December 7, 2005
Four Then the Door
by Bob Hulsey
Yes, I know this column has been quiet lately. There are only so many ways to say "we suck" and the citizens of Post Patterns have explored that topic in many ways. There was no point in piling on like yet another Antwan Peek personal foul.
The Texans have become so bad they are able to find ways to lose even when they are ahead. The Rams game was a classic meltdown which will be relived for years to come and the "who wants it less" Baltimore debacle was a cornucopia of bad football.
Even after Dom Capers made the horrendous decision to kick a field goal down by four points with three minutes left facing a fourth-and-three deep in Baltimore territory, the Ravens made the decision look like genius. Think about this for a moment. The weak Texan offense had generated all of nine points all day. Another field goal would leave them one short. What right did Capers have believeing Houston would score yet again?
But the Ravens let them do it thanks to a boneheaded fair catch on a kickoff to the Baltimore nine with 20 yards separating the returner and anyone racing downfield. Toss in a false start and the Ravens were doomed to punt from their end zone giving the Texans a chance for Old Reliable Kris Brown to nail a 39-yard field goal giving Houston the lead, 15-13, with a mere 73 ticks left on the clock.
Yet if the Texans can make a Harvard rookie look like Joe Montana, they can certainly let Kyle Boller look like Tom Brady, finding seem after seem as the Ravens raced against time toward the Houston end zone. Derrick Mason tried to help the Texans out with an unneccessary block in the back on Mark Clayton’s 35-yard scamper to the Houston 10. It turned Matt Stover’s field goal attempt from a chip shot to a dicey proposition which the veteran still converted from 38 yards out to win the game for the Ravens with :10 left.
It’s been that sort of year for Capers who has captained the HMS Titanic with an eye to finding every iceberg in the Atlantic. Calling for Capers to be fired would not be unique or original at this point but I thought I would attempt to give this a historical context.
One would think the shelf life of an expansion head coach is roughly the same as an Arizona Cardinal running back but the impression isn’t true. Tom Landry lasted 29 years. For every Chris Palmer, George Wilson or Norb Hecker to get a quick hook there’s a Jack Patera, John McKay or Tom Coughlin that built a team from scratch and hung around for at least six years.
It took four years for Capers to wear out his welcome with the Carolina Panthers and it looks like it’s Four Then The Door here as well. Other than a total meltdown in the fourth year, the paths of the two expansion clubs are not that similar. Capers took a team loaded with free agent veterans all the way to the NFC Championship Game in his second year. Expectations were sky high but the team swiftly imploded from age, injuries and some key character flaws.
In Houston, however, the team started and built slowly. They added key rookies as the veterans of the expansion draft began to decline. It’s almost hard to believe now that the Texans were 7-9 last season before the trap door opened and the entire organization fell through it as if they were Wile E. Coyote testing the law of gravity yet again.
What’s amazing is the lack of good excuses Capers has at the ready for this Gigli of a season. We didn’t have a Chad Pennington-like injury that destroyed our season. Criticize David Carr all you like but there’s no denying he is one tough son of a gun. There’s been no Terrell Owens prima donna to cause the team to lose focus. Unless you consider Kailee Wong an indespensible part of the defense, the Texans can’t blame their sorry defense on injuries either. They simply look ill-prepared and ill-matched.
Nor can Capers cite a brutal schedule. Coming into the season, it looked to be one of the NFL’s softest. It’s hard to get a gentler home stretch than to face the Rams, Ravens, Titans, Cardinals and 49ers in five of the last six weeks – not unless you are an NFC franchise stationed west of Lake Michigan.
The Piranha can’t even cite bad coaching assistants since some are hearing offers from college programs even as the ship sinks. While Joe Pendry hasn’t been a revelation as a play-caller, he does seem to have figured out how to move the ball again when the offensive line gives Carr enough time to remain upright.
Timing is another problem for Capers. You’re supposed to stink during the first year, not the fourth year. The sins of Year Four would be forgiveable in Year One. We lived through Matt Stevens, didn’t we?
Nope. There are no easy scapegoats to bail Dom out. The team looked terrible in the pre-season and have only begun to slightly pick up their game now that it’s December and a lot of folks in steel blue are figuring out they may not have jobs next year. There’s a problem with the five-year plan when the head coach seems to flame out after three.
Capers is not alone however in getting blame. GM Charley Casserly has not provided him the players to get the job done. His fixes, particularly along the offensive line and on defense, have been ineffective at best, mismanagement at worst. This souffle of an NFL franchise has fallen and they won’t soon get up. It’s time to find some new chefs, including the one (to steal an analogy from Bill Parcells) who buys the groceries.
Finding a new coaching staff would be the first step on the road back but it will take more, including better off-season personnel decisions and ridding ourselves of some players who can’t seem to consistently make intelligent on-field or off-field decisions. It would be a nice change of pace to see someone besides Domanick Davis justify signing a contract extension. Name one other Texan we have re-upped who has been worth the effort? Walker? Coleman? Wong?
Major changes are needed and what happens this winter will play a key role in determining whether Texan fans have to wait another four years to return to the cusp of a playoff berth.
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