H-Town Sports

Houston Sports Blog - Real sports cities have TWO Conference USA teams

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mark the Rocket Fan, Here's My Response

A 1,565 word count comment gets a response in the form of a post, not just a comment in return...

Let me begin by saying that I share your passion for the Rockets and welcome you to our site. Feedback from fans of Houston-area teams is why we set this site up. Don't be a stranger. That said, please don't be offended if I find your most recent comment to be inaccurate and, moreover, insane.

I'll be the first to admit that my prediction of a championship this season for the Rockets is 'optimistic'. I would suggest that by definition, any prediction of a championship for any team is inherently 'optimistic'. And since you agree that "player for player,the Rockets do have as much talent and depth as any other team coming into the season", I think it is fair to say that such a prediction is not so overly optimistic that it borderlines on ridiculous. It's not like I predicted that the Texans were going to go 9-7, Mark. (I did, but you did not call me out for that, so I won't mention it).

Your first criticism is that predicting an NBA champion is nearly impossible. Now that's ridiculous. I just did it, didn't I? That was easy. Next point. Seriously, though, of course it's not impossible. You said yourself that a layman could eliminate 40-50% of the teams in one fell swoop. I would say that there are about eight teams that have a legitimate shot at the title this year, and the Rockets are one of those eight teams. You may disagree, but predicting an NBA champion is not the equivalent of predicting tonight's winning Powerball numbers, Mark.

Your second criticism is that my prediction "is largely based on what you view as individuals with potential versus proven team quality". Most of the rhetoric that follows this statement is so vague that I cannot respond to it very directly, but I will say that I disagree entirely with your overall premise, which you summarize as "chaos rarely becomes organization overnight".

The Rockets were devastated by injuries last season, not by roster mismanagement. I agree that it has been an embarassingly rough stretch of late (Mo Taylor, Kelvin Cato, Matt Maloney, Boki Nachbar, Moochie Norris, Roderick Rhodes, Eddie Griffin, Moochie Norris again, etc.) However, those problems no longer exist, Mark. Last year's Rockets clearly had some noticeable roster problems, but if Yao and T-Mac had stayed relatively healthy, would the Rockets not have been at least as good as they were in 2004-2005 when they pushed the Mavs to a Game 7? I think that they would have. This offseason, I think that they added wonderful fits in Battier, Wells and Novak, such that if Yao and T-Mac stay healthy, they appear to have the pieces necessary to compete for a title this season. There are plenty of questions, a few of which I mentioned in my original post. But the same can be said for every team in the league heading into the season, and I don't think that the questions facing the Rockets this season are much more ominous than those facing the Heat, Mavs, Suns, etc.

Contrary to your comment, not all teams take five or six seasons to "realize a state of basketball Zen", as you put it. The Miami Heat won 25 games in 2003 and 42 games in 2004, before reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2005 and winning the NBA Finals in 2006. I see no reason why the Rockets cannot make a similar jump this season. This is not a NASA shuttle rehabilitation project here, demanding months upon months of long hours and seamless work; it is a basketball team. Talent wins games, especially when it blends well together, and the Rockets have assembled a roster that I believe is tremendously talented and contains veteran players who have proven that they are willing to play their necessary roles for the benefit of the team. The playoffs don't begin next week; there are 82 games during which JVG & Co. can confront the task of blending this talented roster into a championship-worthy team. Maybe they'll be successful and maybe they won't, but I don't believe it's such an impossible task as you seem to think.

I appreciate the fact that the Spurs and Pistons have maintained a strong semblance of consistency throughout the past few years, though I hesitate to agree as much on the Pistons. They have been through three coaches in four seasons, and any roster with Rasheed Wallace on it is inherently somewhat volatile. The Spurs have built a fantastic franchise, without a doubt. They win big and win consistently, but their consistency has only resulted in two Finals appearances in seven years. Consistency itself does not guarantee a championship; likewise, major roster overhaul does not necssarily preclude a team from winning a championship. I would rather have Rafer/Bonzi/T-Mac/Battier/Yao than Parker/Bowen/Manu/Horry/Duncan going into this season, no matter how many less hours the aforementioned quintet has spent alone together, lost in each others eyes.

Moving on, I cannot help but highlight these nuggets of in-depth analysis from your comment:

"I am not convinced that Spanoulis even knows everybody on the team by name."

"Did Juwan really steal those sunglasses several months ago...?"

"I wouldn’t be surprised if Spanoulis walks up the wrong tunnel at the Toyota Center during halftime against Dallas on Nov. 4th."

"How many Red Bull energy drinks does that Lucas kid drink right before game time? I thought he was on PCP a few games ago, not that I know what it feels like to be on that stuff."

Jack Ramsay better have his resume updated because with poignant breakdowns like that, you're bound for the big time. If this is the extent of your basketball acumen, then it makes sense that you are so adamant that I am insane to predict a championship for the Rockets. There are clearly many important variables that I did not take into consideration. I am surprised that you did not also include Yao's worries about the Marvin Zindler finding slime in the ice machine at his restaurant and Steve Novak's pale skin and the resulting concerns about the steamy Houston sun. Both of those things fit nicely in your train of thought, I believe.

Mark, all kidding aside, I appreciate your passion for the Rockets, and I share your hope that this year's team lives up to their billing. I think that they will. Unfortunately, most of your 1500 words either blew right over my large head or rambled on about how teams cannot just rise up and win a championship overnight. Your pessimism is unfounded. You'll see when the Rockets become this year's version of the Miami Heat.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Texans v. Titans--The Birth of a QB Controversy

As discussed below, I had the good fortune to travel to Nashville this past weekend for the Texans game against Vince Young & Co. Despite the tragic result of Sunday's tilt, I'd still consider the trip an unabashed success. The weather was gorgeous, our seats were great, and a fledgling gameday tradition took flight. Without further ado, my thoughts:

1. I've been there once before (back during the high-water campaign of 2004), but L.P. Field is a heckuva joint. It helped that the weather was fit for a postcard, but there's just something about watching football in an open-air stadium. I know we couldn't really pull off an open-air statdium in H-Town, but it was a nice change of pace.

2. Although the tradition was technically born a few weeks ago, Diddy and I took "Battle Screwdriver Day" to a new level in Nashville. It really is the perfect cocktail for those noon starts.

a. The final tally for Battle Screwdriver Day? $235.00 (before tip). Of that tally, I think my dad put about three beers (at $7.00 a piece) on the tab. That's right...Diddy and I threw down about seventeen (17) screwdrivers between us during our time at L.P. Field. We're not heroes. We were just doing our part.

b. Those seventeen (17) screwdrivers? They were all doubles.

c. The bad news? Battle Screwdriver Day nearly killed me last night.

d. The good news? Thanks to all that Vitamin C, I figure I'm pretty well pseudo-vaccinated against scurvy.

3. The Texans' defense was surprisingly stout; the Titans finished with a paltry 197 yards of total offense, and only 87 of those were through the air.

a. With the exception of a couple lapses in coverage (Bobby Wade's TD reception comes to mind), even the secondary looked good. The continuing lack of takeaways, however, is becoming increasingly disturbing as every week passes.

4. Super Mario's line--4 tackles, 1 sack. I may or may not have started yelping "You're Number One, Mario!" after the sack of Vince. Regardless, Williams' improvement is noticeable every week. Ever since his first sack against Miami, he's playing with renewed vigor. Got to like that.

5. Seven (7) tackles from Morlon Greenwood. He looked far more active on Sunday than he has at any time this season.

6. Owen Daniels--9 catches for 99 yards and 2 TDs. If there was any doubt about him, let it be erased. He's looking to be a GREAT pick-up, especially considering the Texans got him in the fourth round. I wasn't pleased with it at the time (considering the Putzier signing and the availability of Darnell Bing), but I was totally wrong. Daniels should be a difference-maker and vital cog in the offense for years to come.

7. Andre Johnson had another ridiculous afternoon (9 receptions, 78 yards, 1 TD). The sky is truly the limit for him. I know his contract isn't up yet, but I hope Rick Smith is bugging his agent every day about a long-term pact.

