Is the AFC South catching up to Texans?

Is the AFC South catching up to Texans?
January 20, 2013, 8:00 am
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For the second straight season and second time in franchise history, the Texans won their division in 2012.

But how long can it last?

The Texans finished with 12 regular season wins in 2012. Over the past two seasons, they've gone 22-10. The Texans have won 69 percent of their games over the past two years, while the rest of the teams in the AFC South have won a collective 36 percent.

And that 36 percent was helped significantly by the Colts’ winning 11 games in 2012, which was pretty surprising, considering they own just two the season previous and were the worst team in the league. That terrible season set them up perfectly though, as the team drafted Houston’s own Andrew Luck and things turned around. Fast.

The Colts have won the division title seven times in the 10 years that the Texans have been around and it looks like they weren’t down long this time. While Luck has been given the bulk of credit – and he’s very deserving – there are other guys in that organization that deserve a heckuva lot of credit too.

New general manager Ryan Grigson did a terrific job and might just win the NFL’s executive of the year award. The AP doesn’t name that winner but the Sporting News’ pick is normally regarded as the exec of the year.

So how well did Grigson do?

It was pretty obvious that selecting Luck was the right move. Sure, some would have argued in favor of Robert Griffin III and there are plenty who still would, but Luck worked for the Colts and looks to be the franchise’s quarterback of the next decade.

But what made Grigson’s draft so brilliant were the picks after luck. He took Dwayne Allen and T.Y. Hilton in the third round. He took Vick Ballard in the fifth. Then, he found linebacker Jerrell Freeman in Canada.

Thirty-seven of the 53 players on this season’s roster were new. That’s an incredible turnover and it makes their 11 wins pretty astounding. But aside from drafting players and bringing in new blood, Grigson had to decide what to do with the veterans on the team. He re-signed Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis and let other guys go. It looks like he made solid calls there.

The Colts did take a hit when Bruce Arians left this week to take the head coaching job in Arizona. He was able to fill in for head coach Chuck Pagano, while Pagano battled cancer. Losing Arians, who left his position as Colts’ offensive coordinator, is a huge blow but the Colts have Pagano back and his team has proven that they play hard for him.

The Jaguars had the worst record in all of football this season and it’s even worse when you consider that it wasn’t bad enough. The Jaguars will have the second pick in the 2013 draft because the Chiefs had the same record with a weaker strength of schedule.

But No. 2 out of 32 teams isn’t a bad pick. There’s plenty of opportunity to get a player with tremendous talent who can make an impact immediately.

The Jaguars actually have some solid pieces in place on offense, with Justin Blackmon and (a healthy) Maurice Jones-Drew.

It might be time for the Jags to pick up a stud defensive lineman like Damotre Moore from Texas A&M or Star Lotulelei from Utah or Bjoern Werner from Florida State.

They'll have to make a decision about Blaine Gabbert. The two best quarterbacks in this draft are West Virginia's Geno Smith and USC's Matt Barkley. But neither of those guys seems to warrant the second pick. But whatever happens, they’ll have new guys making the decisions. The Jaguars have a new GM in Dave Caldwell and a very capable new head coach in Gus Bradley.

Bradley was highly considered as one of the best coaching candidates available this offseason. And maybe the Jags' luck is starting to turn. It looked like Bradley was going to end up being the Eagles' head coach until Oregon coach Chip Kelly had a change of heart. The Eagles hired Kelly and Bradley went to Jacksonville.

Bradley made a name for himself as the defensive coordinator with Seattle. He still needs to assemble a staff, which is often overlooked and equally as important, but if he is able to assemble a good one, the Jaguars should be better. The Jaguars have already made Jedd Fisch their offensive coordinator and Bob Babich their defensive coordinator. 

Then there’s the Tennessee Titans. After going 9-7 in 2011, the Titans went 6-10 in 2012.

While the Titans have had bad seasons before this one certainly ranks up there. The Titans gave up 471 points, the worst number in the franchise's history, and the most in the NFL.

The Titans made several coaching changes last week, among them being that Dowell Loggains will remain as the offensive coordinator. The Titans also made some switches with position coaches on both sides of the ball.

But defensive coordinator Jerry Gray appears to be safe, which might surprise some folks. It might eventually be the move that gets head coach Mike Munchak fired, but we'll see.

Quarterback Jake Locker should be healthy after dealing with a shoulder injury in 2012.

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