Entering the 2013 NFL season the Houston Texans thought they were close, in fact, very close, to finally being really good and seriously contending for the Big Dance. After all, they were 12-4 in 2012 and even won 12 out of their first 13. Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way. They promptly plummeted to an abysmal 2-14, and won the dubious distinction of picking first in the 2014 NFL draft. The Texans still believe they are not that far away from being an elite team, which can win now. But are they really?
We decided to look at how the team with the number one pick has done the very next year. Can a team really climb out of a low single digit win disaster to emerge as a contender very quickly? Can one new terrific player really help that much? It is easy to puff our chests and whistle in the dark about how good we think we are, but what does history tell us about the number one pick bounce back effect?
We studied the last 25 number one picks in the draft from Peyton Manning in 1998 by the Colts to Eric Fisher last year in 2013 by the Chiefs. During that time period the average number of wins by the booby prize winner was 2.7 the year before they got to pick number one. The next year those teams averaged 6.0 wins per year for a net improvement of 3.3 wins, which is a somewhat impressive increase, but it won’t get you to the post season. In fact, fully 20 teams improved their next year win total, one stayed the same, and four actually did worse. So, if history is any kind of a guide, the Texans can expect to approach breakeven during 2014.
A little closer look at the numbers, though, does indicate that a few teams have achieved huge gains in wins between those two seasons. Three of them have been very recently. The Colts with Andrew Luck vaulted from 2 to 11 wins in 2012. The Chiefs did the same just last year after taking OL Eric Fisher. The 2008-2009 Dolphins had an even greater jump, from a single victory to 11 producing 10 more wins in successive seasons, when they took another OL guy, Jake Long. (Maybe the secret is taking an offensive lineman!) It is interesting to note that of the last 25 number one picks, the only two assured hall of famers, Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman, recorded zero and minus two fewer wins in their first year than their teams had recorded the previous year. If those guys couldn’t do better, who can? It is tempting to conclude that even the number one pick can have little to do with team winning improvement, until we remember Andrew Luck’s 9 more Colt wins just a year ago. Certainly, Andrew Lucks are few and far between.
When we looked at the coaches of these number 1 picking teams, it was no surprise that only 7 of them had the same head coach from year-to-year. One sure way to get the ax is to win 2 or 3 games in a season. In fact, the only two on this list that lasted even one more year were Dan Reeves and Jimmy Johnson. Even Tom Landry fell with only three wins the year before the ‘Boys took troy Aikman.
The Texans are hoping they only have to reload. Unfortunately, over the past quarter century most of the teams have had to re-arm before they could hope to win the gunfight at the OK Corral.
For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website- http://perfectprocoach.com .
The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at the I Bookstore and most other national EBook booksellers.