8. With apologies to Allen Iverson, Wali Lundy (18 carries, 116 yards and 5 catches for another 33 yards) is The Answer. Take that, Reggie Bush.

9. In a word, the special teams were abhorrent. Edell Shepherd set a new low for returns and seemingly forgot everything he ever learned about when and where to fair catch, much less how to hold on to the ball. Chad Stanley kicked short, and far more egregiously, right at Salivaman Jones. Kris Brown had an extra point blocked. All in all, definitely the worst special teams effort of the season from Joe Marciano's bunch.

10. Vince Young's line--7-15, 87 yards, 1 TD; 4 carries for 44 yards and 1 TD. Pretty pedestrian, right? But it doesn't do justice to the impact he had on the game. I can't even count the number of times he slipped away from a defender in the backfield, and that TD run in the second quarter gave me flashbacks to DKR and the Rose Bowl. I'm admittedly totally in the tank when it comes to VY, but man (wiping misty eyes)...

a. Pretty apparent what Norm Chow's doing with VY--don't ask him to do too much, take an occasional shot here and there, utilize his elusiveness whenever possible, etc. In other words, a pretty smart scheme for a rookie QB, much like what the Steelers did with Roethlisberger during his rookie year (minus the elusiveness factor).

11. Finally, we come to the David Carr-Sage Rosenfels quagmire. At the outset, I'll say this: Carr looked pretty damn bad. The pick he threw into quadruple (!) coverage on what had been a nice first drive by the Texans was inexcusable at any level of football. A junior high school QB would've been benched for that kind of throw. And his continuing inability to hold on to the football is mind-boggling; one of his fumbles even led to a forty yard return for a TD. As the resident Carr-backer here, let's cut to the chase. Should he have been benched? Yes.

a. Why? Quite simply, Kubes had no other choice. He's made it clear that he's not going to tolerate uninspired, stupid play out of anyone, especially his quarterback. And Carr's play yesterday defined stupid and uninspired.

b. Sage(ior) Rosenfels' line: 18-25, 186 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT. And the interception wasn't really on him; it was a rare drop by Andre. Rosenfels looked like the consumate pro out there and nearly brought the Texans back from an eighteen point deficit. As Scott has noted, Rosenfels had considerably more success against the same defense and with the same weapons that Carr had. In short, he couldn't have looked any better. And without a doubt, the seeds of a quarterback controversy that were planted during training camp have officially started to sprout. But do I start Rosenfels on Sunday against the Giants? No.

c. Why not? Carr's play this season has been sufficiently remarkable enough at times to make even the most vocal critic wonder if he can be the guy to lead the Texans. Despite his performance yesterday, I don't think you can write him off yet. For better or worse, the Texans hitched their wagon to Carr when they decided to pass on Young and Leinart. After seven games, we still don't know whether that was a good decision. So let's find out once and for all. Kubes should tell Carr that he's starting, but that he's absolutely playing for his job and his future in Houston (though I have to think Carr already knows that). Carr should be told that he's on a very short leash and that Rosenfels is ready to come in at the first sign of trouble. At that point, one of two things is going to happen. Carr is either going to respond, or he'll crumble in spectacular fashion. If the latter happens, Kubes should admit his mistake and go to Rosenfels for the remainder of the season. But if Carr bows up and uses the Nashville Disaster to get tougher (as he's pledged to do), then he's earned the right to be the Texans' QB.

12. Suffice to say, Sunday's game against the Giants is the most important tilt in David Carr's career. I say he answers the bell. Then again, I thought he'd come up big against the guy who was supposed to replace him in Nashville, so what do I know?

2006-2007 - The Year of Yao

The Texans continue to be a franchise in disarray. The Astros sputtered all summer long thanks to inconsistent pitching and terrible hitting. The Comets are for sale. The 1836 was disbanded before it ever got off the ground (wait, it wasn't?), and the Katy Copperheads offense shows no signs of improving without Bam Morris getting off the leaf. Will this fair city ever see a championship again? Yes, and soon.

The Houston Rockets are going to win the 2006-2007 NBA Championship. Carroll Dawson and Daryl Morey had a splendid offseason, adding Shane Battier, Bonzi Wells and Steve Novak without disturbing the core of their talented team. T-Mac and Yao are reportedly as healthy as could be hoped for. On paper, I do not believe that there is a single team that is unquestionably better than this year's edition of the Rockets. Battier and Wells are great fits, and those two plus Novak and Padgett will provide a quartet of much needed perimeter threats to open up the lane for T-Mac and Yao to go to work. There are questions, naturally, but such is the case with all teams heading into their seasons. Here are three that come to mind.

1. Can T-Mac and Yao stay healthy? Who the hell knows. But if they do, the Rockets have the best inside-outside punch in the league. D-Wade is special, but Shaq's no Yao at this point in his career. Yao is the best center in the league, and T-Mac is without question one of the most versatile talents in the league.

2. Who will back up Yao? This is the one position that I would really like to see the Rockets upgrade before the trading deadline passes. The triumverate of Dikembe Mutombo, Juwan Howard and Chuck Hayes should be able to get the job done, especially on the defensive end, but it would certainly be nice to see a solid big added at some point prior to the playoffs. I expect that if Bob Sura's valiant attempt at a comeback falls short, his roster spot will be used to bring in a veteran big man to help back up Yao.

3. Will Bonzi and JVG be able to co-exist? It's all on Bonzi. I'm admittedly a big-time fan of JVG, but even a more objective observer realizes that JVG has been able to get quality play out of knuckleheads like Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley. Bonzi, much to his own regret, was forced to take a one year deal with the Rockets for about 5% of the money that he was guaranteed to receive in Sacramento. He has much to prove, and he was smart to choose the situation that he chose in Houston. JVG is a player's coach, albeit a tough one, and Bonzi is going to get the opportunity to play a valuable role as the third scorer on a championship contender. If he plays to his capabilities this season in Houston, the sky's the limit for his free agent negotiations next season. But teams around the league are likely to become quite cautious if he is unable to succeed in Houston this season, surrounded by circumstances that appear to fit his role quite perfectly.

I don't know who they'll have to beat to get there, but I do have a feeling that after three tough years, Van Gundy and the Rockets' front office have finally assembled the pieces just right. Everything is in place, and I am very excited to watch them as they begin their long journey to a ring.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

We'll Always Remember Nashville

Like many Houston fans, I felt that the best option for the Texans in the 2006 NFL Draft was to select Vince Young with the #1 overall pick. I have never claimed to have the positional knowledge of Joe Theismann or Ron Jaworski, but I do know that, in my own mind, Vince Young was the most dynamic, dominant college football player that I've seen since Bo Jackson reigned supreme on the plains of Auburn, Alabama. Additionally, it is well documented that Vince is a proud Houston kid who longed to play in front of his hometown fans and that the Texans' incumbent QB was not exactly setting the world on fire. Maybe he had not gotten a fair shake, but no one any longer felt 100% confident that David Carr was going to live up to his status as a #1 overall draft pick. With a new coaching regime taking over and coming off a complete disaster of a season, what better time to start over with a new face-of-the-franchise QB, and what better fit for that role that Jesus in Cleats himself. Gary Kubiak & Co., however, disagreed and selected Mario Williams #1 overall. While admittedly disappointed, I still strongly supported the pick, interpreting Mario as a tremendous talent who could potentially have a Vince-like effect on the Texans' porous defense, which is absolutely a defensible decision. In my mind, any pick other than Reggie Bush was a good pick, and I think that the early play of Vince, Mario and Reggie has proved my theory quite correct.

Fast forward to late October. Vince v. Mario, sure. But really, today was Vince v. David Carr, and for Texans' fans, sadly, today was a chapter in Texans history that will not soon be forgotten, as much as we'll try to forget it. Mario and Vince both lived up to the hype. Mario got a nice sack and racked up four tackles total. Vince did exactly what he was asked to do offensively, managing the offense proficiently and making several outstanding plays with his legs. As rookies, not much more could be asked of either player. Then there was the veteran of the group, the fifth-year QB of the Texans, David Carr. Much has been made of Carr's progress, or lack thereof. As Tim and I illustrate routinely, there are certainly vast differences of opinion when it comes to evaluating DC's play. His numbers have certainly improved, though some would argue (myself included) that those improved numbers are not directly indicative of improved performance as a QB. Better scheme, better offensive weapons, yes. Better quarterback play? Not really. My opinion has been that Carr's numbers coming in to the Titans' game were inflated from (a) piling up easy completions and meaningless yards in mop-up time of games that had been decided hours before and (b) an overabundance of dump-down completions to Jameel Cook and friends, a result of Carr's inability to compose himself in the pocket and make precise reads downfield.

