Stuck in Suckville

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September 27, 2006
Stuck in Suckville

by Bob Hulsey

You need some sympathy, well so do I
You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine.

– The Fortunes

I knew that the 3-1 preseason was not a fair reflection of the Texans’ capabilities at this point. While hoping for a more competitive start to the season, the 0-3 Texans are about where I expected them to be. They’re neither as good as the optimists hope nor as bad as the pessimists say.

Back in August, everyone fretted about the offense (with good reason) and the continuing image of David Carr, the face of the franchise, portrayed as the NFL’s crash test dummy. Gary Kubiak was brought in principally to fix that and early results are that he has. Kubiak is an offensive coach who understands building a team that moves the ball and scores points.

Notice how few three-and-outs the Texans have had this season? The Texans can move the chains and control the clock when they aren’t playing from behind which has, unfortunately, been most of the time.

While the Texan offense is clearly a work in progress (heck, the running backs just arrived in town as the season began), let’s acknowledge that Kubiak has taken Carr out of his rut. Whether David can still have the sort of career many hoped for when he was selected the overall number one pick in 2002 remains to be seen. At least it’s a plus that Carr no longer looks like roadkill when the game is over.

The offensive line still needs better health and better talent. The running game still needs to find its sea legs. But the foundation is firmly in place. It should only get better.

The defense, however, is another story. Perhaps taking a poorly-performing 3-4 defense and converting them to a 4-3 scheme wasn’t such a great idea. The two defenses require different personnel. The Cowboys struggled making the opposite transition under Bill Parcells and only now appear to have the personnel to be effective.

Many around here felt that not enough attention had been given to rebuilding the Texans’ back seven, particularly the secondary, and now you can see why. For three straight weeks, they’ve been picked apart like the bones of some deer carcass.

Kubiak the coach won’t know how to fix that. He’s not a defensive guy. Kubiak the administrator will have to find the people who can. He’s going to need to find the right coaches and the right players who can put an opposing offense in lockdown. Right now, that appears a long way off although some pieces are in place – just not enough of them to stay up with the high-powered offenses we’ve seen lately.

Dom Capers hid some deficiencies by using the strategy of keeping it close and trying to win it in the fourth quarter. Kubiak won’t play the same way. Be prepared for more shootouts and, coincidentally, more blowouts while we wait for the Texans to find answers on defense.

But if you find 0-3 difficult to stomach, Houston fans, you are not alone. As bad as the Texans seem, some others around the NFL look just as bad.

The Oakland Raiders are the early favorites for the top pick in next year’s draft. Whatever impulse possessed Art Shell to leave a cushy job in the league office to coach this dysfunctional halfway house, he surely wishes now he could have resisted. The silver and black might become the first team in memory to total more personal fouls than points by the time the season is done. Just label them "Commitment to Excrement."

Not far behind are the Tennessee Titans who seem to be in an indentity crisis. Steve McNair’s not there anymore. Billy Volek was recently traded although the estrangement of quarterback and head coach apparently had simmered for some time. Vince Young had many great qualities coming out of Austin but "NFL ready" was definitely not one of them. So, just as the season began, the Bud Boys signed Kerry Collins to take the snaps. Or was that Todd Collins? Or Terry Collins? Or Vodka Collins? Either way, it’s a losing recipe for this season. The Titans and Texans may just be the only teams the other one can beat.

Then there are those unlucky Cleveland Browns or, as one wag called them "Romeo and the 53 Juliets". The Browns can’t keep their best players on the field and their defensive linemen are killing time until the day they can become Denver Broncos. It used to be the city which was dubbed "The Mistake By The Lake". Now, it’s just the Brownies. Don’t forget they got a two-year head start on the Texans and don’t look to be much further along. The "Clowns" are now on their third head coach and their franchise overall number one quarterback is out of the league.

So far, the dregs appear to be all AFC teams but the NFC has their share of bad apples too. Remember when I compared the progress of the Texans to the progress of the Detroit Lions? Now take your pick. David Carr or Joey Harrington? Andre Johnson or Charles Rogers? Dunta Robinson or Roy Williams? Travis Johnson or Mike Williams? The difference is the Lions still have Matt Millen. At least the Texans finally had enough of Charley Casserly.

Also sitting at 0-3 are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who must now start a rookie sixth-round quarterback from the University of Toledo the rest of the season or look to the bench-warming Tim Rattay. Gulp. Tony Banks, check your pager.

A few underachievers also dot the landscape, including the 1-2 Dolphins, the 1-2 Cardinals, the 1-2 Panthers, the 1-2 Redskins and the 1-2 Giants. All of them were fancied as playoff contenders when the season began. Some were tabbed as Super Bowl hopefuls. Not likely now.

So if misery loves company, the Texans have several shoulders to cry on. But if you want to look on the bright side, here’s a little pick-me-up: the Texans are just one game worse than last year’s Super Bowl Champions! The NFL is a league of constant change and the Texans, too, will someday learn that what goes down eventually must come up.

Bob Hulsey wishes a full recovery to Chris Simms who certainly answered any questions about his toughness when leading the Bucs to a comeback while playing with a ruptured spleen. For inspiration, he should put Tedy Bruschi on his speed dial.

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