Bean: Texans were worse for wear when they came to Foxboro in letterman jackets

Bean: Texans were worse for wear when they came to Foxboro in letterman jackets

Arian Foster knew when he tried on his letterman jacket days ahead of the Texans’ 2012 Monday Night Football game against the Patriots that something was wrong. 

Here stood one of the best running backs on the planet, playing on a team with an NFL-best 11-1 record, going against a Lombardi Trophy factory and he was dressed like a high-schooler. The problem was obvious. 

The sleeves were too short. 

And so Joe Dotterweich, hired on short notice for his Houston-based Bull Shirts screen-printing and embroidery company to make Texans defensive lineman Shaun Cody’s team-bonding dream a reality, assured the star back that he’d be matching his teammates in no time. 

“All right, I’ll get you another one,” he responded.

The Texans’ letterman jackets live in infamy. They became an immediate punchline for a team that would go on to take a 42-14 drubbing from the Pats, lose three of their last four regular-season games, miss out on a first-round bye and lose to the Patriots again in the divisional round. 

But before the tweets, jokes and everything else bad associated with the jackets, they were meant to be a token of the new kids on the block’s camaraderie. 

“I used to say before the season it feels like we’re on a college team,” then-Texans linebacker Connor Barwin, who helped design the jackets, told the Houston Chronicle at the time. “Everybody gets along, we have so much fun. And this jacket, you feel like you’re on a high school team where it’s all about winning, it’s all about being around a group of guys. This jacket is just another symbol of that. There’s no names on it. You just have your number, your position group and the Texans logo.”

As Dotterweich recalls, Cody’s idea had been kicking around for a bit, but it wasn’t until the days leading up to Houston’s win over Miami the previous week that the decision was made to actually get them made for the Patriots game. So Barwin and then-Texans equipment director Jay Brunetti came up with the design and brought it to Bull Shirts. 

Dotterweich, who had worked with the team before, took on the job knowing it was a biggie: Something like 80 jackets, many in wonky sizes, all custom made with the finest materials. Real leather, no synthetic stuff. Also, because Dotterweich didn’t have an NFL license, he had to get the permission from Texans owner Bob McNair to use the team logo and Pantone Matching System colors. 

Yes, the letterman jacket operation went straight to the top. 

From roster players to practice squad players to coaches and other members of the organization, an estimated 80 jackets were made. A job like that would normally take Bull Shirts about four to six weeks. They did it in 10 days, including a full day of measuring all the players. Everything was made in Texas. 

In a move that makes it either more or less gimmicky depending on how you look at it, the Texans didn’t actually pay for the jackets. The players paid for them, with 100 percent participation. All in all, the order ran somewhere between $16,000 and $20,000. 

"There wasn’t one guy on the team that said, ‘You know what? That’s a stupid idea. I’m not gonna do it. I’ll pass,’ ” Dotterweich recalled. 

When the jackets were delivered to the Texans’ locker room on the Friday before the game, they were a hit. Players loved them and they garnered tons of media attention. Bull Shirts was bombarded with over 2,000 requests for identical jackets by the public, but Dotterweich honored a gentleman’s agreement made with Brunetti in which he promised to not make them for anyone else. 

Then the game happened, and it was never close. The Patriots scored the first 28 points, never looked back and everyone took it out on the jackets.  

If the Texans had won that game, they’d have been studs. Going into Foxboro, beating Tom Brady and doing it in dopeass jackets with all the fixings? That’s as close to cool as anything associated with J.J. Watt gets. 

Instead, it was essentially the moment when Sarah Marshall walks into the resort and Peter’s embarrassment is compounded by the fact that he’s wearing “this [expletive] shirt.” 

Watt deflected questions about the whereabouts of his jacket when asked earlier this season. Dotterweich has one he keeps in his store – an Andre Johnson one that was re-done. 

As for the rest of the team, you’d have to ask those guys one by one. The retired Cody still has his, and he defended the jackets’ honor when the Pats shut out the Texans in Week 3 this season. 

Prototypical Patriots: Foreman's size, athleticism ideal for 'big back' role

Prototypical Patriots: Foreman's size, athleticism ideal for 'big back' role

The Patriots may have their "big back" for 2017 and beyond by Monday if the Bills decide not to match the offer sheet Mike Gillislee received from New England. Maybe Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio feel as though Rex Burkhead can handle that role. Who knows? Maybe they end up bringing back LeGarrette Blount and use him as their between-the-tackles hammer. 