Today was a prime example of what David Carr has not ever brought to the table. He racked up eight completions in his first nine throws, and Wally Lundy was running the ball very effectively. Things looked good on paper for Houston. However, the offense was unable to put points on the boards in bulk because of Carr's lack of poise and intelligence as a QB. Under the slightest hint of pressure, Carr made decisions that negatively impacted the Texans, be it a bad throw into quadruple coverage or a desperate dive into congestion, giftwrapping a Titan sack. He continues to lack the ability to feel presure in the pocket and adjust accordingly. I'll leave the whole 'intangibles' argument out for now, for the sake of my blood pressure, but to me, David Carr is to Vince Young what Pauly Shore is to George S. Patton, Jr. Carr's on-field tendencies and technique are bad enough that his immaturity and inability to lead his teammates become almost immaterial.

Sage Rosenfels is not the long-term answer, but he absolutely must be the starter for the rest of 2007. Rosenfels looked like a damn good quarterback throughout most of the preseason as well as in the second half today in Nashville, which is obviously a bit of tease because, well, he is still Sage Rosenfels. He's always been a reserve, albeit a quality one. But here's the thing- following David Carr's spastic play, Rosenfels' consistency and pocket presence seem like Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Troy Aikman all rolled into one. He is a breath of fresh air, which is implicitly an indictment of David Carr. Rosenfels exhibited the ability to feel out pressure in the pocket, to step in a direction that allows him more time (not less), and most importantly, to have his head on a swivel, reading the entire field and checking all of his options before making a timely decision. Carr unquestionably has the physical tools of mobility and arm strength, but he has never exhibited the poise, IQ and composure that an NFL QB must have. He makes hurried steps, focuses on one or two receivers at a maximum and allows the defense to influence his tempo and decision-making process rather than capitalizing on the opportunities that the defense presents. Come NFL Draft 2007, all eyes will be on the crop of available college QBs, which is too bad because a perfect pick presented himself on a red carpet in 2006, and there are plenty of other positions who need attention as well. But for the remainder of 2007, the Texans owe it to their players and their fans to give their team the best chance to win games week in and week out, and without a doubt, Sage Rosenfels is the QB that gives them that chance. The running game is improving, and the young defense is exciting and shows considerable promise. Peyton Manning would be nice, but he is not coming through that door. The Texans can win games now with effective, proficient quarterbacking from an efficient, competent QB. David Carr is not that man, and hopefully Kubes has seen the light now once and for all.

H-Town Sports Flashback--Horns v. Raiders

After the Horns spotted the Raiders twenty-one (21) points but came back to win, I think it's in order for Neil's ABSOLUTELY EPIC post from last season to be re-broadcasted. From 10/18/05, the words of a prophet:

"As a fan of big time college football, I cannot help feeling unfulfilled after suffering through the doldrums of Texas wins against no name teams like Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma. The pillow fight that was USC v. Notre Dame and the unexpected success of upstarts with no tradition like Alabama and Penn State have left much to be desired from the young season. I find myself wishing for a match-up between the Longhorns and one of the truly elite teams in college football. That match-up is now less than a week away. When the Texas Tech Red raiders bring their 6-0 record and #7 BCS ranking into Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium this Saturday, the Eyes of Texas and the nation will turn to Austin. This Tech team should not be taken lightly. Over the last three weeks Leach’s boys have stolen small town West Texas headlines from powerhouses like Mike Price’s UTEP Miners by issuing beat-downs over not only both vaunted Kansas schools, but also a retooled Nebraska team that was clearly hitting on all cylinders. Even more impressive is the fact that the Red Raiders’ dominance could not be contained to Division I-A. They also boast lop-sided victories over Division I-AA powerhouses like Florida International, Sam Houston State, and Indiana State. The team’s confidence is growing exponentially with each win, but can they handle all this success? I submit that they can.

After hanging 80 points on a stingy Kat defense from SHSU, Tech fifth-year senior QB Cody Hodges showed his poise and maturity by predicting that his team would hang 100 points on Indiana State. This confidence and swagger, even in the face of stiff competition, shows what Tech is made of. Never mind the fact that they only managed 63 points.

When Mike Leach was asked if the UT game could put Tech on the map he said, “If you say so. I don't worry about maps, and I don't worry about whether we're on it. I go out there and watch films and watch practices and make corrections. Then I go out and have more practices so I can have more film to watch.” If that kind of fiery rhetoric doesn’t get you going, re-watching that Tech bell ringer clip surely will.

Texas Tech University is not just about academics anymore. The school is building on a short but proud tradition of athletic success. The glory days of tortilla tossing, killing black stallions, coach Spike Dykes (and the Tech girls softball team that shared the same nickname), Sheryl Swoops, and red-haired bizzaro Ricky Williams are all gone, but not forgotten. The 1970s Astroturf is still the same, but a new cast of stars are leading Tech into the future. Cody Hodges is yet another QB who is the greatest in NCAA history (that’s 9 in a row, I believe). WR Joel Filateme is blowing by defenders and sucking up all balls thrown his way. There are even rumors that Tech’s defense has improved from the decades of misfits who, to a man, were too small, too slow, and too stupid to make the flagship university’s practice squad. They have even added a JUCO saftey named Slay that is neither small nor slow.

When you see those red Ts on the black, moist looking helmets, and those all-too-familiar red uniforms that are identical to at least one bad high school team in every district in the state, you know you are in for a fight. Hopefully, ABC will do a halftime feature on how all that glitter gets from the hair and make-up of all those classy Lubbock ladies to those storied sparkly helmets. Forget UT’s 30 point win in the stadium that strikes fear in the heart of every Aggy. You can throw the records out when the Horns and the guns go up in anticipation of the opening kickoff on what promises be a crisp fall afternoon. You cannot, however, get a pizza delivered or get an oil change on this side of the Sabine River while this Red Raider team is on the field. That’s just how big this one is."

Neil is a poet. A true poet. Like Keats, but slightly less hilarious.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Off to Nashville

When the Texans ripped my still-beating heart from my chest last April and bypassed Vince Young with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, I prayed that he wouldn't become an Oiler. Evidently, either (a) I didn't pray hard enough or (b) God is testing me, much in the same way that he tested Abraham. Of course, my trial is considerably more difficult than that of that pansy Abraham.

Despite my unabashed hatred for Bud Adams, I am traveling to Nashville today to witness VY's debut against his hometown team, my beloved Houston Texans. A friend of my father's has graciously provided tickets to Sunday's tilt, which is considerably kinder than his "thoughtful" gift of a #10 Titans jersey while my wounds were still painfully raw in late April. Obviously, I'm torn. I want to see Vince succeed, but I desperately want the Texans to win. I want to see Vince play well, but I want Mario Williams to have a big game, which necessarily requires that he pressure The Greatest Football Player These Eyes Have Ever Seen throughout the course of the afternoon. I want to see Vince prove his detractors wrong (screw you, Merril Hoge!) , but I want Carr to outshine him. Oh, the agony...

Regardless, I can't wait. I don't expect the Super Mario v. InVINCEable draft debate to be decided on Sunday (if it's ever decided), but it will be awesome to see the two of them square off. Here's to Vince having measured success on Sunday (and on 12/10/06, for that matter), Mario continuing his progress toward justifying the Texans' faith in him, Carr once again demonstrating that he's a legitimate NFL signal-caller, and the Texans clinching their first winning streak of the season. That's not asking for too much, is it?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Lo and Behold, My Psychic Powers Have Returned!

