With a Reeves Up His Sleeve

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December 30, 2005
With a Reeves Up His Sleeve

by Keith Weiland

For much of the season, and really much of the past four and a half years, the spotlight of scrutiny for the success of the Texans has shone brightly upon general manager Charley Casserly and head coach Dom Capers. Rightfully so. The former was in charge of finding the players and the latter was in charge of getting the most out of those players on Sundays.

With this dismal 2005 season nearly done for good, it is clear that both men have been overexposed. While Casserly might escape with just a nasty sunburn, Capers is certainly going to be fried come January 2nd. Yet the spotlight keeps burning, and now the interrogation turns to the man who hired them, the man who will hire their eventual replacements.

Bob McNair hasn’t really made a decision this critical to his franchise since he last hired a general manager and head coach, and he won’t have been scrutinized for the decisions he has made this much since he chose the name ‘Texans’ for his new team. Consider it a “Pax Texana” of sorts as this NFL owner stuff has been pretty smooth sailing for him until this season.

It wasn’t until McNair shocked everyone – most of all Casserly – and hired Dan Reeves as his consultant that he finally took an action impacting the future shape of this franchise. Not that he needed to make a bunch of other actions to look busy or anything, but with such a short track record as an NFL owner, no one can really be too sure yet exactly what McNair might be processing in that billion dollar head of his. But with the little track record with which we do have to review, it is apparent that surprise moves like the hiring of Reeves seem out of character for him.

When McNair pursued the league’s other 31 owners to win the opportunity of shelling out more than $700 million for the 32nd franchise, he did so with unbridled determination and a good ol’ fashioned Texan work ethic. In the face of long odds (and at times derision), he doggedly pursued his gridiron dream until it was realized. It is not difficult to imagine then that McNair built up his earlier business ventures in a similar matter.

With a team awarded, McNair assembled a small ownership group to diversify the investment and began living the dream. He hired Casserly, a man who sent him a blueprint for success with a Super Bowl on his curriculum vitae to prove it, and he generally allowed his football people to make the football decisions.

Clandestine was not his modus operandi. The Texans name was the worst-kept secret around, the logo had been leaked by a visitor to this very webiste before its unveiling, and word of David Carr being the top pick of his team’s first draft was well known almost four months in advance.

McNair is a businessman first and foremost, and he has used those pinstripes and wingtips as a model for running his new endeavor. With a stoic Capers at the helm on the field, McNair’s team was arguably the most mature and professional squad ever assembled with an average age of roughly 25 years.

Which brings us to his hiring of Reeves. While it may have been a surprise to most, it probably shouldn’t have been. Bringing in a consultant in times of organizational upheaval to evaluate the assets and current processes before making drastic decisions seems to be straight out of Executive Business Management 101.

Reeves, who has been out of coaching for two years now, is quietly becoming the odds-on favorite to succeed Capers next month. While Reeves’ compadres, Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, are also likely candidates for the position, the announcement that Reeves is the choice should not come as much of a shock if that were to be the case. McNair’s track record insists that he will follow a straightforward, methodical approach, and the possible selection of Reeves, already getting comfy around Reliant Park, fits that description.

But is Reeves the right choice?

I won’t retell all of the storied details on Reeves’ resume, but rest assured he is more than qualified for the job. With the Giants and Falcons, the last two times he accepted head coaching positions, his teams went from a combined record of 9-23 the year prior to his hiring and advanced to an 18-14 record the next season.

While McNair would certainly be justified in handing the coaching duties over to such an icon, it does seem to smack of being too safe of a pick. For all his years in the league, Reeves has yet to win a Super Bowl, though he coached in four of them. Given the obvious lack of even a Super Bowl appearance by a team from Houston, I don’t mean to sound snotty, but I want the Texans’ next head coach to be more than just a safe pick. We’ve had safe already, and he’s getting pink slipped next week.

I want McNair to roll the dice a little bit. I think he can. The man owns racehorses for crissakes so maybe he likes to gamble a little bit with his money.

But this is the businessman running the Texans, and the thing this team needs more than anything else after a season like 2005 is leaguewide respect. Dan Reeves will deliver instant credibility to McNair’s franchise (the free Zocor samples are just an added bonus). Whether Reeves also delivers the first Lombardi Trophy of his career is less certain.

But what if McNair just keeps Reeves hanging around Reliant Park as his independent consultant indefinitely, something akin to the personal services contracts like the ones found in baseball? Bring in a younger coach like Kubiak to motivate and connect with the players, something Reeves has been accused of being unable to do. It would allow Reeves to keep Casserly from outsmarting himself on draft day, too.

By not making another move with Reeves, McNair just might be making his best move yet. Aside from hiring Toro as his mascot, of course.

Keith Weiland has agreed to consult with Bob McNair on Executive TiVo Management 101.

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