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Letter from Houston: Everything's bigger in Texas, even the regrets

Brady and Ryan a reminder to Texan fans of what might have been if their team had a quarterback.

NRG Stadium is quiet today, but it'll be buzzing tomorrow.
NRG Stadium is quiet today, but it'll be buzzing tomorrow.
Image: Charlie Riedel/AP/Press Association Images

Steve O’Rourke reports from Houston

YOU CAN ALWAYS tell when Kilkenny are in an All-Ireland final because there’s as much expectation around Jones’ Road as there is excitement.

Of course, they have every reason to feel that way. After all, success rightly breeds confidence.

It’s a little like that in Houston today as fans of the Patriots make their way into town quite confident that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will make it 5-0 in Super Bowls where they don’t face the New York Giants.

Walking around the NFL fan experience, it’s obvious that Patriots fans are out-numbering visitors from Atlanta by a fairly significant amount but both are dwarfed by Cowboys fans who must be wondering ‘what if’.

Actually, there’s a lot of ‘what ifs’ around this particular part of Texas.

When you talk to locals and mention Brock Osweiler, the reaction is almost universally a closing of the eyes and a shaking of the head.

These fans know they had a Super Bowl winning defence — even without JJ Watt — and even a semi-competent quarterback might have got the job done. After all, it’s only a year since the ghost of Peyton Manning did the same with Denver.

When you give a guy a $72 million four-year contract and he turns out to be only slightly better than a tackle dummy, the regrets are going to be huge and so too are the repercussions.

Talking to local fans and journalists, there was a feeling that, at the very least, the Texans could become the first home team to appear in a Super Bowl and, if everything broke their way, even the first to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

They had every right to feel that way. Even with one of the worst statistical seasons a quarterback has ever produced, the team not just reached the postseason but even managed to win a game and reach the divisional round where they gave the Patriots something of a fright.

Of course, it helped that they got to play a third-string rookie QB in that win over the Raiders — and, speaking of ‘what ifs’, it still breaks my heart to think what might have been for Oakland had Derek Carr not had his nightmare before Christmas — but it shows that the pieces on both offence and defence are in place.

But that Osweiler contract — which they can’t really walk away from until after next season — is a killer and may well cost them a chance at next year’s Super Bowl.

In terms of possible replacements, there are mixed feelings about the likes of Tony Romo or Jay Cutler ending up in Houston with the majority of locals preferring to look to the draft for a cheap replacement.

But while the hosts are wondering what might have been, their guests’ thoughts are turning towards Sunday and what might be.

One set might here in hope, the other in expectation, but both can thank their lucky stars they have great quarterbacks.

If they need a reminder of why that’s so important, they don’t have to look too far this weekend.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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