Not to toot my own sizable horn, but last Monday I predicted that the Texans would upset the Jags. Most people seemed to think that prognostication was simply the ranting of a madman, but yesterday the Texans justified my love, defeating their most bitter divisional rivals 27-7. Thus, my apologies for the premature epitaph concerning my psychic powers. It's clear to me that I am well on my way to becoming H-Town's own Miss(ter) Cleo. Thoughts about the game...

1. What a beautiful day it was for football yesterday. Roof open, sun shining, nice breeze...I don't think there was a better place to be than Reliant Stadium yesterday afternoon.

2. Although every pundit from here to Corsicana has opined about the effect of lacking a running game, it was nonetheless amazing to see how the existence of one dramatically changes every other facet of the game. Having a two-dimensional offense is a real treat.

a. Wali Lundy (93 yards on 19 carries with a TD, plus 4 catches for another 15 yards) has to be starting against the Oilers on Sunday, right? He seems to be the only back on the roster that has the ability to turn the corner on the outside. It makes his repeated inactive status the past few games all the more puzzling.

b. Fare thee well, Ron Dayne.

3. The offensive line did an absolutely incredible job yesterday, both in pass protection and run-blocking. Although they've been markedly better in pass protection throughout this year, this was easily their best and most complete performance of the season. Kudos to all of them.

4. David Carr's final line: 25-34, 224 yards, 2 TD, O INT. Through six (6) games, he's sporting a 97.9 passer rating; that's currently good for fourth best in the NFL. Even his most vocal critics have to quiet down, don't they? I mean, Scott even finally broke down and bought a Carr jersey yesterday.

5. Andre Johnson is currently leading the league in receiving yards (591) and receptions (47). Even though he's clearly Carr's favorite target and the focus of every defense each week, he's still throwing up 100 yard games as a matter of course. The dude is unbelievable. With apologies to Steve Smith and Chad Johnson, Andre is the best WR in the NFL right now.

6. Another game, another sack for Super Mario. Yeah, I know--Leftwich slipped. But a sack is a sack, and Mario was there to do his best Michael Strahan impression.

a. Every week, Mario becomes more and more of a disruptive force in the passing game. He was in the backfield all day yesterday.

b. Sack notwithstanding, Mario made one of the (if not the) biggest play of the game with his fumble recovery. The man is a machine.

c. Can't wait to see him tangle with Jesus in Cleats in Nashville on Sunday. Think both of those guys are a little eager to show what they can do?

7. DeMeco Ryans continues to be a whirling dervish. Teams are going to regret passing on him for years to come.

8. Anthony Weaver is worth every cent the Texans are paying him.

9. Have to congratulate the Texans' secondary; they completely shut down Reggie Williams, who's a pretty good receiver, and limited Leftwich to 125 passing yards. I don't know if that's wholly attributable to the return of Petey Faggins, the absence of Matt Jones, or Leftwich's ankle, but I'll take it. Regardless, a starting tandem of Faggins and Robinson is significantly better than Sanders and Robinson.

10. The Texans will have their first winning streak of the season after Sunday's game in Nashville. Believe it!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Prepare for some Turbulence - We're Tracking Richard Justice

While credibility, consistency and accuracy are not exactly part of his repertoire, the Chronicle's lead bullcrap artist, Richard Justice, sure is good at keeping the reading public off-balance. I guess stirring the pot is considered more important than eloquent prose or thoughtful analysis at the Chronicle. Let's pick Houston's #1 lightning rod at the moment: David Carr. How does Richard feel about David Carr? Eliminating single-game critiques of his play, let's take a look at Richard's thoughts on DC. Take a couple Dramamine - it's going to be a bumpy ride.

October 20, 2006: "Kubiak has made mistakes, too. His first one may have been to stick with David Carr. If you're an optimist, you can see Carr someday being a functional quarterback on a winning team. It's impossible to see him being more than that. If he was going to be a franchise player, we should know by now. He has played in 65 games. It's not going to happen." Remember that 65 games part, and the part that Carr's ceiling is that of a "functional quarterback".

October 16, 2006: David Carr is a "difference maker".

October 4, 2006: David Carr is "improved".

September 24, 2006
: David Carr has been "close to what the Texans hoped [he'd] be." In this same post, Richard does not "want to be told about" Carr's QB rating, noting his lost fumble, interception and multiple batted down passes against the Redskins. We did not want to be told for the 800th time about that one night that you saw Mike Flanagan noodling Herb Winningham in the Orioles locker room, so we just turned off the radio. I recommend trying that exit strategy. Oh, but before we move on, about the fumble, interception and batted down passes? Was that what the Texans were hoping for exactly when they drafted David #1 overall five years ago, Richie?

September 17, 2006: Mr. Stats dug up this gem: "David Carr's quarterback rating was higher than Peyton Manning's." Thank you, Elias. I also heard some player on the Astros is closing in on a milestone? Can you dig that one up?

September 10, 2006: According to RJ, Gary Kubiak deserves our patience when it comes to developing David Carr. I might be wrong, Dickie, but I thought (a) we'd know by now (after all, it's been 65 games) that Carr's a keeper, (b) he's going to be functional at best and (c) he is a difference maker. Hmmm...my head needs a scratch.

September 2, 2006: According to RJ, there are some "lingering questions" about David Carr.

August 22, 2006: Just like all professional journalists, RJ stays above the fray by posting this gem in response to a critical commenter: "I dare you to go find one unfair sentence I've ever written about David Carr. I'm a huge Vince Young fan. I've made no secret of that. However, Gary Kubiak believes he can win with David and deserves the chance to try. What I've written about David is the following: we don't know how good he can because he has never had a chance to succeed; at the same time, there have been very few moments in which he has looked like he's going to be the guy. I think you wrote this post before reading my column. If you do that again, you won't be allowed to come in here and play with the adults." If you're "the adults", RJ, then I'll take a rain check.

July 26, 2006: From his ten predictions: "David Carr will have a fine season."

June 13, 2006: From his appropriately named "10 things you can count on...maybe", there's this nugget: "David Carr will establish himself once and for all as an [sic] first-rate NFL quarterback."

April 13, 2006: Richard recommends that the Texans trade Carr because "they don't yet know how good he is" though they have had "four years invested in [Carr]." Why would you trade a QB who is going to "establish himself once and for all as an [sic] first-rate NFL quarterback?" Oh, but since an optimist could only believe that Carr is going to develop into a "functional" QB, I guess you would trade him, obviously. Wait, functional, at best? Difference maker? Trade him? First rate? AAARRGGHHHH!!!!

March 1, 2006: "If David Carr gets better coaching and more weapons around him, he might do great things." In other news, if I shave my head and write with my pen in my mouth, I can get a job at the Chronicle as their featured columnist.

February 19, 2006: In response to a commenter's question asking just what the hell anyone sees in David Carr anyway, Justice answers snidely, "That's easy." Of course it is, Richie, that's why you've been so steady in your support (or it is criticism, I forget) of the Texans' QB. Justice goes on to rave about Carr having "most of the physical gifts you'd want in a quarterback", "a big arm" and that Carr is "plenty athletic enough." Oh, and remember those 65 starts Dickie mentioned in today's paper, saying that we would already know by now if Carr was worth a damn? Back in February, Carr's 59 starts (through 2005) give him "experience", enable him to "be familiar with the speed of the NFL game" and allow him to have "seen enough NFL defenses to know the lay of the land." That's not all, though. "I'm betting a lot of top offensive coaches would love to build around David Carr." Of course you are, RJ. That's why you're trading him. Or are you? Hold on a second, I need to wipe the barf off of my keyboard. I guess the Dramamine is wearing thin.

February 18, 2006: Justice is told that "a long list of teams" would love to have Carr. I wonder if that same secret, unnamed source who gave Richard that brilliant scoop on the Orioles/Astros trade?

February 16, 2006: Speaking of great sources, Dickie reported today that the Texans are seriously thinking of drafting Vince Young AND keeping David Carr. Yep - that's got to be the same source from Baltimore. I have a source who says that every Wednesday at 8:00, Justice is going to talk over John and Lance on Sports Radio 610 and tell the same three terrible stories about Earl Weaver, Joe Gibbs and Mack Brown like he has never told them before and at 8:01, I am switching on my XM Radio for the rest of my ride to work.

