Richard Justice: If Texans fans are going to dream, why not dream big? Looking at you, Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jay LaPrete/AP/Shutterstock (13398333b) Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud would look good in a Texans uniform.

Richard Justice: If Texans fans are going to dream, why not dream big? Looking at you, Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud.

Ohio State hosts Wisconsin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the Horseshoe in Columbus. For Texans fans, this is an opportunity to check out the Buckeyes quarterback. C.J. Stroud is No. 7 in your program, No. 1 on your wishlist.

If you’re going to dream about better days ahead, go ahead dream big. He’s the best quarterback in college football and would instantly put the Texans rebuild on a fast track.

Alabama’s Bryce Young and Kentucky’s Will Levis would do that as well. But Stroud is the best. He’s 6-foot-3 with a rocket of an arm and the poise and presence the special ones have.

He’s almost certain to be the first quarterback taken in next spring’s NFL draft, and Ohio State’s games suddenly become must-watch television. He threw five touchdown passes in a 77-21 blowout of Toledo on Saturday.

This is the bottom line after the Texans dropped a 16-9 decision against a Broncos team that did its best to give the game away. To lose to a team that committed 13 penalties, converted just three third downs and was loudly booed by the home fans for most of the afternoon says plenty about how much work the Texans still have to do.

The Texans are 8-26-1 the last three seasons, and we knew when this season began that general manager Nick Caserio’s franchise rebuild had miles to go.

He has positioned to the Texans to improve rapidly in 2023 and 2024, and a season like this one is about identifying pieces that can be contribute when the Texans contend again. For instance, running back Dameon Pierce.

Quarterback Davis Mills was the player the Texans most needed to find out about this season. If he improves enough to be a contributor on a playoff team, the Texans could use their top pick in 2023 on others, possibly even Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr.

After two games, it would be ridiculous to say he can’t be the guy. So far, though, he has not given anyone the confidence to think he can be. He’s limited by an offense that does not protect him well enough and wide receivers that aren’t talented enough to help him.

He’s probably never going to be one of those guys—Aaron Rogers, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray—capable of fourth quarter magic by turning negative plays into positive ones with his arm or his legs.

Mills is even harder to evaluate when he’s constantly dumping the ball down to secondary receivers. NFL teams can’t win without explosive plays, and Mills doesn’t appear capable of making those explosive plays.

It’s never just on him. But NFL quarterbacks have the most unique role in all of professional sports. They’re paid the most money because they’re the face of a franchise and the guy on whom hope rests late in close games. They’re also the guy expected to stand in the pocket and find an open receiver while knowing a 250-pound linebacker is about to drill him into the ground.

The Texans simply have to get the ball down the field. At least they have to take multiple shots a game. This is part of the growing process. 

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is learning on the job, too, and presumably he’ll also get better. The Texans have two games—at Chicago and the Chargers at home—that do not appear to be winnable.

At this point, their best chances to win again are games against Washington, Cleveland and Indianapolis in the second half of the season. Along the way, coaches will learn plenty more about what they have and don’t have.

 That list begins with a quarterback that can captivate a fan base and get a locker room excited. Here’s where it gets complicated. Because there’s likely to be three franchise quarterbacks available—Stroud, Young, Levis—and because teams like the Falcons, Colts and Seahawks all need quarterbacks, the jockeying for one of those top spots will be intense.

The Texans have two things going for them: One is that they’ve have five picks in the first three rounds of the 2023 draft, including two in the first round.

And this: Their roster is bottom three in the NFL in talent. Their lack of offensive firepower makes the outcome of games predictable. Even when the Broncos were struggling on Sunday, even when they were getting booed off the field and their new head coach, Nathaniel Hackett, was making one head-scratching decision after another, it still did not feel like a game the Texans would win.

Caserio will put them in position to win again. C.J. Stroud would put them in position to be must-watch football again.

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