Culture / Sporting Life

John Elway, Kareem Jackson Clown the Texans — Inside a Debacle as Houston Flirts With Cleveland Browns Franchise Misery

Are Texans Fans Losing Real Hope — and Belief?

BY // 12.09.19

Kareem Jackson’s young hype man is on it. “Why is no one talking to JackBoy?” Denver Broncos free safety Justin Simmons asks, calling over to a small group of reporters in the visitors locker room at NRG Stadium. When Simmons is told that Jackson is going to the interview room, the defensive back is unmoved.

“Just call out some questions,” Simmons instructs. “You can’t interview him enough.”

“I don’t want it. I don’t want it,” Jackson insists, buttoning up his shirt.

Everyone in the Broncos locker room cannot wait to talk up Kareem. After all, the veteran safety completely clowned his former team on the field, sparking a four win Denver squad to one of the more shocking blowouts of the entire NFL season.

Jackson’s Broncos do not just upset the Texans. They arguably send them to the most embarrassing defeat in the history of the entire star-crossed franchise. The Texans have more than their share of serious contenders for that dubious distinction, but it’s hard to imagine any of them topping Broncos 38, Texans 24.

Kareem Jackson is not looking to gloat, though. In fact, it almost seems like part of him feels sorry for the team he spent the first nine seasons of his career on.

For while everyone else in the Broncos’ locker room cannot get enough of Jackson tormenting the coach/orchestrator (Bill O’Brien) who didn’t offer him a contract after last season, the man himself is very chill.

“I didn’t want to make it all about me and my return here,” Jackson says. “At the end of the day we had to come here, we had to execute as a team.”

Houston’s dropping into that rare realm of NFL misery where even good things must be met with doubt. This is the land where moribund franchises such as the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns reside.

Broncos linebacker Von Miller admits that this struggling, going nowhere team used Jackson’s return as motivation. Miller, an all-pro who’s been the MVP of a Super Bowl, but he got up at Denver’s team meeting Saturday night and urged everyone to play for Jackson and make a meaningless game for the Broncos matter.

“We weren’t playing for ourselves today,” Miller says. “We were playing for K-Jack. I said it last night. Let’s do it for K-Jack. We all know how important it is to go to your former team and play well.

“We did this one for K-Jack today.” 

How sad is that the Broncos whose non-playoff fate is sealed found plenty to play for while the Texans — who would have held a real chance at playing for one of those priceless first round playoff byes down the stretch with a W — could not rouse themselves?

This is the most damning indictment of O’Brien. The Texans appear to have little fire or motivation with so much on the line.

“Just did not have this team ready to play,” O’Brien says. “I thought I did, but I thought wrong.”

The day starts with Broncos general manager/icon John Elway getting a private elevator ride up to the press box level (can you imagine if he had to share an elevator with the unwashed masses of the media?!) And before long, Elway is starting to feel very much at home at NRG Stadium. There he is on the Broncos sideline, getting a closer look at his latest would be quarterback solution Drew Lock. There Elway is after the game, hanging out just outside the main room of his team’s locker room.

By the time the fourth quarter rolls around, there actually appears to be more orange Broncos jerseys in the stands than Texans fans. The booing’s stopped because anyone who cares enough to boo is gone.

If this sight does not alarm Janice and Cal McNair nothing will.

The Texans have once again shown their fans that they cannot be believed in. Houston’s dropping into that rare realm of NFL misery where even good things must be met with doubt. This is the land where moribund franchises such as the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns permanently reside.

Now, the Texans are practically there. Topple the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football and turn around and lose to a Broncos team that hadn’t beaten a team with a winning record all season the very next week. This is not the unpredictable nature of the National Football League, it’s the letdown nature of the Houston Texans under Bill O’Brien.

How can Texans fans believe in this team?

The Bad Exception

The NFL isn’t actually that unpredictable by mid December. This is when good teams with something to play for beat the bad ones playing out the string. Five teams with winning records play below .500 teams on this Sunday (Green Bay, Minnesota, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Houston).

Every one of those teams except for the Texans take care of business.

“We’re not consistent,” O’Brien admits of his 8-5 team that has wins over the Pats and the Chiefs and loses to the Panthers and Broncos at home. “Again, I feel like we—  you know, I feel like we have a ton of consistent people on the coaching staff and on the team, but we don’t play consistently. We have more wins and losses this year, but I think that’s a fair criticism of this team.

“That’s a reflection of the head coach. We’ve got to get the team to play more consistently.” 

Kareem Jackson coming back to Houston and taking a lateral 70 yards for a touchdown after a Keke Coutee fumble, intercepting a Deshaun Watson pass, separating DeAndre Hopkins from the football on a viscous hit that should have drawn a flag and racking up 11 tackles may be the stuff of homecoming storybooks. But it’s not what beat O’Brien’s team.

That would be allowing a rookie quarterback to complete 16 of his first 19 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Even the Broncos were amazed by their offensive success.

“When we walking off at halftime, (rookie tight end Noah) Fant actually asked me: ‘Is that more points than we’ve scored all season,” Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman says. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I think it was for sure.’ ”

And then some. Denver’s 31 points in the first half blows away its season high for an entire game ( 24) coming into Sunday. This is an offensively challenged team that scored less than 16 points or less in five games this season.

Maybe, Kareem Jackson decides not to join in the gloating for one simple reason. He’s lived through these type of crushing disappointments as a Texan.

Maybe, he just feels sorry for them.

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