February 14, 2006
: "Is there a case to be made for keeping David Carr? Absolutely."

February 10, 2006: Answering his own question about whether or not keeping David Carr would be a mistake, Dickie J answers, "Yes, a huge one." Wow.

Okay, that's all I can stomach. I feel like I just deboarded one of the Thunderbirds in town this weekend for the air show.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

John McClain Agrees With Me

Inspired by the release of Showtime, Chronicle football guru John McClain penned a great article on Casserly's repeated personnel missteps. McClain seems to agree with the learned sage who posts on H-Town Sports that Buchanon was the worst move of Casserly's tenure, and he does a nice job of taking a look at some of Casserly's other "gems" that I didn't address (Wade, Hollings, Ragone, etc.):

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/mcclain/4267282.html

It's nice to see that Scott's insufferable defense of Charley Casserly would be laughed at by other members of the local media.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Splash!

Uncle D and T-Poo are already at work this offseason. Are they working out a deal for A-Rod? Preparing for the Rule V Draft? Drafting a contract extension for Dan Wheeler? Nope. They are negotiating Craig Biggio's contract for 2007, according to Alyson Footer at Astros.com. Somewhere, the muffled whimpers of Chris Burke can be faintly heard.

The news that Biggio's agent and Astros' management are talking is not necessarily in and of itself that depressing, but the details of their talks certainly are, at least if you would like the Astros to be a better baseball team in '07 than they were in '06. Footer states in her article that "both sides agreed that [Biggio] would not take a pay cut in 2007." Her next sentence reads, "How much of a raise [Biggio] receives, however, is still in question."

Let's see, a 41 year-old 2B (42 by Opening Day 2007) with an OBP of .306, an average of .246, an OPS of .727 and severely limited defensive skills has earned the right to be paid more than four million dollars next season!?!? I guess by that logic, Brad Ausmus' 0-for-42 slump probably guaranteed him a minority stake of ownership in the franchise. Wandy Rodriguez is due Rocket money. Back the truck up for Mike Gallo!

I have made my feelings (see Comments to linked post) abundantly clear on this site as to what I think should be done with Craig Biggio next season. He should be welcomed back at a fraction of the cost in a diluted role only. The idea that Biggio is in line for a pay raise after the season he just had and with the offense as embarrasingly punchless as it has been for the past two seasons makes me think that Uncle Drayton is more concerned with his image with the public than he is with winning baseball games. Gasp! Who cannot wait to read Justice's column in the next ten days announcing the glory of this deal and the fabulous love affair between the team, the town and the player and then the column next May when Biggio's hitting .195, the team is ten games under .500 and Chris Burke is rotting on the bench roasting managment for their ineptitude and Biggio for his selfishness?

The Poll Scott Refuses to Allow

In light of Phillip "Showtime" Buchanon's release on Monday afternoon, I suggested to Scott that we create a new poll asking our readers which of Charley Casserly's tragic personnel moves was the most heinous. Not surprisingly, Scott refused to do it. I couldn't make out his explanation between the blubbering and wheezing about how I'm always so mean to his Uncle Charley, but I feel it's my duty to see where the people of Houston stand on this critical issue. Thus, a new poll on H-Town Sports:

Which of these disastrous, putrid, abominable acquisitions by Charley Casserly is the most inexcusable and indicative of the Texans' plight?

A. The selection of Tony Boselli (never played a game for the Texans) with the first pick in the expansion draft.

B. The selection of Jabar Gaffney (not re-signed by the Texans and out of the league this season until recently being signed by the WR-challenged New England Patriots) with the first pick of the second round in the 2002 NFL Draft.

C. The selection of Charles Hill (zuh?) in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft.

D. The selection of Bennie Joppru (repeatedly injured, finally waived, and recently signed to Chicago Bears' practice squad) with the team's only second round pick in 2003.

E. The trade of the Texans' second, third, and fourth round draft picks to the Oilers in the 2004 NFL Draft for the right to acquire Jason Babin with the 27th pick of the first round.

F. The April 2005 trade of a second round pick and a third round pick to Oakland for Phillip Buchanon (released halfway through his second season with the Texans).

Although "E" makes me cringe every time I think about it and causes me to flash back to screaming at the television in April 2004, I think the acquisition of petulant malcontent and tackling-averse Phillip Buchanon has to take the cake as Casserly's all-time worst move while stealing money as General Manager of the Houston Texans. Given the plethora of plagues he visited upon this town, that's really saying something. Feel free to post a comment with your vote for the most harmful of Casserly's "wizardry" during his Reign of Terror.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Is There Hope for the Texans in '06?

Looking at the preseason predictions for the '06 Texans made by Tim and me in August, the season has really not gone all that astray. My prediction of Ben Joppru being a "Guy to Watch", in hindsight, may not work out (though it may in Chicago), but both Tim and I had the Texans pegged for 2-3 at this point in the season, which is just one game off pace. I had (and still have) the Jags winning this Sunday against the Texans, and Tim has the Texans pulling off the upset. Without question the schedule lightens up a bit in the middle, but even a perpetual optimist like me will admit that nine wins may be a bit unlikely based on the fact that the Texans have not just been losing - they have been getting humiliated. Consistently. So what should the next step(s) be?

1. Cut Ron Dayne - He may know the plays in his head thanks to his stint in Denver, but he sure as hell cannot execute them on the field effectively. Wali Lundy and Chris Taylor showed nice potential in the preseason, and they deserve to get the bulk of the carries from here on out. Let them prove whether or not they are serious prospects for a long-term role with this team. I think that there's a guy in the Texans' pep band named Dayne who could average 2.9 yards per run, and I am confident that both Taylor and Lundy would do no worse. If you want to have a "veteran" to help with pass protection in the backfield, Sam Gado is that guy. Dayne serves no purpose other than the Raul Chavez role of Tamale vacuum in the locker room.

2. Bench Morlon Greenwood - Greenwood has been an absolute non-factor this season, despite the much-advertised transition to a 4-3 alignment, which was supposed to unshackle Greenwood. Charlie Anderson or Troy Evans could not be any worse - give them a shot, and Kailee Wong's return to action provides further depth at the linebacker position. I was not all that upset that the Texans passed on Derrick Johnson in '05, but looking back, he sure would look nice at the WLB spot right now.

3. Encourage Aggressive, even Reckless Play - The Texans appear to be either over-thinking or afraid to make a mistake on both sides of the ball. They play as if they are blanketed in fear. There is absolutely no reason for this team to look that way. Even the players' mothers have zero expectations at this point. The franchise is unquestionably the laughingstock of the NFL. There is only one way to lose that label: win games. Playing conservative, cautious football has not worked. Not only is it failing to produce wins, but it is also not helping to convert the fan base from angry to apathetic. The outcome is predetermined (loss), and the game action is tedious. Why attend a game? Why care at all? Gary Kubiak must convince the players that they have nothing to lose, and the best way for him to do so is to coach that way. Call a few trick plays. Throw the ball deep. Blitz more. Fake a punt. The status quo from the Capers era has unfortunately been maintained, and that is not a good thing. Now would be a great time for Kubiak to put his name on this franchise, and if he does, I still believe that there is the potential for the 2006 season to be labeled a 'success'.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Seems My Brush With Buchanon Has Become All The More Ironic...

As noted below, I bumped into Texans CB Phillip Buchanon after yesterday's game at DFW Airport. I even got his autograph. Not because I'm an autograph hound. Not because I think he's a good cornerback. No, I got it purely for the humorous anecdote it would inspire amongst my friends. At the time, I remember wondering aloud to one of my buddies why Buchanon was wandering Terminal E and not on the team charter back to H-Town. Seems my pal's explanation was right on the money. In light of this afternoon's news, it seems that I got far more than a humorous anecdote out of my brush with the poster child for the Texans' personnel failings. I became a part of history:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/4263120.html

That's right--P-Buck/Showtime/The Guy Who Casserly Acquired for a Second and Third Round Draft Pick in 2005 is no longer a Texan. If there was any ever any doubt that I was going to get my autographed ticket stub framed, it has now been completely erased. I quite likely got the last autograph Phillip Buchanon ever signed as a Texan. And that, my friends, is simultaneously priceless and worthless. Good luck, P-Buck.

