By Allan Jamail

January 30, 2024 – The Houston Texans became the National Football League’s (NFL) Cinderella Team of the 2023/2024 season. Rookie Head Coach DeMeco Ryans brought the cellar team Texans up in his first season as head coach to win the 2023 AFC South Division. Last season they were one of the worst teams in the NFL and now they’re the champs. They were able to achieve far more than anyone would reasonably have expected of them.

Texans legend J.J. Watt showers DeMeco Ryans and C.J. Stroud with praise. Watt had nothing but positive things to say about his former team and Ryans, his former Texans teammate, after the 2023 season.

“I think it’s an incredibly exciting time to be a Texans fan,” Watt said. “Obviously, DeMeco did an unbelievable job with that team. And any of us who knew DeMeco knew exactly what he was going to do, and what he’s capable of, because who he is as a person, and also who he is as a football mind. He’s brilliant. He also has the ability to communicate and get his message across to players extremely well.”

“And then you add in a quarterback like C.J., who not only has all the physical skills and talent to do everything on the field, but he also has the maturity and the leadership to handle that locker room to do everything the right way, along with in the locker room publicly and in his press conferences,” Watt concluded.

The Pro Football Writers of America named four Houston Texans to get their NFL’s Rookies of the Year Awards. Head Coach DeMeco Ryans won the Rookie Coach of the Year Award. (He was the PFWA’s Assistant Coach of the Year honoree in 2022._ Quarterback C.J. Stroud got both the Rookie of the Year and Rookie Quarterback of the Year Awards. Defensive End Will Anderson Jr. won the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. And Bobby Slowick won Assistant Coach of the Year Award; he is also the Offensive Coordinator.

Named the sixth head coach in Texans club history on January 31, 2023, Ryans enjoyed a remarkable first season leading the Texans, finishing with an 11-8 overall record and guiding the franchise to their seventh AFC South title and their first playoff berth since 2019. Under Ryans, the Texans improved their win total by six wins in 2023, making him the seventh head coach since 2019 to improve their club’s record by at least six wins compared to the previous year. It also marks the fifth time the Texans have ever recorded 11-or-more wins in a season, and they are only the second team in NFL history to have a winning record directly following three straight seasons of less than four wins.

Ryans’ success went hand-in-hand with rookie quarterback and PFWA NFL Rookie of the Year QB C.J. Stroud, as the Texans became the first team in NFL history to win their division with a rookie quarterback and a first-year head coach.

C.J. Stroud, selected No. 2 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, took the NFL by storm, starting in all 15 of his appearances and completing 319-of-499 pass attempts for a rookie franchise-record 4,108 yards, 23 touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 100.8, marking the third-best passer rating by a rookie in NFL history.

His 4,108 passing yards rank third in NFL annals among rookie signal callers, while leading all rookies this past season in all major passing categories. Stroud finished the 2023 campaign with 4,557 total passing yards, including the postseason, which is the second-most ever by a rookie.

He also began his career with a record 192 consecutive pass attempts without an interception, the most ever by a player to begin a career. Stroud led the league in passing yards per game (273.9), while also pacing the NFL in touchdown-interception ratio (4.60), becoming just the third player in NFL history to finish first in both categories, joining Joe Montana (1989) and Tom Brady (2007).

Among his numerous record-setting performances was his 470-yard, five-touchdown performance in Week 9 that earned him his first of two AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, as he also captured the award in Week 18 after clinching a playoff spot and division crown for the franchise’s first time since 2019. Stroud also won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month and AFC Player of the Month for November, becoming just the second rookie quarterback in league history to win AFC Offensive Player of the Month and just the fifth player ever to earn NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month in the same month.