1. Who is the quarterback of the future for Texans?
Houston quarterback Ryan Mallett, after a nasty loss to Cincinnati, was asked if his hand was injured. "My hand's OK," he said.
His hand may have been OK, but Mallett suffered a right pectoral injury, as the Houston Chronicle first reported. The injury caused Mallett, in his words, to "not play well. I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn from five yards away."
The injury requires season-ending surgery, so we will see Ryan Fitzpatrick going forward, and once again, here we are, with one of the most promising and well-run organizations in all of football looking to fill the most important position.
I don't know if Mallett was the guy, anyway. I know Fitzpatrick isn't.
The most interesting thing about the Texans is that this is a franchise on the rise. The Texans and Cleveland Browns are the two most promising teams in the NFL. Yeah, I said it, the Texans and Browns.
The Texans are run smartly—from their front office to their PR staff to the coaches—and are building the right way. J.J. Watt is a transformative, generational player. They have depth. Good running backs. Building at the wide receiver position.
The only thing that jeopardizes it all is the quarterback spot.
One thing I have heard for some time from NFL team executives and scouts is that many expect Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston to fall to the middle portion of the first round. This is where, approximately, the Texans will be.
The Texans would actually be a perfect fit for Winston. A coach who can reach him, on a team with veterans like Watt, in a non-hostile media environment.
The Texans don't need Aaron Rodgers (though that would be nice). They just need consistent competence. Think Brian Hoyer. Not great. Not flashy. And yes, Hoyer makes mistakes, but the Browns' blueprint of relying heavily on defense, running the football and the occasional explosive receiving play downfield is perfect for the Texans.
I see Houston as potentially a Super Bowl contender in just a few years. Yeah, I said it. When I said at the beginning of this year that the Browns would be good, people chuckled. Yet here they are. The Texans can do the same thing.
All they need is a capable thrower. Not a star. Not a Manning. Just steady.
2. Texans' future
Can't stress this enough after spending almost a week around the Texans' franchise for an upcoming story: This franchise is going places. Bill O'Brien is just one positive component who has quickly become highly respected in that locker room, but the Texans' brass are making smart draft choices all up and down the roster.
3. Tricked rookie
We're starting to see life from Jadeveon Clowney. He's recovering from injuries, and it may be only a matter of time before Watt and Clowney become the crazy-good duo the Texans envisioned.
But for now there are learning experiences. Clowney against the Cincinnati Bengals had a neutral zone infraction penalty on third down in the fourth quarter. Clowney had been doing something very smart all game: He watched for much of the game how, prior to the snap of the football, the left guard would tap the center's hip, and then the center would look to the right, and then snap the football.
So Clowney keyed off of that. But then the Bengals changed things. The center looked to the right twice instead of once. Clowney jumped. Penalty.
Just another learning experience for the rookie.
4. Practically worthless stat...except for Unitas
Sounds impressive, but it's more an indicator of where the NFL is today. Four of the five longest TD streaks in league history have come since 2009:
|Consecutive games with a TD pass|
|Drew Brees, Saints||2009-2012||54|
|Tom Brady, Patriots||2010-2013||52|
|Peyton Manning, Colts and Broncos||2010-current||50|
|Johnny Unitas, Colts||1956-1960||47|
|Tony Romo, Cowboys||2012-current||38|
It's only a matter of time before other young throwers like Andrew Luck eventually join this list. This feat is not as difficult as it seems due to the rules. If three quarterbacks can do it in five years, how tough can it be?
There is one exception, and that is Johnny Unitas. He threw TD passes in 47 straight games from 1956-1960. He did it at a time when defensive backs were allowed to pummel wide receivers all over the field, and quarterbacks could be physically battered far more than now.
That stat, the Unitas portion of it, actually means a great deal. The others, not so much.
5. Bold Boldin
I point this out because I've long believed Anquan Boldin to be maybe the most underrated football player of the past decade or longer. He had 137 yards receiving Sunday, moving past Derrick Mason, Hines Ward and Charlie Joiner to 20th among the career receiving yards leaders. Boldin now has 12,169 career yards.
They have been tough yards. Brutal yards. Yards across the middle. He's had an exemplary career, and he's not there yet, but he's reaching Hall of Fame territory.
Why? Just why? Whyyyyyyyy?
It was the last play of the game.
What's the point of doing that? The game is over.
The NFL needs to fine players who do that crap. It's totally unneeded. The game is brutal enough.
A note that utterly fascinates me and probably only me: The Patriots will have their 14th consecutive winning season. Fourteen. They've had winning seasons from 2001 through this season. According to the league, the Patriots are only the sixth team in league history to reach this level of winning and the first since the San Francisco 49ers had 16 straight winning seasons from 1983-1998.
The two keys with both are obvious: the quarterbacks. The Patriots have had Tom Brady, and the 49ers had Joe Montana and Steve Young.
8. Unbelievable Part II
From Bengals writer Paul Dehner:
They haven't been the Bungles in a long time, but this is just more proof they have turned things around.
9. RGIII won't be in D.C.
This isn't based on any specific conversation with anyone in the Washington organization, but based on what people around the NFL believe, Jay Gruden's public comments are laying the groundwork for the team to dump Robert Griffin III—or, at the very least, set it up so there is an open competition next season.
I can't find a single person in the league who doesn't believe in one or the other scenario.
My opinion: The team will find a way to move on from Griffin. Everything is trending that way. I even think the owner is open to it now.
10. On Manziel and professionalism
Yes, Manziel is a grown-ass man. Yes, he can party at two in the morning if he wants because he is a grown-ass man. And yes, it's a little odd for one grown-ass man to hug another grown-ass man (via clevescene.com) he has never met. So I get all that.
But incidents like these are the reason Manziel isn't starting. In camp, he had closed the gap somewhat between himself and Brian Hoyer, but Hoyer is uber-professional. The franchise trusts Hoyer a great deal, even though he might not be as talented as Manziel. It's why Ray Farmer, the team's general manager, mentioned as part of his statement the notion of decision-making. That was not an accidental choice of words.
The fact the alleged victim has a, well, interesting background is irrelevant. If you're Manziel, you keep a low profile because of past controversies. You show the organization all you care about is being a pro. You channel your inner Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson and pop in some Trek DVDs and go to bed at midnight.
There will always be time for partying and the bros. For now, Manziel needs to focus on just football…and growing up.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.