Results are everything in the NFL. As much as discourse focuses endlessly on building a good process, with the idea that it will more reliably yield good results, it may never come close to the power of good fortune in shaping the destiny of a team. The Houston Texans are currently riding a wave of good fortune and could be the first team since 2012 to make the playoffs with a rookie quarterback and head coach.
Obviously, the Texans are doing a lot of good things. The hiring of DeMeco Ryans may prove to be their smartest move that was entirely within their control, but their quarterback situation shows the power of sliding doors moments in shaping the direction of a franchise.
In the final game of the 2022 regular season, outgoing Texans coach Lovie Smith notched his third win of the season — what seemed like an inconsequential victory against the Indianapolis Colts — and one that they needed to go for a two-point conversion late in the game to complete. That win took Houston out of the No. 1 overall spot in the 2023 NFL Draft that they had occupied for most of the season and gave away control of which quarterback they would be selecting.
Reports have been widespread that the Texans would have selected Bryce Young had he been available, but that the team was comfortable with C.J. Stroud if not. But the critical thing is that Houston's front office no longer had the power to make that decision; it was at the mercy of another team evaluating the two passers.
It’s impossible to determine what each rookie passer would look like in the other’s shoes — maybe Young would look like Rookie of the Year in Houston and Stroud would be equally helpless in the Panthers' dumpster fire on offense this year — but all we can say is that Stroud has been outstanding for the Texans and there is no guarantee that would be true with a different player.