The Houston Texans Won The Offseason – Is That Bad?

There’s no official trophy given out for the team that wins the offseason. It’s a purely vibes-based award and it’s hard to even define year-to-year criteria. There’s not even a consensus on which team won the offseason some years. 

Will Anderson

But this past offseason, the Houston Texans came about as close as any team for a while in securing the undisputed offseason championship title. The vibes in Houston around the Texans are immaculate. Not only did the Texans sweep the 2024 Rookie of the Year awards thanks to QB C.J. Stroud and DE Will Anderson Jr. — and were within a whisker of first-year HC DeMeco Ryans winning Coach of the Year — they spent this offseason supercharging a team that won the AFC South a year after earning the No. 2 pick in the draft. 

Houston’s headline additions this offseason included a trade for WR Stefon Diggs, giving them a receiving trio between Diggs, Nico Collins and Tank Dell that arguably is the best in the NFL. On defense, they swung big in free agency to land DE Danielle Hunter and give them a legit double-digit sack threat across from Anderson. They also added DL Denico Autry and LB Azeez Al-Shaair on big contracts to fortify the defense further, traded for RB Joe Mixon to try and shore up a ground attack that was a weakness in 2023 and added potential starting caliber veterans in CB Jeff Okudah, CB C.J. Henderson, DT Tim Settle and DT Folorunso Fatukasi


All of this is in addition to stalwarts on the roster already like Stroud, Anderson, the receiving corps, CB Derek Stingley, LT Laremy Tunsil, G Shaq Mason, OL Tytus Howard, TE Dalton Schultz, S Jalen Pitre and S Jimmie Ward. Sportsbooks have the Texans with the highest projected win total in the AFC South in 2024 and Houston is favored to win the division for the second straight year. There’s even talk in Houston about challenging the Chiefs for AFC supremacy and upsetting their bid for a third straight Super Bowl. 

Of course, winning in March and April is completely different than winning in the fall or January. History is littered with teams that couldn’t translate offseason success into wins during the regular season and playoffs. One of the most infamous examples of this was the “Dream Team” Eagles in 2011, who got the moniker from comments backup QB Vince Young made in training camp after an offseason of high-profile additions. Philadelphia ultimately struggled to an 8-8 season and missed the playoffs. 

Plenty of other teams have failed to translate hype from March and April into tangible on-field success — so much so that “winning” the offseason has become a pejorative for some fans, analysts and even NFL personnel. That begs the question; is this bad news for the Texans? 


How Do Offseason Winners Fare? 

The question seems simple — does winning the offseason help or hurt a team’s chances of having success in the subsequent season? But drill down deeper and it becomes a more elusive question to nail down any kind of scientific answer. There are no record books or databases of who “won” the offseason, it’s all subjective and based on snapshot analysis. So to answer the question, we also have to lean on vibes. 

I went year by year for the last decade or so combing through offseason articles to try and pinpoint who the offseason winners were. Recency bias is a major factor — everyone remembers the hype around the Jets last year — but things become much fuzzier figuring out the summer mood around a team a decade ago or more.

After finding the offseason winner, it’s simple enough to check the results for the following regular season and see if they lived up to expectations. From there, we can try and find common threads between the teams that lived up to the hype and the teams that didn’t. 


2023 New York Jets

Spoiler alert: this won’t be the first time the Jets appear on this list. Being in a major media market helps fan the flames of the hype when a team has a good offseason. The Jets were a trendy pick after landing QB Aaron Rodgers in a trade to go along with a team that had been built up through both the draft and free agency. They were supposed to be the classic “just a quarterback away” team. 

Of course, you know how that ended. Rodgers popped his Achilles four plays into the season opener and the Jets flailed through another disappointing season. We’ll never know what would have happened had Rodgers stayed healthy but there were issues besides quarterback play in New York last year. 


2022 Los Angeles Chargers/Denver Broncos/Las Vegas Raiders

There was a significant arms race in the AFC West in 2022 as the rest of the division tried (unsuccessfully) to catch up to the Chiefs. Denver swung for the fences to try and solve quarterback problems that had persisted for years, trading the farm for QB Russell Wilson. The Chargers poured resources into then-HC Brandon Staley’s defense, trading for OLB Khalil Mack and signing CB J.C. Jackson to an enormous free agent contract, along with other notable deals for DL Austin Johnson, DL Sebastian Joseph-Day and TE Gerald Everett. The Raiders traded first and second-round picks for WR Davante Adams and added OLB Chandler Jones in free agency. 

Things malfunctioned for the Broncos and Raiders almost immediately. Wilson and Broncos HC Nathaniel Hackett were like oil and water. The offense was unwatchable and Hackett didn’t make it through the full season. The Raiders started 2-7, moved on from QB Derek Carr after the season, then moved on from HC Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler after less than two years. 

