Wednesday, May 28, 2014

No news is OTA news

OTA's are where local sportswriters like to think they flex their muscle. They are given access to practice and they feel the need to over-report and over-analyze pretty much everything.

Case in point.

Bill O'Brien is making the Texans practice fast, or something. Brian T. Smith.


Arian Foster looks healthy, running in straight lines, against air. Brian T. Smith,

The simple fact is, OTA news is no news at all. Sure, it fills column inches and it lets middling columnists opine but the actual "news" that comes out of these ventures, barring severe injury, is typically pretty worthless.

What we know from the Texans OTA is the following:  Andre Johnson is not there, Bill O'Brien is different in style than Gary Kubiak, Foster can run.

Outside of the Foster news we pretty much knew all of the above, and I would argue that we won't know much about Foster until he takes live fire. Until then you might as well view slide shows of lazy beat writers "re-grading" past drafts that they got horrendously wrong on their initial tries.

Ironically, this reinforces the fact that draft grading is an exercise in futility as well.

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.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Final Texans Draft 1st Pick Handicapping (Leaving it the same)

Even though Khalil Mack is a good player and is picking up momentum, I'm going to leave My Texans 1st pick odds the same as before: 

Odds for potential Texans Round 1 draft picks:
2/1 - Jadeveon Clowney -
I still think the DE from South Carolina is the slight favorite. He's the best player in this draft at any position. If the Texans don't trade the pick they should select Clowney and then turn JJ Watt loose on his motivation levels.

3/1 - Other (Pick traded) - This is starting to feel more and more likely. I think Coach O'Brien might have spent a little bit of time examining his current roster and is now fully understanding of how shallow the talent pool really is.

30/1 - Blake Bortles/Johnny Manziel - This might be a little high, but I don't get the feeling the Texans are very high on either of these two QB's

100/1 - Teddy Bridgewater - Amazingly, if he's still on the board, I think Bridgewater would be just about even money to be the Texans 1st pick in the 2nd round.

1000/1 - Don't trade pick/other - All of the Khalil Mack/Aaron Donald noise is just that. I don't put much stock in it.

I still think a trade is what the Texans want but I'm not sure, with teams motivated to trade back right behind them, if they're going to find a dance partner who's willing to give them the draft picks they need.  A GREAT trade would be to six w/Atlanta, which would give them their choice of Mack or Bortles, whichever was still on the board.

Since I don't think they're going QB in the first round here's how I think the first two rounds will look:

Round One: Jadeveon Clowney.
Round Two: Zach Mettenberger.

Whether or not they trade out of either or those picks is open for debate.  IF the Texans trade, then Khalil Mack becomes the favorite.  I think Mettenberger is the 2nd round pick regardless of a trade.

Not that any of my Houston blog fans will care, but I really think the 49ers are going to try and trade up to take Anthony Barr as a replacement for the troubled Aldon Smith. I'd like to see them try and use some of their many picks to trade up in the 2nd round and grab a CB like Jason Verrett, who experts have in the first round but who I think will fall because he's short.  Of course, these are ideal scenarios. Knowing my luck the Browns will trade back and take both Barr and Verrett right before the Niner's picks.

The draft starts tomorrow.  Thank goodness. (It's been too long this year NFL, waaaaay to long)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Rockets Question that has yet to be asked (by the media anyway)

After Damien Lillard pierced the heart of Houston sports fans the excuse making by the media began.

"It wasn't McHale's fault" they tell us because the Rockets were told 'no threes' in the huddle right before Lillard shot himself to super-star status.  Today, Jerome Solomon wrote a column that seemingly asked for participation medals to be handed out across the board, you know, lest someone get offended and a scribe lose access to the team.

It already appears that the curious condition of Houston teams that prohibit them from looking deep within will continue as it seems the decision to bring McHale back next year has already been made.

This is too bad because I still haven't seen anyone ask the question of McHale that needs to be asked. Namely, what in the world was Harden doing on the court during the last .9 seconds when the situation obviously called for defense?

That Harden is one of the worst defensive players in the league is beyond a doubt. I've said here before that I view him as an ideal sixth man, but not as a "star" or a team leader. The leader of the Rockets is Dwight Howard, he did everything that could have been asked of him during this series.

The fact is Harden should have been on the bench during the end of the game, and then we probably wouldn't be asking why he made the decision to put Chandler on the much-quicker Lillard.  However, in true Houston sports style we've already decided that McHale is coming back to right the ship.  The real problem is there's not an understanding of why it's taking on water.

California Chrome wins Kentucky Derby. (Likely to face tougher in Preakness)

Before the race started, my betting strategy for the Kentucky Derby was toast.

Last week, on Twitter, I picked California Chrome as the eventual winner hoping, at that time, that a lot of money would go toward Hopportunity which would allow me to get in on my pick at somewhere around 3 or 4 to one. However, on Friday, it was announced that Hopportunity would be scratching due to a foot bruise which meant that my entire strategy was out and I needed to rethink how I was going to approach the race.

My second thought was to find a price and beat the favorite. Sure enough, California Chrome hovered around 2-1 all day (and eventually went off at that price) so I went with the following:

$10 (win) - Intense Holiday - I loved this horse's workouts leading into the race.
$5 (win) - Danza - I thought, after the Hopportunity scratch, that this was the second best horse in the race.
$2 (win)  - Ride on Curlin - The Calvin Borel factor at a price.
$2 (win)  - Medal Count - Thought the horse had good form coming in.

As we saw on Saturday, none of this logic played out, California Chrome had a good start, got a perfect Derby trip and won going away.

Cue the Triple Crown discussion.

There's a lot of talk about how slow the race was (at 2:03 and change it was very slow) and a lot of talk about traveling, the tight turns, etc.  The one thing you haven't heard too much about is that the Preakness field will likely be much more difficult a beat than was the field in KY.

If healthy, Hopportunity will be there, and he might be the best 3 yr old male in the world right now. Also likely to race is Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable, which has won her last three races by an combined 23 lengths. Add to this at least two horses that were lying in wait for this race and you could have a full-field 2nd leg of the Triple Crown that's even tougher than the first.

At least, in the Preakness, there's a chance that California Chrome can be had for a price.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What we did learn in last night's Rockets win.

After last night's 108-98 Rocket's win over the Portland Trailblazers beat writer Jonathan Feigen provided his now customary 5 things we learned listicle supposedly to provide some analysis and context to the Rockets fairly easy win.

Feigen touches on James (Sixth Man of the Year) Harden, Jeremy Lin, Dwight Howard, Pat Beverley and how to stop LaMarcus Alderidge. He also reads way too much into one win.

The true lessons learned from the game last night are much simpler.

1. A team that's down 1-3 plays with much, much more urgency than a team that is up 3-1.

2. The Houston Chronicle desperately needs a writer on staff with some basketball knowledge.

On to Portland for Game 6.

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