It was, however, exactly as I predicted....

A few opening words: my proverbial hat goes off to the faithful fans of the Houston Texans who braved rather poor weather to travel in respectable numbers to “The Dump” (aka Texas Stadium). I freely admit that on average fans of the Houston Texans are without a doubt much more loyal and knowledgeable than the usual assortment of Dallas Cowboys Johnny-come-lately fans. Should my Cowboys make a playoff run this year, I will have nothing but utter disgust for the bandwagon fans that will inevitably come out of the shadows to support “their” team.

Now, as the only Dallas Cowboys fan associated with this fine blog, I offer my commentary to this discussion. I am not going to gloat about the victory. I expected to win. I expected to win big. To the rational observer, the Dallas Cowboys were the superior team. The result is exactly what the free world anticipated. For my own part, I viewed this game in much that same manner that I would when I expect a dominating victory from the Texas Longhorns over the Baylor Bears or Rice Owls of this world.

I believe that the Houston Texans have some very talented young players and an excellent coach who will make this team a playoff team in the near future, but the current team, as a whole, is not currently to the point where anyone rationally can believe that they will win games against quality teams. Of course, it is just a matter time, but that time has not yet arrived. Having said my piece, I offer the following observations from this past Sunday:

(1) The Houston Texans have a terrible interior on their defensive line and aside from a maturing Mario Williams; they may among the worse defensive lines in the AFC. Travis Johnson and Seth Payne (prior to his injury) combined for a total of 3 tackles in yesterday’s loss. It would be one thing if the Texans were facing the Texas Tech Red Raiders (for one thing, the Texans might have won) who are not likely to force the run, but the Dallas Cowboys rushed the ball 37 times. The defensive line had opportunities to make stops in the running game, but did not. In fact, they largely failed in their responsibility to tie the offensive linemen up, thus freeing the linebackers to make plays.

DeMeco Ryans finished the game with 9 tackles and 1 sack (well on his way to AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors), but Shantee Orr and Marlon Greenwood combined for a total of 4 tackles (3 solo). They were complete non-factors in the game. I could not tell if it is entirely the fact that the defensive tackles can not consume blocks or if they simply have no feel for the position, but it is quite possible that it may be both. The Texans secondary, in contrast, finished with 29 tackles. Julius Jones averaged nearly 5.0 yards per carry and Marion Barber finished the contest pushing the boundaries of 6.0 yards per carry. That simply will not get the job done.

Mario Williams was very active during the course of the day with a couple of hurries and 6 tackles, but he could be much more effective if the Texans could field a defensive line that did not allow, by virtue of little to no talent in the other players, offensive coordinators to double and block down on Williams or alternatively put tight-ends on that side to smother him. His future development will be largely affected by the Texans ability to make blocking schemes more honest.

(2) David Carr had a solid day in the first half, but to say he was spectacular or great is not accurate. He averaged a whopping 4.7 yards per attempt. The majority of his throws were short timing patterns that, in essence, substituted for the Texans running game (much in the manner that Texas Tech uses its 4 to 7 yard routes to simulate a running game). I will say that his decision-making and release has improved greatly since last year. The Cowboys pass rush did collapse the pocket on him many times, but by virtue of a short drop and a quick release, the defensive lineman and/or blitzing linebacker or safety had little more than a 2 to 3 second window to get to him. He saved himself from taking hits and giving up field position by making a read (right or wrong) and gunning the ball as soon as possible.

If you combine short drops, quick developing routes underneath, and a quick release, you end up with few opportunities for sacks. However, if not for the fact that the Cowboys defenders tackled very well (especially among the linebackers and safeties) many of those short routes could have gone for greater gains. Such an offensive game plan may not win a lot of ball games, but it is better than the alternative – actually trying to run the ball with that backfield. I heard on the radio this morning that it may be a good idea to scrap the running game and move back to the Run and Shoot. There may be some wisdom to this.

For my own part as a Cowboys fan, I was amazed that the Texans did not attempt to go vertical with their passing attack especially to Moulds covered with Anthony Henry (a very solid defender and tackler, but not a potential Pro-Bowler like Terrence Newman) who had Patrick Watkins in safety support. Watkins, though playing well this year, is a rookie. He probably would be the only person on either side of the field (save Phillip Buchanan) to bite on a play-action with the Texans running game as the bait. I think that if the Texans took several shots at him at least one would have gone for a big play.

(3) The Texans running game is shockingly bad. I felt that the Texans offensive line did a very good job in pass protection, but they struggled mightily in the running game especially given that neither Ron Dayne nor Samkon Gado can make anyone save Drew Bledsoe miss with their first move. It was a tough matchup. Lest we forget though the Cowboys are not the sackmasters of the NFC, they are the 6th best defense in the NFL and the best against the rush allowing a meager 67.0 yards per game. In our two losses this year, the Jaguars managed 78 yards and the Eagles managed just 52 yards in their contest.

The last three drafts have greatly strengthened the Dallas Cowboys front seven providing several excellent players and a good deal of depth both at the defensive end and linebacking positions. If the Cowboys defensive front seven is thin anywhere, it is at the nose tackle spot, but the position is currently anchored by a block-eating Jason Ferguson. The Texans were doomed from the start with regards to the running game. To have expected otherwise would have been foolish.

(4) The Dallas Cowboys won despite Drew Bledsoe. I defended Bledsoe last year. He had a very respectable season (finishing 8th in the NFL for passer rating), but he has been rather poor this year. He really has little excuse. He has a very nice receiving corps with Terry Glenn and “Texans Killer” Owens as his primary wide receivers and Patrick Crayton as an excellent 3rd receiver. He has two solid passing-catching tight-ends in Jason Whitten and Anthony Fasano and finally a respectable ground game with Julius Jones and Marion Barber. Cowboys’ fans have been waiting for four years to have a running game that could force defenses to play their offense honestly. The Dallas Cowboys are currently 3rd in the NFL in rushing trailing only the Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers.

Given this situation, Drew Bledsoe has all the talent around him to be having a career year. He is not. On the first touchdown, Owens saved Bledsoe from one interception by pushing off on the defender and stealing a touchdown. In a later touchdown, Owens fought through double coverage to secure a poorly thrown ball from the Texans corner and safety. He overthrew open receivers all day and had the pocket presence of a corpse.

The Cowboys faithful are becoming impatient. Bledsoe will retain his starting spot, but a considerable number of Cowboys fans are increasingly pushing for Parcells to give Romo a shot. I want to see what the kid can do. I find it highly unlikely that Bledsoe will be back next year and if that is going to be the case, I want to evaluate Romo in the regular season in meaningful game time and determine whether he can be an NFL starter or if the Cowboys will need to find free agency money to secure a veteran quarterback.

(5) For the majority of the second half, I had this tune running in my head especially as my fine Texans friend to my right had his head buried in shame rubbing the wool hat upon his head as to wonder whether it was his lot in life to suffer. It was this catchy sort of tune from the website of one of the Dallas Cowboys … some guy named Terrell … that went “I’m back and I’m better than ever.” I stand by Terrell Owens. I make no issue of it. I make no apologies.

Of course, when rumors began spreading through the websites about his potential signing, I was nervous given my anger from the “Star Incident,” but once he was signed, I decided to give him a fresh start. I even went so far as to read his book. I agree with the following assessments of him: (1) he is egotistical (2) he is hard pressed to keep his mouth shut (3) he lacks tact and (4) he is moody with erratic emotional swings.

However, I further agree with the following: (1) he plays hard and in pain (2) he has never been convicted of beating his girlfriend or his wife or alternatively been accused or convicted of any manner of drug or alcohol offense (3) and he was never present at a party boat fiasco, shoved an official to the ground, used his helmet as a weapon, or witnessing and/or participating in a murder [thank you, Ray Lewis and Rae Carruth]. What is his sin? He got into public fights with two of his former quarterbacks. He became embroiled in a mess over his contract and free agency status. He dances with pom poms on the odd occasion.

