As the Houston Texans prepare for their first playoff game since 2012, and the first playoff game of the Bill O'Brien era, let's take a look at some of the key moments of a tumultuous season.
Texans set their quarterback roster (March 10 and 11): The Texans re-signed Ryan Mallett on March 10, then on March 11 they traded Ryan Fitzpatrick to the New York Jets and signed Brian Hoyer. Hoyer and Mallett both got two-year deals, setting up a months-long competition for the Texans' 2015 starting job.
"Hard Knocks" chooses the Texans (May 27): When he first got to Houston, Texans coach Bill O'Brien immediately set to work separating the media from his team. He was clearly going to hate being part of a documentary series that chronicled his team's training camp. But the Texans didn't fit any of the criteria that would have allowed them to decline the show. When "Hard Knocks" chose Houston, the team couldn't say no.
Arian Foster tears his groin (August 3): Foster was approaching age 30 and injury-prone, but dynamic when healthy. The running back suffered a significant non-contact injury that ensured that he would miss at least the first part of the season.
O'Brien chooses Hoyer, Mallett misses practice (August 24 and 27): In a meeting shown on "Hard Knocks," O'Brien sat down with both Hoyer and Mallett and told them he was choosing Hoyer as the team's starter. Presciently, he added that the competition was close and the starter could lose his job if he played poorly. Three days later, Mallett did not show up for morning meetings or a team practice. Mallett arrived at the facility later in the day to attend meetings. In a scene shown on "Hard Knocks," he told general manager Rick Smith he overslept and that it wouldn't happen again.
Hoyer loses his starting job, Hoyer regains his starting job (September 13 and October 18): After months of competition, O'Brien had a remarkably quick trigger in benching Hoyer. It took just three and a half quarters for him to turn to Mallett in the season opener. Mallett then started four games, going 1-3, with a passer rating of 59 and a Total QBR of 48.3. In Mallett's final start for the Texans, he was seen pouting on the sideline as Hoyer took over to attempt a comeback against the Colts. Hoyer started the next game and has been the Texans' starter ever since.
The Miami meltdown (October 24 and 25): Week 7 was a complete disaster for the Texans, who finished it 2-5. Mallett was late three times, including for the team charter to South Florida, on October 24, the day before the Texans played the Dolphins. He dressed just in case, but Houston had no intention of playing him. They lost the game 44-26, their defense "broke" and Foster suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon. He finished what might be the last season of his Texans career with four games, 63 attempts and 163 yards. In the postgame locker room he stared vacantly for a while before talking with reporters. Two days after the game, the Texans cut Mallett and signed T.J. Yates to back up Hoyer. The defense vowed never to play a game like that again -- and they didn't.
The bye week admission (first week of November): The Texans went into their bye week 3-5. Before they broke from their team activities, O'Brien asked them all to leave their mistakes in the past. He also admitted his own mistake. He had pulled Hoyer too quickly, he said. Players appreciated their coach's mea culpa.
Yates takes the Bengals ... again (November 16): The four-game winning streak that turned the Texans' season began before their bye week, but it became a real thing of substance with a win over the then-undefeated Cincinnati Bengals. It was a low-scoring affair in which Hoyer suffered a concussion. Yates entered for him and did what he always does against the Bengals: win. He had the help of a phenomenal touchdown catch by DeAndre Hopkins, who was in the midst of his best NFL season yet. The Texans' defense dominated Cincinnati. By the end of this game, they had held two consecutive opponents without a touchdown.
The first win in Indianapolis (December 20): The AFC South played out such that the Texans were able to go through all of this turmoil and still be in contention for the division title. They entered this game tied with the Colts at 6-7. Yates started in place of Hoyer, who had suffered his second concussion of the season the prior week, but he suffered a torn ACL in the second quarter. Brandon Weeden, whom the Texans claimed off of waivers on November 18, came in and orchestrated one of the biggest wins in franchise history. The Texans' defense, again, played a significant role with an overall strong performance, plus an interception and a forced fumble at critical moments.
The clincher (January 3): The Texans clinched the AFC South when the Atlanta Falcons lost, which happened before their game ended. Still, they finished an emphatic, 30-6 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. They enter the playoffs with their defense on a roll, as they've allowed the fewest yards and points of any NFL team over the last nine games. They set a franchise record Sunday with eight sacks against Jacksonville. They didn't allow a touchdown for the fifth time in the last nine games. In their post-game locker room O'Brien held up an AFC South Championship hat and reminded them they want so much more.