Veteran safety Justin Reid emphasized that, while the Texans aren’t winning football games right now, they aren’t losing their solidarity and bond in the locker room.
A year ago, the Texans endured a 4-12 season that included coach and general manager Bill O’Brien being fired after an 0-4 start and replaced by interim coach Romeo Crennel. And Reid could feel the locker room splintering and slowly eroding.
Now, the Texans are off to a 1-4 start and are mired in a four-game losing streak.
As painful as the losing has been heading into a key AFC South road game Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Reid said the feeling around the team is entirely different on a veteran-laden roster that includes a lot of older, established players. What hasn't ensued: finger-pointing.
“Well, the benefit of having such a veteran team is there’s a lot of leaders,” said Reid, who has two interceptions and one forced fumble. “It’s not just me, myself. It definitely makes it easier when there are multiple voices all saying the same thing, as far as staying positive, staying in your keys, not letting the record splinter relationships or divide the locker room. The guys who are still here from last year, there’s not many of us.
“The guys that are still here from last year, we know what that looks like when the locker room starts to fall apart. Right now at this point this year and where it was last year, it’s completely different stories. The locker room has definitely held together much more closely this year, and we’ve just got to keep plugging away and have it show up on Sunday.”
Reid could feel it happening when the Texans began to lose their grip last season. It wasn’t just the losing. It was the feeling of the season’s relevance fading away and the uncertainty that crept in months before chairman and CEO Cal McNair hired new leadership in general manager Nick Caserio and coach David Culley.
“When your head coach gets fired, that’s when it feels like it starts to process,” Reid said. “It’s not like it happens overnight, it’s just a slow creep in.”
A year later, the Texans are still trying to right the ship. Reid said he talks more with defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, his older brother, former NFL safety Eric Reid, Stanford coach David Shaw and his agent, Joel Segal.
“Honestly, I try and dive into it,” Reid said. “I try and look at myself. I have a lot of people in my corner, and I’m fortunate for that.”
The Texans won their first game of the season, defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars and are 1-0 in AFC South games. They’re behind the Tennessee Titans (3-2 overall, 2-0 in division play). The Colts are 1-4 like the Texans and 0-1 in the division. A victory Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium could be significant for the Texans.
“Absolutely, it would be enormous because we would be 2-0 in the division,” Reid said. “The quickest way to the playoffs is to win your division. This is a divisional opponent, an opponent that we know well. They know us well as far as franchise-on-franchise, going to be an exciting game to go play in.”
Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks said the losing streak is a topic of conversation in the locker room. It’s a conversation the Texans want to change as soon as possible starting with the Colts, who lost in overtime Monday night to the Baltimore Ravens after squandering a lead against star quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“We talk about it a little bit, but, at the end of the day, we just need to get back in that win column,” Cooks said. “Obviously, everything that we want is still in front of us, but we got to really focus on one week at a time. The next up is the Colts, and that’s what we have to be focused on. We can’t get too ahead of ourselves, especially in the position that we are in.
“Any time you have a division game, it’s always going to be a little bit different because in this league, the first thing you think about is winning your division. And here we have another opportunity to play a division opponent after coming off a tough loss, so it’s very important.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.