First-year head coach DeMeco Ryans and first-year quarterback C.J. Stroud have both taken the NFL by storm in 2023-24, and now, the Houston Texans’ duo is taking the show to the playoffs.
With a hard-fought 23-19 win in Indianapolis on Saturday, followed by a Jaguars loss to the Titans on Sunday, Houston clinched the AFC South division and a well-earned spot in the postseason. There, the Texans (10-7) will host the Cleveland Browns (11-6) in the wild-card round.
The scene was euphoric in Houston’s postgame locker room, celebrating a playoff berth that many pundits believed was years away.
“WE PUNCHED OUR TICKET” 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/grRCrm9RQl
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) January 7, 2024
Prior to this season, the Texans had won only 11 games in the previous three seasons while firing three head coaches. A 3-13-1 record in 2022-23 gave Houston the No. 2 overall draft pick and hope for a fresh start with a new, clever young coach and a new franchise quarterback. A year later, and it’s clear — the Texans get A+ grades for both.
Stroud was that No. 2 pick after a decorated collegiate career at Ohio State. The now-22-year-old earned his first NFL win in Week 3 and never looked back, breaking the single-game rookie passing yards record on his way to 10 wins and 4,108 passing yards (eighth in the NFL). He finished the regular season with 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
Two of those touchdowns and 264 of those passing yards came in the division-sealing victory against the Colts. In an on-field interview after the game, amid the joy of securing his first of what could be many playoff appearances, Stroud praised the One he’s been praising all season.
“It’s a blessing,” an emotional Stroud told ESPN’s Lisa Salters. “I can’t do nothing but just thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. … I’m just blessed enough to be the vessel that Christ picked to lead this great franchise, so I can do nothing but just thank the Lord.”
“I'm just blessed enough to be the vessel that Christ picked to lead this great franchise. So I could do nothing but just thank the Lord.”
— Texans QB C.J. Stroud after leading his team to the playoffs in a win over the Coltspic.twitter.com/x8aI9nDIPn
— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) January 7, 2024
Shortly thereafter, while wearing a shirt showing Jesus donning a crown of thorns, Stroud opened his postgame press conference by again praising God.
“First of all, I just want to give all glory and praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” he said. “Whew! That’s a good game. … To be my first season and make the playoffs, man, it’s just been a heck of a year. I’m blessed enough to be in this position for this great organization, this great city of Houston. I’m just blessed.”
Later, Stroud was asked about Ryans, his rookie head coach with whom he’s already experienced so much success.
“DeMeco is the perfect guy for this job,” Stroud said. “He brings something out of his players that is indescribable. That strain, that mental stability, that toughness that he talks about, I can do nothing but just be appreciative and just be thankful for where I was picked and this situation right now. It’s just been a blessing.”
Ryans, also a man of faith in Christ, began his postgame press conference by also praising God.
“All glory, honor and praise goes to God,” he said. “He’s just blessed us throughout this entire season. Our team has been humble and worked, fought behind the scenes, and I think it means a lot to our guys to get the spotlight today. … It’s a proud moment for our organization. I’m happy to be a part of it, happy to be along for the ride.”
Back in February 2023, when the keys were first handed to Ryans, he made sure to start his coaching tenure in Houston by glorifying God.
“It’s a surreal moment for me,” he said during his introductory press conference, “and I’m thankful to God that He’s just paved the way for me through everything that I’ve been through in life.”
Ryans and Stroud have already written an incredible first chapter together in Houston, turning around the franchise and making the playoffs when few thought they could. Now, as they trust in God’s good and perfect provision, they turn their attention to the playoffs, where they will try to keep their storybook season alive.
It all starts with the Browns on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET.
– DeMeco Ryans named Texans head coach, says God has ‘paved the way for me’
– Texans’ C.J. Stroud sets rookie passing record as he plays ‘for the glory of God’
– Texans’ C.J. Stroud aims to ‘use football for my purpose — to spread the Gospel’
– QB C.J. Stroud drafted 2nd overall by Texans: ‘I have the armor of God on me’
– QB Case Keenum helps lift Texans to OT win: ‘I just have to thank God’
– WR John Metchie back with Texans after cancer: ‘All for a greater purpose’