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The Miracle Texans Screw Themselves Out Of The No. 1 Pick

5:38 PM EST on January 8, 2023

Jordan Akins catches a ball for a two-point conversion
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Lovie Smith used to be the head coach of the Chicago Bears, and for the moment he is the head coach of the Houston Texans. The Texans won their game against Indianapolis Sunday by converting a late two-point conversion in a valueless game when a loss would have won them the first pick in the upcoming NFL human auction. The Bears, on the other hand, did their duty against Minnesota and will have the first pick instead.

Something sinister, or something more sinister than merely sinister? What did Lovie Smith know, and when did he know it? Quick, seize his phone and track his financials!

In the perfect world, there would be something in all this tinfoil-hat oopty doopty—Smith on the verge of being fired (and perhaps in tandem with general manager Nick Caserio) decides to do a solid for his old employers and jam one more finger in Cal McNair's eye. Of course, we don't live that well. Smith acted on principle, Herm Edwards-ing the day when the Texans' front office needed him and his fellow employees to lie down and stay down like the elderly spaniels they have been.

Instead, the Bears did nothing of note in their capitulation to Minnesota and won the league's first pick for the first time in 76 years. That year, they jumped all over injury-prone Oklahoma State running back Bob "The Blonde Bomber" Fenimore, who put in 10 entire games before realizing his future lay in insurance, which is very Bears indeed.

The Texans have existed for one-fifth the time the Bears have existed and already had three No. 1 picks. They've turned them into David Carr, Mario Williams and Jadeveon Clowney. Carr was beaten into plowshares, Williams was a better Buffalo Bill than he was a Texan, and Clowney was supposed to be a foundational piece who hasn't been one in any of his four NFL stops. He just talked his way out playing for Cleveland, which is maybe the most amazing feat of his career.

In short, having the first pick only really matters if you're smart enough to take the right first pick, so tanking for the choice is only half the fun. If the Texans had it, they very likely would have taken Alabama quarterback Bryce Young or Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, but the Bears have an elite quarterbacking running back in Justin Fields, whose fantasy exploits did nothing to help the Bears win that elusive fourth game. In other words, the Bears have needs that far exceed QB, and could either opt for Young's defensive teammate Will Anderson or Georgia's Jalen Carter. Most intriguingly, they could put either Fields or the pick up on the trading block and keep one alongside a sweet new haul.

Houston has no such leverage at No. 2, but even if they get the quarterback they need, it all remains problematic because the Texans put the Glitter Fonk in organizational dysfunction. They could sign both Young and Stroud and ruin both because they are the Texans. Gravity, you see, is one nasty bastard.

That supercilious debate, though, is for NFL Nerdtron. What is important in our own version of fantasy football is that Lovie Smith, after an entire year of losing, learned he was unjustifiably on Cal McNair's hot seat and decided to roger the ingrate one final time. Even if he didn't, it's the narrative we want, and on a day when we were soaked in Damar Hamlin and J.J. Watt narratives, we want a revenge story. In an otherwise useless season by an utterly useless franchise, this is absolutely the best way to end whatever the hell this era in Houston pro football is—losing by winning after a year of losing by losing.

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