NFL: International Series-Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Houston Texans have only existed for just over two decades, but in that time, they've already endured several high-profile rebuilds. In fact, in the last half-decade alone, the franchise has undergone several facelifts. How, then, did the Texans suddenly become one of the favorites to challenge the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs entering 2024?

Let's revisit Houston's abrupt rise from laughingstock to contender, which reinforces the notion that things can and do change quickly in the NFL:

Dec. 31, 2017General manager Rick Smith takes leave of absenceSmith, who'd led the front office since 2006, left for family reasons. But reports indicated he also had a strained relationship with head coach Bill O'Brien, who was hired ahead of the 2014 season after working with the New England Patriots.
June 7, 2019Brian Gaine fired as new GMReplacing the absent Smith, Gaine lasted just one season at his post. His exit unofficially cleared the way for O'Brien to become the Texans' chief decision-maker.
Aug. 31, 2019Laremy Tunsil acquired via tradeIn a major shakeup just before the season, O'Brien shipped Jadeveon Clowney, the club's top pass rusher, to the Seattle Seahawks while separately adding Tunsil, a young left tackle, in a blockbuster deal involving two first-round draft picks.

Jan. 28, 2020

Bill O'Brien officially named GM

Houston advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs in 2019, enjoying a breakout from young quarterback Deshaun Watson under O'Brien's leadership at head coach. This move simply confirmed O'Brien as the man in charge.

March 16, 2020

DeAndre Hopkins traded to Cardinals

In a stunner, O'Brien dealt Hopkins, the star receiver who topped 1,100 yards in five of his previous six years, to Arizona for a package including injury-marred running back David Johnson. The deal was widely criticized.

Oct. 5, 2020

Bill O'Brien fired as coach and GM

Less than a year after officially claiming the GM title, O'Brien was dismissed following an 0-4 start to the 2020 season. He finished with a 52-48 overall record, and a much-maligned track record as a personnel chief.

Jan. 7, 2021Nick Caserio hired as new GMLike O'Brien, Caserio arrived with New England Patriots roots, having spent the previous 20 years as an assistant coach and front-office man in Foxborough.
Jan. 28, 2021Deshaun Watson requests tradeJust one year after signing a four-year, $156 million contract extension, the star quarterback reportedly expressed discontent with the direction of the team.

Jan. 29, 2021

David Culley hired as new head coach

Caserio's first hire was the 65-year-old Culley, a longtime Andy Reid assistant who entered with no experience as an offensive or defensive coordinator.

March 16, 2021Deshaun Watson lawsuits beginBy early April, almost two dozen civil lawsuits had been filed against Watson by various massage therapists, each of them alleging sexual assault or misconduct from private sessions the quarterback had booked between 2019-2021.

Jan. 13, 2022

David Culley fired

The Texans went 4-13 under the first-time coach. Watson, meanwhile, sat out every game of the 2021 season due to "personal reasons," still awaiting potential discipline for his alleged misconduct.

March 10, 2022

Lovie Smith hired as new coach

After a prolonged search, the Texans promoted Culley's incumbent defensive coordinator. This marked Smith's first head coaching gig in seven years.

March 18, 2022

Deshaun Watson traded to Browns

Tentatively cleared of criminal wrongdoing, Watson was dealt to Cleveland in exchange for a massive package including three first-round draft picks. He soon signed a record contract with Cleveland, and drew an 11-game NFL suspension.

Jan. 8, 2023

Lovie Smith fired

The Texans went 3-13-1 in their first and only season under Smith's direction, with second-year quarterback Davis Mills starting under center.

Jan. 31, 2023

DeMeco Ryans hired as new coach

After successive 60+-year-old coaches, the Texans hired Ryans, 38, the team's former star linebacker and a highly regarded ex-San Francisco 49ers assistant.

April 27, 2023

C.J. Stroud, Will Anderson Jr. drafted

In their first draft under the Ryans-Caserio regime, the Texans selected Stroud, the star Ohio State quarterback, at No. 2 overall; then traded back up to select Anderson, the Alabama pass rusher; at No. 3.

Jan. 7, 2024

Playoff berth clinched

Ahead of winning Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards, respectively, Stroud and Anderson led Houston to its first postseason appearance since 2019. Also fueled by breakouts from young weapons like Nico Collins and Tank Dell, Houston would go on to advance to the divisional round.

March 12, 2024Danielle Hunter, other veterans signedFlush with salary cap space, the Texans added big names to their defense in Hunter, the longtime Minnesota Vikings pass rusher; Azeez Al-Shaair, the former 49ers linebacker; and Denico Autry, a longtime Tennessee Titans starter.
April 3, 2024Stefon Diggs acquiredAlready well-stocked around Stroud, Houston added another prolific pass catcher for its young quarterback in Diggs, the ex-Vikings and Buffalo Bills star coming off six straight 1,000-yard seasons.