Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Andre Johnson

The Texans' star receiver is not happy. In fact, it seems that he's questioning whether or not he wants to be with the team at all.

In some ways, it's hard to blame him. For years now Andre has been among the top wide receivers in the league and has been receiving passes from quarterbacks who are in the bottom half. He's never made it past the second round of the playoffs and, at 32, he's got to be looking at his career clock with increasing frequency.  He's also been a model citizen, a big giver to local charity and a quiet leader in the Texans' locker room.

In short, he's done everything that a franchise player should be asked to do.

Now he's been asked to rebuild (again) and it appears that the Texans are following the same, failed, rebuilding model that they tried the last time.

Consider this:

In the 2006 NFL Draft, coming off a 2-14 season where local "experts" predicted they would make their first playoff run, the Texans had a chance to draft Vince Young, a quarterback from the University of Texas-Austin, who had gaudy collegiate numbers, was a polarizing figure among the fan base but who was popular and would have injected energy into the team.  Instead, the Texans drafted Mario Williams, a defensive end with freaky physical talent who had one breakout year in college and was dogged by questions regarding his drive, ability to give 100% effort on every play and his love for the game.

The team hired Gary Kubiak as head coach, who was primarily hired because he was a quarterback guru and could develop then quarterback David Carr, which proved to be wrong, and because the Texans were planning on emulating the football model of the Denver Broncos, who had not competed seriously for a Super Bowl since John Elway retired.

The team brought in Matt Schaub, a slow-footed quarterback with a below-average arm but who many thought had the ability to become the game manager the Texans needed.

Mario Williams lasted 5 average seasons with the Texans, signed a free-agent deal with the Buffalo Bills in 2012 and the team only made it to the playoffs two times in the next 7 years, losing in the 2nd round each time.


In the 2014 NFL Draft, coming off a 2-14 season where local "experts" predicted they would be SuperBowl contenders, the Texans had a chance to draft Johnny Manziel, a quarterback from Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University who had gaudy collegiate numbers, was a polarizing figure among the fan base but who was popular and would have injected energy into the team. Instead, the Texans drafted Jadeveon Clowney, a defensive end with freaky physical talent who had one breakout year in college and is dogged by questions regarding his drive, ability to give 100% effort on every play and his love for the game.

The team hired Bill O'Brien as head coach, who was primarily hired because he was seen as a quarterback and offensive guru who could develop a quarterback picked in the draft, and because the Texans were planning on emulating the football model of the New England Patriots, who had not seriously contended for a Super Bowl since spy-gate.

The team brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick, a slow-footed quarterback with a below average arm but who many think have the ability to become the mentor and game-manager the Texans need.

In addition to THE Fitz however the Texans also drafted Tom Savage. A slow-footed quarterback with a gun for an arm who has shown an infuriating tendency in college to be unsettled, make bad decisions and throw the ball to members of the opposing team during clutch situations.

With all of that, you can forgive Johnson for feeling like it's deja vu all over again.  At this point in his career I'm guessing he's doesn't have the desire to go through another rebuilding process with a team that seems bound and determined to not learn from history.

While I believe that Clowney was the correct pick (like many others, I was not in love with any of the top three in the draft) and while I thought, and still think, that the Mario Williams pick was the right one (I was not a fan of VY either, and I think history has proven this out) if the Texans really DO want to emulate the Patriots then it's time for Johnson to go.

One area where the local football "experts" and I disagree is in the overall talent level of the Texans. Outside of a few star players (Watt, Cushing [when healthy], Foster [when healthy], Johnson [when happy]) there are huge talent gaps up and down this roster.  Trading Johnson for a future draft pick can only help to plug some of these holes.

Even after the draft, the Texans still need help at cornerback, safety, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, offensive line, running back, tight end, quarterback and (especially if Johnson is gone) wide receiver. They also need a true kick returner and who knows whether or not the kicking game is on solid footing.

Andre Johnson sees what I see. Namely, this is a team that's more than one or two players away from the Playoffs, much less the Super Bowl.

Sports team owners hate to use the term "rebuilding" because they believe that it kills ticket sales. Bob McNair is no different. However, this Texans team is clearly rebuilding and I'm not sure that they're doing it "the right way" as Houston's football "experts" like to say.

Kansas City did it the "right way". San Francisco did it the "right way", as did Seattle.  They brought in coaches with a plan who then made a mixture of smart draft picks and good free agent hires to turn things around quickly.  San Fran and Seattle slotted in young quarterbacks with small(ish) salaries allowing them to spend a lot of money shoring up other positions.

Did I mention they drafted well?

The Texans need to trade Andre Johnson because, by the time they rebuild to contender status, he will be in the twilight of his career. They don't need to trade him for his sake, but because the draft pick they receive for him would be more valuable in the rebuilding process than would he.

If they want to do him a solid, they'll trade him to a contender. While they don't "owe" Johnson anything the professional thing to do would be to send him to a place where he has a chance to win. The smart football thing to do, however, would be to trade him to the Browns.

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