The Houston Texans fell to 1-4 after losing to an Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts team in Wk 4. Many fans are predictably pointing the finger at their participation on HBO's Hard Knocks.
Hard Knocks inaugural season was 2001, chronicling the Baltimore Ravens following their Super Bowl victory. The show has been following NFL teams for a total of 10 seasons, including this year's Texans.
During the first four seasons of Hard Knocks, each participating team either regressed or remained awful. The ’01, Ravens fresh off a Super bowl victory and 12-4 season finished 10-6 and lost in the divisional round. Being that only seven teams in NFL history have ever repeated as champions, we’ll ignore that.
The ’02 Cowboys finished with the same 5-11 record they had the prior season. The Cowboys drafted a mediocre, drug abusing college quarterback named Quincy Carter in 2001 to replace the great Troy Aikman; let’s just say that didn’t go very well.
After a short hiatus, "Hard Knocks" returned to document the 2006 Kansas City Chiefs, coming off a 9-7 season in which their quarterback Damon Huard put up an Aaron Rodgers-like pass attempt to interception numbers 244-1 and running back Larry Johnson set the league record for carries in an NFL season (416) which one can presume ultimately led to the injury plagued season which followed. The Chiefs played miserably on offense in ‘07 and finished 4-12.
The 2007 Dallas Cowboys won their division in 2007, finishing 13-3, after a disappointing loss to the New York Giants in the divisional round. Dallas acquired troubled cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones in the offseason, and he proved he’s as good at finding trouble as he is covering receivers. Expectations were high in ’08, but were failed to be met as the “Boys finished (9-7) while enduring a late season collapse in which they lost three out of their last four games to miss the playoffs.
But in 2008, the Cincinnati Bengals signaled a change in "Hard Knock" fortunes, as they flipped a 4-11 record in 2008 into a 10-6 record in 2009. The Jets followed suit going 9-7 in ’09 and then 11-5 in 2010 after appearing on the show. The Miami Dolphins went 6-10 in ’11 and 7-9 in 2012. Next up were the Bengals again, finishing 10-6 in 2012 and 11-5 in 2013, followed by the Atlanta Falcons who went 4-12 in 2013 and 6-10 in 2014.
If you examine the teams whose play suffered while being featured on "Hard Knocks" you'll notice one huge elephant in the room -- inconsistent quarterback play. It’s a well-known fact that the NFL is a QB driven league, and you can’t win without at least manageable play from your most valuable position.
This was also on display during the Texans 27-20 loss last Sunday, which included the benching of their starting quarterback Ryan Mallet. Mallet has the lowest QB completion rating out of all starting quarterbacks this season. Backup Brian Hoyer hasn’t been much better and Houston coach Bill O’Brien can’t seem to make up his mind as to which poison he prefers to indulge in.
“Brian I thought did a good job tonight, but we’ll talk about it, "O’Brien said. I haven’t even talked to the staff yet about it. We’ll sit down and review the film. I thought Brian did a good job though. He went in there, it wasn’t the easiest of circumstances – other than the last play there where he kind of launched it up there. He probably wants to have that one back, but I thought he did a good job. We’ll review it tomorrow and see where we are at that position,”
To give credence to a “Hard Knocks curse” would be ignoring a franchise’s poor decisions, player development and performance. There is no curse. The Houston Texans are just a lousy team right now. Maybe they can get something going on Sunday against an equally-inept Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) squad.