Now that the dust is settling after the Texans abrupt exit from the playoff party, it's time to take stock of where this franchise is.
I'm very careful to try to include other clubs in any evaluation. If you don't, you're not taking into account what this is all about, which is beating the other teams in the ring.
Too often, people (fans, media, your relatives) critique the Texans in a vacuum. They act as if this is the only team in the league. They'll talk about a particular draft without considering how other teams drafted that year (or any year, really).
They'll forget that actually making the playoffs is a big accomplishment in the NFL. They'll omit that if you're consistently in the postseason pool, you're doing so many things right.
This isn't to say that losing to the Colts on Wild Card weekend should be cause for celebration. It was a bad day from which everyone in the organization wants to rebound as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Getting to the playoff stage is just step one. The next time the young Texans get there they know they have to be much better.
But let's zoom out and survey the landscape that your Texans have been operating in.
The first nine years of franchise history were extremely tough. It took them six years to hit .500 and eight to register their first winning season. But once they broke through to the postseason in 2011, they've been among the leading teams in the league in winning seasons, playoff appearances and playoff victories.
Since 2011, they've won three playoff games. That's certainly not nearly as many as they want, yet it does put them in the top 10 of the NFL.
They also have six winning seasons during that time frame, which puts them in a tie for third in the league. They are one of eight teams to have winning seasons in at least three of the last four years and one of only five to make the postseason at least three times during that span.
And before you start knocking the AFC South, remember that this is the only division in the NFL that had three winning teams in 2018. They had two squads make the postseason in each of the last two years.
And you'll notice that I didn't put anything up about the Texans winning five division titles during the last eight years. I threw them into the mix with all the playoff teams, division winners or not, to quiet the AFC South doubters.
This is a winning franchise that seeks to take the next step. For years, we've been saying that the most crucial element they've lacked is a franchise quarterback. Now they have one. He's 23 years old and ready for his 23rd start on opening day.
The object of every offseason is to get better. There are certainly some key areas of need. Bill O'Brien and Brian Gaine enter Year 2 of their partnership with three picks in the first two rounds of the draft, after having none last year. They also have a truckload of cap room.
Year 1 together, with Deshaun Watson at the helm, produced 11 wins and a division title. It also served to show them what they could add moving forward.
We're all excited to see what the next chapter looks like.
Check out the best celebration shots from the 2018 season.