catch up with their sieve-like defense. Carr and WR Andre Johnson were never given an adequate offensive line or much of a running back to work with. And their defense, meanwhile, was routinely surrendering 30+ points per game. That may have been understandable at first, but this is year seven and it’s not getting much better. The Texans are 1-4, and have given up 158 points in the process.
Yet they’re minus 8 against the Lions this Sunday. The same Detroit Lions who pre-exist the Texans by 68 years in the NFL. I guess you can’t really blame the Texans for being slow learners in their seventh year of existence when the Lions are in year no. 51 in trying to re-learn how to be a championship team.
Do the Texans have a Curse of David Carr that we don’t know about?