The Chargers at least made the playoffs but blew a 27-0 lead against the Jaguars in the wildcard round, a hit Staley never recovered from. He failed to fix the defense despite it being his specialty and was out after the 2023 season. 


2021 New York Jets/New England Patriots/Los Angeles Rams

I’ll let a Bleacher Report article about the winners and losers of the 2021 offseason provide a little time capsule into how people were feeling about the Jets: 

“New York replaced [Adam] Gase with respected coach Robert Saleh and hired offensive guru Mike LaFleur to coach the offense. It then traded 2018 draft disappointment Sam Darnold and tapped BYU’s Zach Wilson as the quarterback of the future with the No. 2 pick.

Wilson has the tools needed to be the Jets’ long-coveted franchise signal-caller.

‘Overall, Wilson is a legit franchise QB prospect who will add excitement and explosive plays to whatever offense he joins,’ Nate Tice of the B/R scouting department wrote.


The Jets further bolstered their offense by drafting guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, wideout Elijah Moore and running back Michael Carter. Toss in notable free-agent additions like Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman, Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry, and it’s hard not to be impressed with what the Jets have accomplished in a few short months.”

This didn’t age well. The Jets won just four games in 2021. Wilson struggled in his rookie season and was traded after three seasons in New York. LaFleur was ousted after two seasons after butting heads with Wilson, Moore and others. Moore was also traded. Carter is no longer on the team either. Davis, Coleman, Lawson and Curry all had minimal impact, partially due to injuries. 

Elsewhere, the Patriots also got praise for their offseason work in 2021. New England spent the most money of any team in free agency that year, going on a $163 million shopping spree that culminated in adding OLB Matt Judon, TE Hunter Henry, TE Jonnu Smith, WR Nelson Agholor, WR Kendrick Bourne, CB Jalen Mills, DT Davon Godchaux and LB Kyle Van Noy. It did end up providing a short-term boost and helping the Patriots make the playoffs in QB Mac Jones’ rookie season, but things went off the rails in subsequent seasons. 


The Rams have to be mentioned here as even though they weren’t active in terms of quantity of transactions, they made the biggest move of 2021 by trading QB Jared Goff for QB Matthew Stafford. Midseason additions of OLB Von Miller and WR Odell Beckham Jr. proved pivotal in the Rams winning the Super Bowl, even though those weren’t offseason moves. The Rams still remain a reminder of the upside of a team pushing all its chips to the middle of the table. 

2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 2020 Bucs are the best-case scenario for winning the offseason. The team made one of the biggest free agent signings in history by landing QB Tom Brady after his exit from New England. They also fortified the roster around him by trading for TE Rob Gronkowski and re-signing OLB Shaquil Barrett, DT Ndamukong Suh and OLB Jason Pierre-Paul. The additions continued during the season with RB Leonard Fournette and WR Antonio Brown

It wasn’t a completely smooth ride, as the Buccaneers were 7-5 at one point. But they hit a groove and got hot when it mattered. They’re one of the few teams that’s been able to thwart the Chiefs in the past several years, toppling Kansas City in the Super Bowl in the Bucs’ home stadium. 


2019 Cleveland Browns/Oakland Raiders

The Browns went into the 2019 season with high expectations following a promising end to the 2020 season with No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield and interim OC Freddie Kitchens seemingly building great chemistry. Kitchens got the promotion to the full-time job and the Browns swung big trades for WR Odell Beckham Jr. and DE Olivier Vernon to try and push the roster forward after years of rebuilding. Other notable additions included RB Kareem Hunt and DT Sheldon Richardson. It felt like the Browns were on the verge of ending their years-long playoff drought, maybe more. 

Instead, Kitchens proved to be in over his head as a head coach. Mayfield regressed and the offense sputtered. After finishing 7-8-1 the previous season, the Browns took a step back and finished 6-10 in 2019. Kitchens was fired after the season. 

The Raiders were in their final season in Oakland and HC Jon Gruden had just hired GM Mike Mayock, who had worked up until then as a draft analyst at NFL Network. Mayock and Gruden made some big splashes that offseason to further put their stamp on the team, spending big in free agency on OT Trent Brown, WR Tyrell Williams and S LaMarcus Joyner. They also added infamous names like G Richie Incognito and LB Vontaze Burfict and made three first-round picks with extra draft ammo acquired by trading OLB Khalil Mack and WR Amari Cooper the previous year. 


But the biggest splash by far was the trade for disgruntled Steelers WR Antonio Brown, who at the time was the best wideout in the NFL. The Raiders gave Brown a new contract as a part of the deal that maintained his status as the league’s highest-paid receiver. 

Brown never played a game for the Raiders. 

In a series of events that still defies description years later, Brown barely practiced during training camp with the Raiders due to squabbles over cryogenically frozen feet, a new helmet he was forced to switch and misses practices. He even had a verbal altercation with Mayock. The Raiders voided Brown’s guarantees and cut him right before Week 1. 