He is not a model citizen. He is not the perfect teammate. However, he is not the pariah that the media has made him to be. Why in all that is holy would a story about TO having a disagreement with his receivers coach be on the CNN front page alongside a possible nuclear testing in North Korea, further border conflicts in the Kashmir region, the Amish community trying to heal after the school killings, and talks about resurgent recruiting in Southeast Asia by Islamic extremist groups? I, for one, was very happy to see him have a fine game this past Sunday. He deserved it.

Best wishes, city of Houston – I look forward to the next installment of the Houston Texans and America’s Team, my Dallas Cowboys.

I'm No Psychic...

Well, it seems I may have been wrong about the Texans beating the Cowboys yesterday. As an added bonus, my idiocy will be enshrined in cyberspace for all of eternity. Despite my apparent inability to accurately evaluate the Texans, here are my thoughts on yesterday's debacle:

1. The Texans seemed like a genuine NFL franchise during the first half of yesterday's game. While even I didn't expect them to hold a 6-3 lead, the defense did a tremendous job of clamping down on Dallas, and Carr looked extremely poised in marching the Texans down the field.

2. I hate to agree with Scott (ever), but he's exactly right in his criticism of Kubes for not taking more chances with this undermanned squad. I understand that traditional wisdom says you take the points on the road, but you've got to go for it on 4th and 1 from the 1 on that first drive. Then again, when you've twice failed to punch it in from the one, don't you almost have to go with the sure points?

3. Saying the Texans running game is nonexistent is being far too kind. Much like a tumor, it's there, and it's abysmal. If the running game was a horse, it would be shot in the face and made into glue.

a. Why is it so freaking bad? Is it the offensive line's complete failure to push anyone off the line? Or is it the running backs not being fast enough to hit what little holes are created?

b. Would Domanick Davis be doing any better behind this line? Probably, but you can't think he'd be that much better. Instead of 1.4 yards a carry, I'd bet he'd be good for 2.2 YPC.

4. How is it that the offensive line did such a great job pass-blocking yesterday but can't run-block to save its life? If memory serves, the allegedly vaunted Cowboys defense didn't put Carr on his back a single time yesterday afternoon.

5. Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds are the only legitimate weapons Carr has. Both killed the Dallas defense on slants and crossing routes yesterday.

6. My biggest question about yesterday's strategy is a tangent from Point Two. Why didn't Kubes and/or Calhoun take ANY shots down the field? The line did a great job protecting Carr, and a big passing play could have thrown the Texans right back into it when they were down 10-6 or 17-6.

7. The secondary is still abhorrent. Dunta Robinson's regression this season has officially started giving me night terrors.

a. I met Phillip Buchanon yesterday after the game. Although I was calling for his head throughout the slaughter and have repeatedly dreamed of making him pay for all the heartache he's put me through, the Texans had sufficiently crushed my spirit to the point that I simply remarked, "Tough game" and "We'd better get 'em next week" before getting him to autograph my ticket stub out of a sense of irony. I'm such a coward.

b. Buchanon did, however, have a dynamite punt return that put the Texans in position for the lead at halftime. How's that for rationalizing cowardice?

8. Drew Bledsoe is terrible. The fact that he didn't throw a pick yesterday is a testament to how bad the Texans are. He was completely bailed out on several occasions by his wide receivers. Speaking of...

9. I hate Terrell Owens like poison, and I cannot wait for the inevitable day that he destroys the Cowboys.

10. Mario Williams looked very good. While he didn't register a sack, he was active in the backfield and in Bledsoe's face on several occasions. I'm telling you, he's going to be everything we hoped and dreamed of.

11. DeMeco Ryans' continued excellence is quickly valuting "DeMeco" up the ladder as possible names for my firstborn child. You know, whenever I actually meet a woman that'd sign off on that sort of thing.

12. Texas Stadium is a dump.

13. Despite my preparation for the contrary, I was generally treated well by Dallas fans. There was only one assclown that nearly caused me to reach for my taser.

14. The Texans will beat the Jags this week. In the words of Jose Lima, "Believe it!"

The Texans Deserve No Respect

- I miss Domanick Davis. His name has not come up much in the autopsies being performed by fans and the media, but compared to Ron Dayne and Sam Gado, memories of Davis are beginning to blur in my mind with those of Walter Payton. Sure, the Texans' O-line is not exactly blowing up the opposition's front seven, and the opposing secondary can camp out short and play the run with confidence since David Carr will apparently combust if he is forced to attempt a pass of more than 15 yards, but a running back who could simply get to the line of scrimmage in less than five seconds could only help the Texans' running "attack".

- Eric Moulds has been outstanding. Great move for the Texans who has provided exactly what we hoped he would provide.

- Seth Payne deserves better. All reports are that Payne is a pro's pro, and it really hurts to watch him go down again. Hopefully he will return sooner than early reports predicted, but with his past history of injury problems, one cannot feel too confident.

- Mario Williams continues to progress, in my eyes, if not in those of the mainstream media. He is certainly victimized several times a game by opposing linemen who are able to bait him into overrunning a play, but he is showing much more 'disruptability' up front. He was in the backfield several times yesterday afternoon. He is a project, but I still think he was the right pick.

- If Reggie Bush was on the Texans, he would currently have 112 catches for an average of 2.4 yards per catch and 18 runs for 42 yards.

- Did Thomas Johnson go to The U? I thought I saw him swinging a crutch against FIU on Saturday.

- First Quarter David Carr looked good yesterday, but his three successors stunk. Having no threat of a running game certainly does not help, but to me it seems that the first drive of each game, which are scripted in advance and with which David obviously feels quite comfortable, generally go quite well. David knows where the defense will be and where his receivers will be, and he is able to make a quick throw without really even reading the defense. However, once the flow of the game changes a little bit and things have deviated from the script the slightest scintilla, David reverts back to the old game of dumping down to the running back or firing a slant off his back foot into coverage, with or without pressure. His numbers may have improved this season, but I am not convinced that his quarterbacking skills are any better. I still agree that David is not the largest problem on the team, but I will stick by my belief that David will never QB a team in the NFL playoffs.

- Speaking of problems, was that Webster covering Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton in the red zone yesterday? If it is just that easy to throw a fade pass to your big WR and gain yards at will, why do the Texans never use that route with Andre Johnson or Eric Moulds? Terrence Newman is not 6'4" and 225 pounds either, is he?

- The only thing worse than watching the Texans get pummeled by the Cowboys? Listening to Dick Enberg tell you about it.

- One thing that I hated about the Dom Capers era was that the franchsie appeared to embrace the philosophy of playing not to lose. With Gary Kubiak's background as a winner and an innovator on offense and the legend of Richard Smith's crazy, blitzing defenses, I was excited, not because I thought that the Texans were headed for the playoffs immediately, but simply because I thought that this year's edition would play an aggressive, exciting brand of football. Through five games, I have been extremely, extremely disappointed. If you know that you're outmanned from a talent standpoint, which seems undeniable, it seems to me that you're going to have to out-scheme or out-think your opponents by mixing up your formations and taking a few chances with your playcalling. Instead, Kubiak seems to have adopted Capers' hope that he can shorten the game by sitting on the ball on offense and pray that the Texans are within 14 in the fourth quarter. As in years prior, this strategy continues to be a loser.

Friday, October 13, 2006

No Respect for the Texans

Vegas currently has the Cowboys favored by thirteen (13) points over the Texans. I have news for you--Dallas is not nearly two touchdowns better than Houston. I'm not denying that the Cowboys should be favored, but c'mon...thirteen points? If I was the gambling type, I'd put the mortgage note on the Cokeboys not covering that spread.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Houston v. Dallas--2002 All Over Again?