PHIL PERRY'S PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS DRAFT PREVIEW

However it shakes out, it's looking less and less like the Patriots will need to draft a big body to serve as their bruiser on first and second down. But at the moment there is enough uncertainty at that position that it's worth rolling through the series of names who fit what the Patriots typically like in their early-down runners.

Having the size to withstand the punishment associated with that role is obviously crucial. Drafting someone who looks like Blount (6-feet, 250 pounds) won't happen this year, but the Patriots have manned that spot with smaller players in the past. Stevan Ridley (5-foot-11, 225 pounds) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (5-foot-11, 220 pounds) are some of the more recent examples of Patriots "big backs" who weren't exactly built like tanks yet were entrusted with that job. 

Athleticism helps, too. Backs that size who can run a 40-yard dash in the 4.6-second range with a three-cone drill time of under seven seconds and a broad jump of about 10 feet? They're not your run-of-the-mill plodders, and would be intriguing fits in the Patriots offense. 

D'Onta Foreman, Texas, 6-feet, 234 pounds: Perhaps the best combination of size and athleticism that this class of running backs has to offer, Foreman ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, who has combine data going back to 2003, no running back weighing 232 pounds or more has ever run a 40 that quickly. He also recorded a 33-inch vertical and a 10-foot broad jump. Foreman fumbled seven times in 323 carries during his 2,000-yard season for the Longhorns, a number that might force the Patriots to look elsewhere if they're in the big-back market, but after the season he claimed he played with a broken hand that impacted his ability to secure the football. 

Kareem Hunt, Toledo, 5-foot-10, 216 pounds: Another eye-opening combination of power and explosiveness, Hunt ran a 4.62 40-yard dash in Indy, jumped 36.5 inches in the vertical (fifth-best among backs at the combine) and 119 inches in the broad jump. He ran for 1,475 yards and 10 scores last season while proving he has some value as a receiver out of the backfield as well with 41 grabs for 403 yards and a touchdown. Always falling forward, Hunt may not be quite as imposing as past Patriots early-down backs, but he plays bigger than his size.

Corey Clement, Wisconsin, 5-foot-10, 220 pounds: The former Badger checks just about every box from a physical standpoint: At his pro day he posted a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, a 6.91-second three-cone drill and a 10-foot broad jump. The Patriots may shy away for other reasons, though. Per Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, his 2015 was a wash due to "injury, attitude and an off-field incident."

Brian Hill, Wyoming, 6-foot-1, 219 pounds: A first-team All-Mountain West selection after running for 1,860 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, Hill stood out among running backs from bigger programs at this year's combine. He finished the week in Indy with a 4.54-second 40-yard dash, a 10-foot-5 broad jump, a 7.03-second three-cone drill, and his 11.29-second 60-yard shuttle time was second only to Christian McCaffrey who measured two inches shorter and almost 20 pounds lighter. He may require a Day 2 selection, but if the Patriots are still without a true big-back on the roster going into the draft, Hill could be the pile-mover they're looking for.

Wayne Gallman, Clemson, 6-feet, 215 pounds: The lightest player on this list, Gallman still runs as hard as any of them. His 4.6-second 40, 120-inch broad jump and 4.28-second 20-yard shuttle could be enticing for the Patriots. He was a first-team All-ACC player in 2015 after rushing for 1,527 yards. Last season he ran for more than 500 fewer yards but saw 87 fewer carries and still set a career-high for scores with 15. 

James Conner, Pitt, 6-foot-1, 233 pounds: Conner's athleticism (4.65-second 40-yard dash, 29-inch vertical, 113-inch broad jump, 7.41-second three-cone) doesn't quite stand up to the thresholds the Patriots have for their backs, but his frame, his hard-charging style and mental toughness may earn him a look in the later rounds. He overcame Hodgkin's lymphoma to rush for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Prior to his illness, he was named ACC Player of the Year in 2014 when he ran for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Aaron Hernandez's funeral will be Monday in Connecticut

Aaron Hernandez's funeral will be Monday in Connecticut

The funeral for Aaron Hernandez, the ex-Patriots tight end who committed suicide in prison this week, will be Monday in his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut.

The ceremony and burial will be private.

Hernandez's family issued a statement Saturday:

The family of Aaron Hernandez wishes to thank all of you for the thoughtful expressions of condolences. We wish to say goodbye to Aaron in a private ceremony and thank everyone in advance for affording us a measure of privacy during this difficult time.

Hernandez, serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd, hanged himself Wednesday in his prison cell, five days after he was acquitted in a 2012 double murder in Boston. He was 27.