The rest of their season didn’t go as poorly as that move, but the Raiders still missed the playoffs, collapsing down the stretch after a 6-4 start. Almost none of their major moves in 2019 ended up working out. 


2018 Chicago Bears

Chicago got aggressive in 2018 in an attempt to right the ship after several lean years for the organization. New HC Matt Nagy was hired to get former No. 2 pick Mitchell Trubisky back on track, and improving Trubisky’s supporting cast was a major point of emphasis. The Bears signed WR Allen Robinson, TE Trey Burton and WR Taylor Gabriel to beef up the offense. Right before the season, the Bears swung a massive trade for OLB Khalil Mack from the Raiders. 

It worked — kind of. The Bears made the playoffs thanks to having the No. 1 scoring defense and Trubisky’s most productive season as a professional. However, the Bears flopped in the wildcard round to the Eagles on the infamous “Double Doink” miss from K Cody Parkey. The 12-4 record was the high mark for Nagy and Trubisky, and both were gone within three seasons. 

2017 Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars were no strangers to big free agent spending sprees but in 2017 they hit the right mix of additions and it paid off in a huge way. They signed DL Calais Campbell, CB A.J. Bouye and S Barry Church during free agency, and those three teamed up with a defense that already included CB Jalen Ramsey, DT Marcell Dareus, DT Malik Jackson, DE Yannick Ngakoue, LB Telvin Smith and LB Myles Jack. The “Sacksonville Jaguars” ranked second in the NFL in both scoring and total defense in 2017 and made it to the divisional round of the playoffs. 


2016 New York Giants

The 2016 season stands out as an aberration when looking at the past decade or so of Giants seasons. It’s their only double-digit win season since 2010 and just their second playoff berth since winning the Super Bowl in 2011. New York was No. 2 in scoring defense and No. 10 in total defense after ranking 30th and 32nd the year before (they’d slip to 27th and 31st the following season). 

That jump was keyed by a major free agency spending spree in which the Giants added DT Damon Harrison, CB Janoris Jenkins and DE Olivier Vernon. That trio combined with S Landon Collins and OLB Jason Pierre-Paul to form a dangerous defense. Jenkins and Collins were named to the Pro Bowl and Collins and Harrison were All-Pro selections.

What’s The Verdict? 

We have a sample of 13 teams over the past eight offseasons who entered the regular season as trendy “winners. Of that group, seven, or more than half, finished with winning records and with a playoff berth. 

Team Record Playoffs
2023 NYJ 7-10 N
2022 LAC 10-7 Y
2022 DEN 5-12 N
2022 LV 6-11 N
2021 NYJ 4-13 N
2021 NE 10-7 Y
2021 LAR 12-5 Y
2020 TB 11-5 Y
2019 CLE 6-10 N
2019 LV 7-9 N
2018 CHI 12-4 Y
2017 JAX 10-6 Y
2016 NYG 11-5 Y


That’s actually a pretty strong performance and does bode well for Houston. A 50 percent success rate is strong in a lot of areas around the NFL, and you can make an easy case that Houston compares favorably to the best teams on this list. 


Quarterback play is a significant variable, and Houston’s in a good place with Stroud. Not only was Stroud great for a rookie, he was great, period. He played like a top-ten quarterback for most of the season and there’s no reason to think he won’t pick up where he left off, or even improve, in 2024. 

Most of the teams that lived up to the hype of winning the offseason also ended up being pretty good on defense. The Texans have a chance to take a step forward on that side of the ball as they were No. 11 in scoring defense in the first year under Ryans. The addition of Hunter could be huge here. Ryans’ best defenses in San Francisco were deep on the defensive line. 

If we flip it around and look at the teams that failed to follow through on a promising offseason, coaching failures loomed large. You had multiple teams with Nathaniel Hackett calling plays — though in fairness to Hackett it should be pointed out he was the play-caller for the Jaguars in 2017. Kitchens and McDaniels were flops, too. Jets HC Robert Saleh is on this list twice, and while he’s not viewed as a failed head coach yet, he’s under a lot of pressure this year and has an 18-33 record in three seasons. 


There’s also a common thread of the teams that flopped mis-evaluating their major additions, while the teams that succeeded connected on their big swings. That feels obvious to say, but it does underscore some of the uncertainty with player acquisition. After all, there’s a reason guys like Hunter, Diggs and Mixon were available for the Texans. Time will tell whether the Texans evaluated them correctly or if their former teams did. 

Even if Houston misses, though, that’s not the end of the line. The 2022 Chargers didn’t get the impact they were hoping from with their big-ticket player additions, but they had a mega talent at quarterback in Justin Herbert and it papered over a lot of flaws. Just like so much in the NFL, it all leads back to the quarterback. As long as Stroud stays as good as he was last year, the Texans should be in great shape. 

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