MAYBE THERE REALLY IS A BLACK CLOUD HOVERING OVER HOUSTON

OK, maybe it is possible to coach waking-up before the game starts, instead of waiting until the 2nd quarter.  But still, you cannot coach not-fumbling  3 times (twice in a couple of minutes).  You can’t coach not allowing pass-deflections that turn into interceptions – those will happen with short QBs, and that is what you get when you pick the smart but short QB (even if he is Drew Brees or Russell Wilson) over the not-as-smart but tall QB with the better arm.  You can’t coach never giving up a long-pass completion, or not falling for a flea-flicker pass by a left-handed wide receiver on 1st – & – goal from the 2 yard line.    And for sure you can’t coach not having almost all of those things happen in one single, mind-blowingly horrible quarter of a single game, a game where most of the time your team appears to be approximately the equal of the other team.  You can scream “Do not make mistakes” one thousand times a week, and that will not stop people from making mistakes.  Ask any Fortune 500 CEO.

Here is what a competent coaching staff can accomplish:  (i) develop or steal good offensive and defensive systems; (ii) do a good job of developing game plans and calling plays during the game; and (iii) make certain that every member of the team has mastered every one of his potential assignments, so that he can carry out those assignments correctly, without hesitation, without penalties, without regard to the opponent, the score, the situation, the weather, or the color of his shoes.  If the coaching staff does that, then in a league of near-parity of player talent among the teams, most everything else involves either luck or a terrific quarterback.

At this point, it is not clear whether the Texans’ current roster is talented enough for it to be coached into a better record.  As for the deeply disrespected QB Fitzpatrick, while he is not a star and is not much of a threat with the long ball, he had a better completion percentage, more passing yards, fewer times sacked, more rushing yards, and even greater scrambling/rush-evasion ability than the heralded Roethlisberger.  It is hard to make the case that either of the Texans’ backup QBs – or for that matter, Blake/Teddy/Johnny or any other QB sufficiently flawed to have been available to the Texans last off-season –  could have done any better, especially considering the ease with which the Steelers’ pass-rush often seemed to baffle the Texans’ O-line. Especially if the coaches are right, that the inner beauty of the allegedly-complex O’Brien offense can be most-thoroughly achieved and exhibited, eventually, by a high-IQ quarterback.  Mr. Fitzpatrick might not be a swan, but maybe he is not such an ugly duckling.

Most likely, these Texans are mid-level talent laboring under mediocre (or maybe just inexperienced) coaching, and, until they can snag an elite-level QB, they are basically an 8/8 team that will be better or worse than .500 based only upon luck.  Maybe they are just under a black cloud at the moment.  The optimistic call is that pretty soon the O’Brien systems will be fully mastered by the players, and the talent and coaching are good enough for this to be a 10/6 team even without an elite QB.  Especially if their #1 draft pick finally becomes a regular player and plays up to his billing.  Maybe the main problems are not  so much with the O- and D- lines (a problem that is hardly unique to the Texans in today’s parity-driven NFL), or the QB, but rather with the residual lack of familiarity/mastery of the new coaches’ schemes, combined  with unusually  bad luck.  Maybe when Mr. Clowney finally debuts at whatever-they-will-call-his-position, the black cloud will finally depart Houston for, say, Indianapolis.

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