Before we get started, let me explain that I understand that "great" is a relative term. Over their short franchise history, the Texans have had very few players that one could describe as truly great.
Nomenclature aside, the Texans have had several players over their history that had solid careers and made an impact on the franchise in their time in Houston. For some, their time in Houston was just another stop in their long career. For others, their time in Houston represented an opportunity to grow with a franchise that was still in its relative infancy. Many of those same players were given a chance in Houston they had never been given before.
In a topic that could surely be debated for hours on end, here are my top ten players in the history of the Texans franchise.
These three have been part of some of some of the most productive offenses in the history of the Texans franchise.
Although Slaton has struggled over the last two seasons with the Texans, he put up a fine rookie season two years ago. In 2008, Slaton put up over 1,600 yards from scrimmage and ten touchdowns.
In his five seasons with the Texans, Kevin Walter has totaled 246 catches for just over 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns. He has proved to be the perfect compliment to Andre Johnson at receiver.
Owen Daniels gave the Texans their first Pro Bowler at the tight end position in 2008 when he caught 70 passes for 862 yards. In his five seasons, he has caught 17 touchdowns. Not bad for a former sixth round pick.
Bradford was a member of some of the earlier Texans teams. He didn't see very many wins, but he helped give those early teams a reputation as a team that played hard all sixty minutes and could beat you if you didn't play well.
Bradford's statistics were hurt by the fact that the Texans offense with David Carr at quarterback was very conservative. Seldom did they ever throw deep. That's bad news for a deep threat receiver like Bradford. Over his Texans career, Bradford caught 130 passes for just under 2,000 yards. In 2002, Bradford had six receiving touchdowns.
We're working with a small sample size with Foster, but you can't deny that what he did in his first season as a starter was nothing short of amazing. After a rookie season where he totaled just 257 yards on 54 carries, he exploded in his second season for a league-leading 1,616 yards. With 231 rushing yards in the 2010 season opener, Foster almost amassed the total he put up in his first year.
The eye-popping numbers did just stop at rushing yards though. Last season, Foster also led the league in rushing touchdowns, rushing yards per game, total yards from scrimmage, carries, and total touches.
For his efforts, Foster was named a Pro Bowler and All-Pro. With a few more seasons like last season, Foster will find himself much higher on this list.
Brown's departure prior to the 2010 season was certainly unceremonious, but you can't argue with the fact that Brown was a huge part of the franchise beginning with their first season in 2002.
In his long tenure with the Texans, Brown scored 767 points and made 172 of his 251 field goal attempts.
Most Texans fans will be stuck on the fact that Brown had a disastrous 2009 season that included him missing several game winners, but prior to that season, Brown kicked many a game winner for a Texans team that played more than their share of close games.
If you're really looking for a reason to put Brown on this list, you can look at his missing a game winning field goal at the end of the 2005 season that "won" the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. That was the draft that gave the Texans Mario Williams, a player that is several spaces higher on this list.
Sharper was the veteran leader of the early Texans defenses that leaned heavily on young, unproven players. Sharper not only led with solid play on the field, but he also gave the Texans an edge, having played on the dominant, Super Bowl-winning 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense.
Sharper brought some toughness to that side of the ball and helped turned a largely no-named group into a respectable defense.
While in a Texans uniform, Sharper piled up 301 tackles and 11.5 sacks. He also proved incredibly durable as he played and started in all 48 games as a Texan.
Along with Sharper, Glenn was a veteran presence on those early Texans teams. Glenn brought some much-needed consistency to the defensive secondary when you didn't know what you were going to get from the pass rush on a week to week basis.
When Glenn came to the Texans prior to their inaugural season, he was looking to prove that he had something left in the tank. In his time in Houston, Glenn proved he had more than just a little bit left. In just three seasons in a Texans uniform, Glenn intercepted 11 passes. In 2002, he showed he could do more than just step in front of the ball as he had 181 yards on interception returns for two touchdowns, including a long return of 70 yards. All this on the way to a Pro Bowl appearance in 2002.
His signature moment came during a 24-6 victory over the Steelers in 2002. In that game, Glenn picked off two passes and took them both back for touchdowns. His scoring alone was enough to beat the Steelers on that day. As it turns out, it's good that he did because the offense managed only 47 yards, over three times fewer yards than Glenn had on his interception returns.
Robinson was one of the earliest draft successes had by the Texans franchise. The tenth pick in the 2004 draft, Robinson took the cornerback torch from Aaron Glenn, ran with it, and took it to the next level.
