The interesting thing about this Franchise Five exercise we're doing here on the site -- and discussing on CBS Sports HQ, our 24/7 streaming sports network, free wherever you can get the CBS Sports app -- is that it's hard to tell which franchises are tougher to deal with.
Is it the teams like the 49ers, Steelers and Packers with multiple HOF quarterbacks? Or is it newer teams with less success like, say, the Houston Texans? Because of when the Texans were formed and because of a distinct lack of success for several years after Houston's new team commenced play, there just aren't a ton of guys to pick from.
Fortunately for this exercise, Houston has a group of stars who either were recently on the roster or who are still on the roster. We have to have one coach, one QB and three non-QB position players. Let's get to it.
Texans career: 2017-
The only other reasonable option here was Matt Schaub. That sounds crazy, but people quickly forget Schaub led the entire NFL in passing yards in 2009, when he averaged just under 300 yards a game for a total of 4,770 yards on the year. But Schaub only totaled seven seasons with the Texans, and Houston only went to the playoffs twice in that stretch.
Watson has two playoff appearances himself already and, despite being under constant siege because of questionable offensive lines, has produced two elite seasons and one would-be elite rookie season that was shortened by Tom Savage and an ACL tear. Barring Watson being traded or going unsigned, he's going to end up playing another 5-10 years minimum in Houston, and by the time he's done, it won't be remotely close. That's why I'm willing to give him the nod here as the face of a short-lived franchise.
Coach Bill O'Brien
Texans career: 2014-
A punching bag for the media because of his personnel decisions as the current Texans GM, O'Brien's front office moves don't have to be considered here. Instead, we're just focusing on the coaching, and it's borderline impossible to pick any other Texans coach for the face of the franchise. In six years since being hired by Houston, O'Brien has been to the playoffs four times and is 52-44 overall as a head coach. Take out Watson's rookie year (the Texans went 4-12) and O'Brien is 16 games over .500. He only has a single season with less than nine wins.
There are also only two other choices here. Dom Capers won a total of 18 games as the franchise's first coach. Gary Kubiak had a fantastic run and established the Texans as a legitimate franchise but he still finished with a record below .500. O'Brien is an easy choice.
Texans career: 2003-14
A would-be Hall of Fame wide receiver, Johnson was taken third overall out of Miami by the Texans in the 2003 NFL Draft, the second first-round pick in franchise history after the Texans took David Carr first overall in 2002. Johnson, not unlike DeAndre Hopkins after him, didn't get the privilege of playing for many of great quarterbacks. He got the peak of Schaub -- although he may have helped Schaub peak -- but mostly had to deal with questionable quarterbacking.
Johnson averaged a ridiculous 1,287 yards per 16 games over his 12 years in Houston. He is by far and away the top guy in Pro-Football-Reference's Approximate Value over the history of the franchise. Johnson is a no-brainer pick here.
DE J.J. Watt
Texans career: 2011-
Another current Texans player who lands on our Franchise Five, Watt is also a no-brainer pick for this list. Watt is a former first-round pick who has made five All-Pro teams and been named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year three different times during his career.
Watt's peak from 2012-15 is one of the greatest stretches of defensive play in history -- Watt was the best player in football over that four-year stretch, and if it weren't for quarterbacks, you could argue he was the most valuable. It sounds insane, but those four years might be Canton worthy on their own.
Watt, in many ways, is the actual face of the franchise in Houston, coming in as a relatively unheralded first-round pick (he was booed by Texans fans!) and transforming Houston into a playoff contender with his singular domination on the defensive side of the ball. Injuries have plagued him over the last few years, but we saw in 2018 that if Watt can play 16 games, he's not that far off his dominant self. He's 31 now, so the window to improve his resume is short, but it's hard to imagine him ever being knocked off this list.
WR DeAndre Hopkins
Texans career: 2013-19
This final spot came down to two guys -- Hopkins and Duane Brown -- both of whom were unceremoniously dumped by the coach on this list for something less than a first-round pick. Brown embodied so much of Kubiak's offensive approach in terms of protecting for Schaub and then later for Watson under O'Brien.
But Hopkins barely got the nod for me, largely because he was so freaking productive despite playing with some of the worst quarterbacks you'll ever see. Hopkins was named to three All-Pro teams and made four Pro Bowls while averaging 90 catches, 1,228 yards and eight touchdowns per season over his seven years in Houston. He caught passes from Schaub, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Tom Savage, Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler until the Texans finally ponied up and drafted Watson.