Richard Justice: This wasn’t just a draft for the Texans. It was a complete rebrand

Apr 28, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback CJ Stroud (left), second overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and Texans linebacker Will Anderson Jr., third overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, answer questions at a press conference at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Richard Justice: This wasn’t just a draft for the Texans. It was a complete rebrand

   The Texans did not simply draft two really good football players at the top of this NFL Draft. Hopefully, they drafted a lot more than two, but C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr. are way more important to the Texans than being quality players, solid individuals, etc. Besides, lots of teams draft good players. That’s the easy part of this thing.

   Drafting good players would not be enough for the Texans. Not now, with all the losing and apathy and acres of empty seats at NRG Stadium. This draft was about changing that dynamic, too, about getting folks excited about our NFL team again.

   This was a rebrand as much as it was a draft. Officially, that’ll happen next year with the introduction of new uniforms, colors, etc. In reality, it began 87 days ago when DeMeco Ryans was introduced as head coach. To Texans fans, that felt like a turning of the page.

   Hopefully, we’ll look back down the road and see general manager Nick Caserio’s hiring and the roster churn that followed as the real beginning. Ryans gave the rebuild a face.

   His hiring was greeted with an enthusiasm we haven’t seen from Texans fans in a long, long time. This was the guy they wanted, not just because they believe in his competence, but because he’s one of their own.

   The Texans have been around long enough now to have their own heritage. It’s not a storied heritage like, say, the Cowboys or Packers, but it’s ours.

   (Team histories are tricky things. I was traveling with the Rockets one year during the playoffs when they practiced at the Clippers’ brand-new facility. Near the entrance was a sweet new trophy case that happened to be—wait for it—totally and completely empty. That’s their history.)

   The Texans opened the 2006 draft by selecting Mario Williams with the first overall pick. But they kicked off the second round by taking an even better player: DeMeco Ryans.

   He blew coaches away almost from the start with his ability to make plays and also get teammates in the right spots for the defense that was called. He also had a sweet southern ah-shucks demeanor that played well with teammates, coaches, and reporters.

   Chronicle teammate Dale Robertson still remembers his first interview with Ryans and making a mental note to himself to keep an eye on this kid. He was a good player, but he had an it factor. None of us knows exactly how to define it, but we know it when we see it. Ryans had it.

   NFL head coaches have more of an impact on their teams than those in any other sport, and the hiring of Ryans was a big step for the Texans. In the NFL, the four most important positions are: owner, general manager, head coach, quarterback.

   Teams that are solid at those four spots will win, and that’s where C.J. Stroud enters the mix. The quarterback position is unique in professional sports.

   He’s automatically the face of a franchise—or one of the faces. He’s also part of the marketing department, and once he establishes himself, almost like management because he’ll be consulted or informed on virtually every decision.

   Good quarterbacks give their teams a chance to win virtually every game, and the Texans haven’t had that since Deshuan Watson. Stroud is the prototype NFL quarterback in terms of size and arm strength. His playoff performance against Georgia could be a glimpse of what he’s capable of.

   Caserio put plenty on Stroud’s shoulders when he said it was up to him to earn the job as well as the organization’s respect. But it’s on Caserio to put his quarterback in position to succeed, which means (1) upgrading the quality of the offensive line in front of him, (2) running the ball, and (3) stockpiling playmaking receivers.

   Anderson is capable of changing the Texans in a huge way as well. Ryans will line him up here, there, and everywhere, forcing opposing quarterbacks to account for him on every play.

   He has the speed and strength the Texans haven’t had in a pass rusher since J.J. Watt. To think Anderson will be that level of disruptive force is a big leap forward, but if he’s as good as the Texans think he is, he could join Ryans and Stroud as faces of the franchises.

   One of the best things about this week is seeing how fired up fans and players are about the new additions. This feels like a transformative week for the Texans and that Texans games will once more be Sunday afternoon appointment viewing.

   All in all, a good week. Hopefully, we’ll remember it as one of the best the franchise has ever had.

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