With the franchise still in its infancy, Robinson was exactly what the Texans needed. Robinson was immediately a leader on the field, was able to defend any opponent's best receiver, and he gave the front seven great run support.
In his six years with the Texans, Robinson picked off 13 passes, including six in his rookie season. He also racked up 332 tackles, proving that he wasn't afraid to stick his nose in there and make a hit.
If you'll remember, during the 2007 season, Texans running back Domanick Davis changed his last name to Williams. Hence, the two last names.
Injuries that steadily piled up late in his time in Houston likely kept Williams from fully realizing his potential as a feature back. Prior to all those nagging aches and pains, though, Williams gave the Texans their first solid running back.
Williams was pressed into duty early in the 2003 season and shined. In ten starts, he rushed for just over 1,000 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. He also had a nose for the end zone at a time when the Texans sorely needed it, scoring 23 total touchdowns over his three seasons.
In total, Williams put up very good numbers in his short time. Over three seasons, he totaled 770 carries for 3,195 yards and 154 catches for 1,276 yards. All said, he had nearly 4,500 total yards from scrimmage to go along with 28 touchdowns.
The Texans made Ryans the 33rd overall pick in the 2006 draft. He was the starter at middle linebacker from the first day of training camp his rookie year and hasn't looked back.
Ryans has personified a leader on and off the field. Prior to his season-ending injury during the 2010 season, Ryans had played in and started every season game as a member of the Texans.
In just six seasons, Ryans has already taken over the the franchise lead in tackles with 436.
Ryans was named a Pro Bowler in both 2007 and 2009 and was the 2006 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
At just 26, Ryans still has a lot of good football ahead of him.
One round before the Texans drafted DeMeco Ryans, the Texans took Mario Williams, looking for a game-changer at defensive end. Over his first five seasons, Williams has given the Texans just that.
Like Ryans, Williams has been incredibly durable. In his entire career, he has only missed three games. All of them came at the end of the 2010 season when Williams was sidelined with a sports hernia.
In his five seasons, Williams has piled up ten forced fumbles, ten passes deflected, and 48 sacks.
Williams was a Pro Bowler in 2008 and 2009, was named to the Sporting News All-Pro team in 2007 and 2008, and was second team AP All-Pro in 2007.
All things considered, Williams is the best defensive player in the history of the franchise.
Prior to the 2007 season, the Texans traded two second round draft picks to the Atlanta Falcons to acquire an unproven quarterback by the name of Matt Schaub. Some Texans fans thought the franchise was given up too much for a guy we knew little about. Four full seasons later, Schaub has put up huge numbers as the trigger man on one of the most prolific offenses in the league. Few, if any, regret the deal now.
A Pro Bowler in 2009, Schaub has amassed 14,424 yards and 77 touchdowns in a Texans uniform. His time in Houston has been highlighted by a monster 2009 season where Schaub led the league in pass attempts, passes completed, passing yards per game, and total passing yards.
By completing over 65 percent of his passes as a Texan, Schaub has shown that he is more than a strong armed quarterback throwing jump balls to athletic receivers.
Schaub has had a huge hand in making the Texans offense one of the tougher offenses to stop in the NFL.
Along with Schaub, Johnson has made a habit of lighting up scoreboards since his rookie season in 2003. Coming out of the University of Miami in 2003, Johnson wasted little time making a huge impact.
Johnson had the misfortune of playing his first four seasons with David Carr at quarterback. Still, over those first four seasons, Johnson had over 300 catches with 17 touchdowns.
It was when the Texans brought in Schaub, though, that Johnson really took off. Since that 2007 season, Johnson has had two seasons with over 100 catches, including a 115-catch season in 2008. Each of his four seasons with Schaub at quarterback has produced more touchdowns than any season with David Carr at the helm.
In total, Johnson has totaled 673 catches for 9,164 yards and 50 touchdowns. Johnson has made five Pro Bowl appearances as he was named in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010. He was named to the NFL All-Pro team in 2008 and 2009. The Sporting News, the AP, and the Pro Football Writers all named Johnson to their first team All-Pro teams in both 2008 and 2009.
Johnson led the league in receptions in both 2006 and 2008 and led the league in receiving yards in 2008 and 2009.
Even at nearly 30, Johnson continues to find ways to improve on his game. With continued health and a few more top seasons, Johnson may find himself as the first Texans enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio once he hangs them up for good.