Culture / Sporting Life

Worst Trade Ever — Giving Away DeAndre Hopkins is the Texans’ Low of All Texans’ Lows

Jettisoning the NFL's Best Receiver and Much of His Franchise's Heart Will Forever Haunt Bill O'Brien

BY // 03.16.20

Leave it to Bill O’Brien and the NFL to remind us that we’re all expendable in the middle of a pandemic.

On the day that sports transactions returned, O’Brien traded away the best receiver in the NFL and in many ways, the heart and soul of the entire franchise. DeAndre Hopkins is gone, jettisoned in favor of David Johnson, a former fantasy football god who lost his job to a Miami Dolphins reject last season.

Say what?

It’s too bad that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell cannot step in and void this monstrosity of a trade, David Stern style (see Paul, Chris). But that would require Goodell to use his powers for good. Something Janice McNair and Cal McNair already apparently failed to do.

So we get another power flex from O’Brien, who apparently holds the New England Patriots belief that receivers are expendable. The full trade — Hopkins and a fourth round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for Johnson, a second round pick this year and a fourth round pick in 2021 — lets O’Brien recoup some of the draft picks he dealt away in prior deals.

It also eliminates the prospect of the Texans having to rework the contract of the NFL’s best receiver to something that better approximates DeAndre Hopkins true worth in 2020. (The Cardinals and Hopkins will reportedly work on reworking his current deal.)

None of that can come close to justifying this trade. Even some of the true company men in the Houston media are going to have trouble trying to defend this deal. Some of them will attempt to twist themselves into positions only Simone Biles could pull off to do it.

Hopkins is not just the NFL’s top player at his position. He is also a huge chunk of the heart of the Texans’ organization. Yes, quarterback Deshaun Watson is the player the franchise’s on-field fortunes revolve around. Yes, J.J. Watt is the community changer who raised $37 million to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, the forever icon who still continues to do great good today.

But DeAndre Hopkins is the player who gave the Texans’ swag — the sense that they could pull off those can-you-believe-it plays that used to be the provenance of other franchises. Hopkins is so good that even some of the catches he made that didn’t count became permanent highlights. Because they were still just that spectacular.

There is no good reason in the world to walk away from a player like that who is clearly still in his prime at age 27.

Certainly not for a 28-year-old running back who’s looked like a shadow of his former self the last two seasons. David Johnson hasn’t had a good year since 2016. There is no guarantee he even will be better than Carlos Hyde, who O’Brien got off the scrap heap last offseason and who could have been resigned for much less of a cost than giving up Deandre Hopkins.

Yes, Hopkins and the Coach/GM/Texans franchise overlord are not buddies, but that’s no reason to trade him. Hopkins never came close to causing the kind of disruptions that diva receivers like Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. have created elsewhere.

Instead, Hopkins played the second half of that playoff game in Kansas City with  broken ribs, wincing all the way but refusing to take himself out of the game. Instead, Hopkins handed off footballs to his blind mother, who fought back from a horrific domestic violence attack to always be there for her son. DeAndre Hopkins is the best kind of sports story — and one of the most interesting players in the entire NFL.

This is a guy who loves fashion so much that he probably belongs on an NBA runway instead. The Texans star dressed, acted and talked differently than most of his locker room peers. He cared about things many of them never even considered.

DeAndre Hopkins ad
DeAndre Hopkins is a different type of NFL superstar.

Long before soccer became as popular as it is today, before even guys like J.J. Watt adopted a team, Hopkins was the only player in the Texans locker room who asked me about a Manchester United jacket I used to wear. And he genuinely knew even more about the team and the Premier League than I did.

Hopkins was naturally curious, something of a rarity among professional athletes, who are often cloistered and protected most of their lives. He made friends with people in Houston far outside the usual athlete hanger-on world. You might run into DeAndre Hopkins at an art opening — or find him pumping up a local mom-and-pop restaurant.

DeAndre Hopkins, True Houston Original

DeAndre Hopkins is a true original — and the Texans are a lesser franchise today for sending him away. In many ways, Hopkins is a real example of a true Houstonian, someone who came from elsewhere, adopted this city as his own, did great things here and made real connections with people far outside of his expected social circle.

DeAndre Hopkins is the player who gave the Texans’ swag — the sense that they could pull off those can-you-believe-it plays that used to be the provenance of other franchises.

Bill O’Brien actually absolutely made the right call on that fourth down fake punt in Kansas City that brought him such grief. But he absolutely made the wrong one with this inexplicable Hopkins move.

The Texans gave away the best receiver in the league, a man who made winning, game-changing plays (like that overtime catch-and-run against the Dallas Cowboys) and a huge part of their heart. Nothing can make this trade right.

If former Texans GM Brian Gaine helped stop O’Brien from trading Hopkins before then Gaine should be rehired and given a raise immediately on principle alone.

O’Brien could be a striking an unintentional blow for social distancing, though. For even the most party-prone Texans fan is not going to feel like going out anywhere to celebrate tonight.

DeAndre Hopkins is gone? Maybe sports should have really completely stayed away.

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