July 27, 2006
The Leader Who Might Still Be
by Keith Weiland
Training camp is finally upon us, and that means at least one thing: Lindsey Lohan won’t be the only one in the news for being dehydrated anymore.
Okay, I know simply telling you that Houston’s outdoor camp workouts are hot is about as obvious as that Adam’s apple under Ann Coulter’s chin. So I won’t insult you with yet another mundane offseason training camp preview, but I would like to give a moment’s ponder to another blatantly obvious preseason topic, that being the relationship between the success of quarterback David Carr and the subsequent success of the Houston Texans as a whole.
Sure, a quarterback has the most opportunity of any single player to impact the team’s win column, but what I find interesting here is how closely Carr’s career in Houston from this point forward will be tied to that of the team’s new head coach, Gary Kubiak.
Operating with a lame duck general manager in the form of the outgoing Charley Casserly, Kubiak had quite a bit thrust upon him after he filled out his W-4 for owner Bob McNair in late January. Should he extend the glamour boy of the previous era in buying back three years on a $24 million contract to keep Carr, or should he start anew with that first overall pick in the college draft?
No doubt it was a tough choice. Kubiak’s first big decision as a rookie head coach may be looked back upon as the most important one of his career with the Texans. Talk about learning on the job. He knew though what he had seen on film and in person of Carr. The young gunslinger now had four years of pro experience to go with the physical tools that made him a top draft pick, but what was his baggage?
And better yet, for a franchise in dire need of more than just a pretty face, could Carr finally become a leader, earning the undying respect of his peers both on and off the field? As a quarterback, Carr ought to be a de facto leader for his team, but to truly become one in the hearts and minds of his teammates, Kubiak must know that now is the time for his new protégé to actually seize the day.
In order for Kubiak to really be successful as a head coach with the Texans, I have a hard time believing that it will be just enough to have Carr act as a custodian of his transplanted “South Denver” offense, working as a sort of latter-day Trent Dilfer assigned not to win a game, just to keep from losing it. That hasn’t been Kubiak’s style. He will need Carr to mature as a leader if he is to be successful, and passively leading by example won’t be enough get it done.
“I know it’s a young franchise, but we need leaders just like the teams that have been around for fifty years,” Kubiak said on Wednesday. “It seems like leaders, they are what they are. You don’t really turn someone into a leader.”
Kubiak has rolled the dice with Carr, and he knows only Carr can make the next step forward. He knows that his quarterback can lead once he has already proven to be a success on the field, but can Carr bridge that gap between today and the day we can finally look back and call him a success?
For his first four seasons in the league, Carr has been the unchallenged quarterback of the Texans. His uneven play to date has been excused for a variety of reasons, most of them legitimate. Carr started as a rookie on an expansion team and had expansion players around him. He played behind an offensive line that seemed to quit on a play faster than Art Shell on a Stairmaster. Carr could have easily been a lesser version of the Browns’ Tim Couch, a career doppelganger for Carr if there ever was one through his first sixty games.
But if Carr has proven one thing as a pro quarterback, it is that he can get back on his feet even when the snot has literally been knocked from him time and time again. A guy who takes a regular beating like that every week, over and over, and every week is back on the field for more the next game has something admirable about him. Something that deserves the respect of his teammates.
Something that ought to bridge that gap between today and the success of tomorrow.
Until the bridge is built, Keith Weiland will have to keep sweet talking his TiVo into recording Texans games.
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