February 5, 2007
AC or DC?
by Bob Hulsey
You may have noticed I’ve avoided talking about the Texans in my last two columns. While that wasn’t entirely intentional, it is hard to know what to say about them until they clue us in on what they will do about two important positions this off-season.
The first one is at quarterback. If you’ve been in the Antarctic the past two years, you might not know that a sizeable chunk of the city has lost patience with David Carr. This may or may not include his head coach and his general manager. It seems longer but just two years ago, Carr was perceived as the golden child of swift feet and rifle arm…if he could ever stop running for his life. We wrote off his mistakes as the growing pains of youth and the desire not to be prison-raped every time he dropped back to pass.
Last February, the Texans had three options, regarding what to do about Carr. They brought in a former head coach who had led teams to the Super Bowl four times to consult on the direction the team should take. They fired their defensive-minded head coach and signed an offensive guy who was once an NFL quarterback himself. Their primary purpose was to first evaluate Carr and, if possible, rehabilitate him.
Confident that they could resurrect their former top pick, the Texans proceeded to take the three-year option on Carr’s contract. They could have chosen a cheaper two-year option, a one-year franchise tag or let Carr go to free agency and possibly re-sign him under a new contract.
To be kind, Carr’s play under Gary Kubiak’s new system was uneven. While everyone quickly remembers his horror-fests in Nashville, Oakland and Foxboro, Carr also played very well and very efficiently in other games. But, through the grapevine, discontent has come from both the front office and the coach’s office. Rumors abound that Carr will not be back in 2007.
In my mind, dropping Carr this off-season would reveal what a colossal blunder the three-year option was. It would also needlessly strap the Texans with further dead money and add more fuel to the fire of fans who wanted Vince Young in steel blue. Dumping Carr now is tantamount to admitting they screwed the pooch. For that reason, I don’t think Carr is leaving unless he’s lost his teammates and simply can’t lead them anymore.
But, for the sake of discussion, what happens if Carr is sold for scrap? There are three alternate choices (the "AC" for those who scratch their heads over obscure column headlines) already in town.
Sage Rosenfels would have a leg up as the heir apparent. He has a year under Kubiak and has shown an ability to move the chains and score points in garbage time. He spent four years as a reserve in Miami before playing last year in Houston. His season ended when he broke his thumb making a tackle. Rosenfels shows good mobility and a nice touch but lacks the gun to be effective with deep and sideline routes. Folks who want to see Philadelphia’s Jeff Garcia brought to Houston would do well to back Rosenfels as they are somewhat similar in skills.
Bradlee Van Pelt is a raw reserve from Colorado State who appeared in three games with the Broncos in 2005 before coming to Houston in mid-season after Rosenfels’ injury. It should be noted that he has almost seven times as many rushing yards (48) as he does passing yards (7) in his pro career.
Quinton Porter would be the least experienced of the three. He had some good moments late in pre-season games, spent a dozen weeks on the practice squad and then was the emergency quarterback for the last five games although he did not play. Only in some Tony Romo fantasy would this Boston College product be the starter next year.
Some would point to the draft as the answer. However, JaMarcus Russell will likely be gone before Houston picks, Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn may be a product of Charlie Weis’ system and lower-round options like Troy Smith, Kevin Kolb and Drew Stanton will surely need some tutoring before taking the reigns.
Others would point to veteran backups in other NFL camps such as Garcia, Damon Huard, Jake Plummer or Brian Griese as possibilities. Plummer and Griese played for Kubiak in Denver and Plummer is often rumored as hooking up with Kubiak in Houston once the Broncos cut him loose.
Before you buy into that notion keep in mind that the new quarterbacks coach at Reliant Park is Kyle Shanahan, the son of Denver head coach Mike Shanahan. Just how eager do you think Plummer is going to be to listen to the kid whose old man just ran him out of Colorado?
Despite the lack of appealing alternatives, many fans are hell-bent for Carr to go and damn the consequences. The franchise must cut their losses and move on, they would tell you. In a sense, I agree simply because I want the whole situation to go away and for Texan fans to be in full support of their team once again. But, to many fans, the quarterback will always be the lightning rod of criticism when the team doesn’t win. As long as the team continues to lose, no quarterback will be satisfactory to them.
What the Texans decide to do with David Carr will shape the rest of the off-season – in terms of cap room, in terms of draft strategy and in terms of opening up the playbook. It’s not easy to get a handle on the state of the team for 2007 without knowing what will happen at quarterback.
The other major personnel issue of the off-season will be what to do about left tackle. Everyone hopes that Charles Spencer can recover from the devastating injury he suffered in Indianapolis but the talk from Reliant Park is filled with skepticism. Ephraim Salaam filled in admirably in Spencer’s absence but his days as a front-line player are past him. Eric Winston struggled as a right tackle late in the season. Without a free agent signing, the Texans may be forced to look at a left tackle in the first two rounds of the draft, possibly Levi Brown in the first or someone like Joe Staley or Tony Ugoh in the second. I’m sure they would love to get Wisconsin’s Joe Thomas but the scenarios of him falling to the eighth overall pick are unlikely and a trade up for him would use up choices that could help fill other needs.
I think most people hoped the draft would further shore up the defense and bring in help for last year’s rookies, Mario Williams and Demeco Ryans. Some would like to see us add a home run threat on offense such as Adrian Peterson or Dwayne Jarrett. Using the top two choices on a quarterback and a left tackle out of necessity would certainly hamper the ability to upgrade elsewhere.
So the only thing Texan fans can do right now is wait. Without knowing what direction the franchise will go at quarterback and left tackle makes any other discussions about the franchise’s options purely speculative.
Bob Hulsey welcomes the new faces that will be joining our staff in 2007 as well as congratulates Ric and Dave on some important events upcoming for them. There are changes in store around here so he’s urging everyone to keep tuning in.
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