The Texans suffered an early blow to their season when no. 1 draft pick Jadeveon Clowney underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Clowney injured his knee during the second quarter of Houston’s season-opener against the Washington Redskins and didn’t return in the second half.
He will miss 4-6 weeks, a major loss to a Texans team that was already likely to struggle this season.
The Texans now have a decision to make about how to approach the rest of the season, and they could seriously consider tanking. The Texans weren’t likely to make the playoffs, anyway, but their chances are even slimmer with Clowney’s injury. Many people feel that if a team isn’t going to make the playoffs, it’s better to lose as many games as possible to get a top draft pick.
Though tanking isn’t as prevalent in the NFL as it is in leagues like the NBA, it may be the road the Texans travel. They have a solid core, with the makings of a top defence, and two borderline elite offensive players in running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson. However, Clowney’s injury will be a setback to the defence, and the offence will struggle without a top-tier quarterback (sorry, Ryan Fitzpatrick).
Tanking would afford them a chance at another top-pick in next year’s draft, and if the team can bear another losing season, they could really jumpstart the rebuilding process, particularly if the Texans can draft a good, young quarterback. Historically, teams with the #1 overall pick recover pretty well, like the 2012 Indianapolis Colts and the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs, who both made the playoffs the following years.
The less appealing side of tanking, of course, is that a top draft pick doesn’t always pan out. Willingly tanking through a season hurts players’ psyche and turns fans away. Clowney is far from a bust this early in his career, but he’s slated to miss half of the team’s games this season, and a similar fate is possible for any other future pick, too.
The Texans may ultimately wave off Clowney’s injury and continue to pursue as many wins as possible, but the idea of tanking and continuing the rebuilding process may be something the team discusses in the coming weeks.
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