Houston Texans need to read the analytics and realize run game is crucial to their success

Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

The Houston Texans wanted to make the ground game their forte in 2021.

That didn’t happen one bit, as the Houston Texans were dead last in league with 1,422 rushing yards. Every Texans fan by now knows that the five running backs on the roster “experiment” was tested, and the conclusion is a well-known failure.

There’s nothing wrong with trying that, but the pressure is one to make sure the experiment will work. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any adjustment to the ground game, and as a result, the second-worst rushing season in terms of output was achieved. With 75 yards separating the 2021 squad from the 2002 expansion season, it’s safe to say that this situation is as dire as ever.

To illustrate this to the best of my ability (and share it on this platform), I enlisted the help of ProFootballReference and StatMuse.com to help make these charts. Unfortunately, since neither of them currently offer an option to embed a graphic chart, I used Google Sheets to illustrate the visual look.

Let’s start with the rushing yards by year:

Thanks to a few productive seasons that were 1600 yards or more for the team, that’s why you see the red trendline having a gradual increase. However, ever since the 2019 season ended, Houston hasn’t been able to run the ball more effectively- as seen by their eight wins in two seasons.

Causation doesn’t always equal correlation, so a team can get away without having a great run game and win a handful of games. But, sooner or later, it does come back to bite you if the passing game gets shut down. So who were the leading rushers by year, and what can we learn from the past?

The Houston Texans have had a steady decline in their leading rusher

This trendline shows that it’s been downhill ever since Arian Foster’s breakout season. Of course, the league has been increasingly heavy on passing the ball, so that has to be acknowledged.

The rushing attack was so bad that not even a career game from Rex Burkhead didn’t save him from being the worst-performing individual rushing leader in a season. Burkhead’s 427 yards were still 10 yards less than Steve Slaton’s 437.

So what does this all mean? Is the rushing game to blame for the Houston Texans’ lack of winning, or are the top rushers each season not doing their part? Here’s one more chart before you hit the road:

Should the Houston Texans even be worried about rushing performance?

You’ll see three colors; red, orange, and green.

  • Red: losing season
  • Orange: .500 season or 8-8
  • Green: winning season

Looking at the chart, you can see that the years the Houston Texans have been their most successful is when they have ≥ 1,475 yards on the season. Then, of course, there is the stretch from 2003-2009, where they did break that 1,475 barrier but did not get into the playoffs.

Whatever this comes down to, a broken play, a pick-six, one play can change the entire course of a season. However, this is pretty clear in the burgeoning world of analytics in the NFL. Therefore, Houston needs their ground game to succeed, as their eight winning seasons have all depended on it.

Thanks for making it this far. I have the rest of the data at this link here. Additionally, if there are any colorblind readers, please notify me on Twitter (@CoachAVB), and I can eliminate the colors for you.

A big thank you goes to StatMuse.com and ProFootballReference.com for the data used to make these charts.

Next. A super-duper early prediction of the Texans' 2022 schedule and record. dark