Anyone who claims to be a fan of the Texans remembers September 8, 2002 with blinding joy. On that hallowed date, the expansion Houston Texans defeated the hated, arrogant, despicable, evil, probably-push-toddlers-and-the-elderly-down-stairs Dallas Cowboys 19-10 in the franchise's first game. I had the good fortune to be at Reliant that wonderful Sunday night, and those memories sustained me through the remainder of the 2002 campaign, including the worst football game I ever witnessed on any level (against the Jon Kitna-led Bengals, where the Texans lost 38-3). Years later, that victory over the Cokeboys even got me through the waking nightmare that was the 2005 season. Whenever things looked particularly bleak last year, I could always close my eyes, murmur "19-10," and go to my happy place. Even now, mere mention of that score is one of the few things in this world that is sure to bring a smile to my face regardless of the situation. [Not to belabor the point, but "41-38" and/or "Texas Longhorns, 2005 National Champions" are two more things that will get me to forget my troubles in an instant.]

Four years later, the Texans shall once again face Satan's Team on Sunday. And once again, I'll be there to lend my support in person. [NOTE--I fully expect to be beaten within an inch of my life and/or repeatedly doused in beer by dozens of the jorts-and-Aikman jersey-wearing Dallas "faithful." Such are the sacrifices we make for the things we love.] Perhaps I'm a wee bit biased, but I like Kubiak & Company's chances at Texas Stadium. Dallas is coming off a soul-crushing loss to Philadelphia. They couldn't protect the statue that is Drew Bledsoe. They still employ the most divisive presence in all of professional sports. You know, the dude that egomaniac Bill Parcells won't even publicly reference by name. Now Dallas sits at 2-2, a mere game better than Texas' "other" team. This has "trap game" written all over it.

I see David Carr taking a beating, but still putting up good (not great) numbers. I see Eric Moulds having a huge game in response to the Dallas secondary focusing its attention on stopping Andre Johnson. I see the much-maligned Texans defense teeing off on Bledsoe to the point of injury and/or benching. And just to show how much I'm chugging the Kubiak Kool-Aid, try this on for size: I predict the Texans' running game will put forth its best statistical effort of the young season and account for at least one touchdown. I will refrain from calling a final score, but I'm calling a Texans win. Feel free to mock my fanaticism at will.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Jim Hickey Pays The Price

Richard Justice is reporting on his blog that Astros pitching coach Jim Hickey has been fired:

http://blogs.chron.com/sportsjustice/

Justice seems to think that Hickey, like Gary Gaetti earlier this season, is being made to be the scapegoat for the team's failings this year. Not surprisingly, I tend to disagree. My grandmother could have been the pitching coach for Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Roy Oswalt. Those guys have a pretty good idea what they're doing, and thus require little more than a "How are you feeling?" and/or a "Can you sign this for my kid?" from their pitching coach. The other members of the staff, particularly the young starters (Buchholz, Wandy, Hirsh, Albers, etc.) were the players who desperately needed insight and coaching. Seeing as how those guys were inconsistent at best (and I'm being kind here, because they're all relatively young), I don't think you can say Hickey did even a serviceable, much less acceptable, job with them.

But as unpredictable as the starting staff was, I think Hickey's real downfall was with the bullpen. Brad Lidge, anyone? If there was anyone in the major leagues who could have benefitted more from astute analysis and extra coaching, it was Lidge.

Hickey's defenders might say that Lidge's problems were purely mental, but I think that's an ill-placed excuse, particularly when you consider that Super Joe McEwing had to clue Lidge in earlier this season that players around the National League knew Lidge was tipping pitches. You're telling me that's something that Hickey shouldn't have picked up on? Furthermore, Lidge himself admitted that he was a mechanical mess at times throughout the year. Those are the times when the pitching coach should earn his paycheck, and I don't think Jim Hickey did that.

Hickey's hands-off, jog out to the mound once every two weeks approach works perfectly fine with Clemens, Pettitte, and Oswalt, but it's a far cry from reasonable for the rest of the staff. As such, he paid the price with his job. Don't feel too bad for ol' Hickey, though...I'm sure Fox has already inquired as to his availability, what with their glowing assessment of his "smooth voice" ringing in their ears from last fall.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Texans Win! Texans Win!

Your eyes do not deceive you. Houston Texans 17, Miami Dolphins 15. Man, that was sweet to type. A few quick thoughts on yesterday's triumph:

1. DeMeco Ryans is a force of nature. He was all over the field again, and his play was at least partially responsible for Super Mario's sacks (more on this in a second). A few informed pundits opined that we might look back at him as the best defensive player taken in the 2006 NFL Draft, and that's looking more and more likely each Sunday.

2. To say I was excited by Mario Williams' play would be a bit of an understatement. I actually leaped out of my seat and cheered like I haven't in a long time when he got that first sack. I can only imagine how great it must have felt to have gotten that monkey off his back. What's more, the crowd's frenzied reaction seemed to flip a switch on No. 90. He began manhandling the opposition afterward. I'll be the first to admit that it shouldn't take the crowd to light a fire under him, but it was still a sight to behold. And his tip of Ronnie Brown's pass on the two-point conversion to preserve the win...wow. I think the Dolphins may have unwittingly unleashed an animal on the rest of the NFL.

3. I hate repeating myself, but this point bears repeating: David Carr is not the problem. Once again, he managed the game well and made the throws that needed to be made. Although the stat line shows he was intercepted once, he wasn't; Andre Johnson actually caught the pass and had it ripped away afterward. Carr's passer rating after a quarter of the season? 108.9, second in the league behind Charlie Batch (who started one game a few weeks ago). 'Nuff said.

4. Andre Johnson was simply amazing yesterday. Some of the catches he made were the stuff of highlight reels. The guy is on his way to becoming a perennial Pro Bowler, and his success this season only magnifies the shortcomings of the previous regime last year.

5. As good as he is, I think Andre's success can be summed up in two words: Eric Moulds. He gives the Texans the first legitimate second receiver they've ever had, and he forces defenses to pick their poision. That's something that Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford could never do on their best days. Moulds' four catches yesterday were huge, and none was bigger than the 28-yarder he reeled in to keep the Texans' drive alive in the fourth quarter.

6. The running game has a loooooooooong way to go. Dayne had a couple of nice carries, but he and Gado were stuffed at the line far too many times.

7. The secondary looked better, but I fear that is more a function of Miami's terrible offense than any substantive improvement. Dunta Robinson got burned. A lot. And Lewis Sanders, while probably a genuinely good human being, should not be starting at CB in the NFL. The secondary should replace the numbers on the back of their jerseys with bullseyes.

8. I really liked the blitz-heavy calls on defense. Someone commented after the game that the secondary should be spending as little time in coverage as possible, and I agree. It seems obvious that the more time the defensive backs have in space, the more likely they are to get exposed. As such, it makes sense to throw the kitchen sink at the QB as much as humanly possible to minimize the time Robinson, Sanders, Earl, and Brown can get smoked. With the statue that is Drew Bledsoe awaiting the Texans on 10/15/06, I hope this increased aggression becomes a habit.

9. Gotta love that Kubiak got his first win. While the Dolphins appear to be far worse than anyone thought they'd be, a win is a win. Now it's on to Dallas to face the hated Cokeboys in two weeks. I can't wait.

And Somewhere In Kentucky, Scott Weeps With Joy...

Looks like the Webmaster's favorite Rocket of all-time is back in H-Town:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/4228743.html

Although I'm not Padgett's attorney, I would advise him to look into getting serious about a restraining order. Scott...will...not...be...ignored, Padgett.

Thanks, 'Stros

Well, the Houston Astros were finally eliminated from playoff contention yesterday afternoon, losing 3-1 to the Braves. It stings a bit more than it might have in light of the Cards dropping their game to the Brewers, but such is life. The bottom line is that the 'Stros refused to quit and gave us meaningful September baseball again this season. Perhaps they underachieved this year (or maybe they merely overachieved these last couple of weeks), but it was a treat to watch them claw their way back into the race. I mean, what are the statistical chances that the Astros would win nine in a row at the exact same time St. Louis was losing eight in a row? Fractions of a percentage point, I would think.

With that in mind, I for one will appreciate the memories of the 2006 season. We could vent about them missing the playoffs, but I think that would be selling the efforts of the last few weeks short. If you had told me a month ago that the 'Stros would be eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the season, I would have advised you to stop sniffing glue. Garner & Co. fought the good fight to the very end, and for that they should be commended. That, and they finally came to their senses about Mike Gallo. Opening Day is only six months away...