At Least We Have Next Year

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November 24, 2005
At Least We Have Next Year

by Ric Sweeney

It would be hard – nay, impossible to find a single moment from this train wreck of a season that perfectly encapsulates all that’s gone bad. The choices would overwhelm. But the fact Phillip Buchanon is still employed as of 12pm this afternoon comes pretty darn close. Not that Buchanon’s solely responsible for the team’s slide into an as yet undiscovered level below “awful,” but he seems to singularly encompass all that ails this sick, sick team.

On the field, Buchanon doesn’t play like he cares, can’t (or won’t) tackle to save his life and he watches more guys score up close and personal than an on-set porn director. And yet, he continues to cash a paycheck every two weeks. But rather than cut him to send some kind of message to a team that could use a message shoved down its throat, the organization sits back and takes it like a beaten prisoner on Oz, afraid to admit its mistake but equally afraid to rectify the situation, or – just as bad – completely clueless as to how.

And for that, and several other reasons, the countdown is officially on. Head coach Dom Capers is a goner; his news conferences should probably now end with the clock from 24 ticking down the remaining minutes of his regime: “Thank you for coming.” BE-BUM; BE-BUM; BE-BUM. Casserly, on the other hand, seems slippery enough that he might be able to fast talk his way into saving his job, though, seems to me, if Capers is such a bad coach, shouldn’t Casserly be held accountable for hiring him? But I digress. As fans, there’s really nothing we can do but watch the drama play out and cast our thoughts to next year, which, hopefully, will be filled with sunshine, birds chirping, angels singing and a team ready to double up on its 2005 win total.

With that in mind, I see three pressing items looming over the 2006 season, and since the current team is giving us absolutely no reason to discuss their weekly goings-on, we might as well tackle what’s ahead. The three items are: what to do with David Carr, who will be the new head coach, and which direction should we go in the draft with the first overall pick? Ahhhh… warms the heart, doesn’t it?

In regards to Carr, he’s owed $8 million by February; if the team doesn’t pick up the option, he can opt into free agency, free and clear. And I say they go Amnesty International on his ass and let him go, because as of Sunday night, I’m officially done. Finished. I’ve been on his side for a long time, since well before the team officially made him the first bust – I mean, pick – in franchise history. I was convinced he was the right choice for the team.

Not anymore.

Oh, I know – it’s the offensive line; it’s the conservative play calling; it’s the lack of talent around him… Have you noticed it seems to be everything but Carr? And yet, four years into his career, I see a guy making continually poor decisions, poor reads and poor throws and while we should be getting more, even the sparks of greatness are missing.

For all the talk about the offensive line being the root of the team’s problems, it played far and away its best game Sunday and yet Carr was only able to generate 10 points. He is obviously shell shocked, but I no longer care why; neither should anyone else. Think about it – if your dog gets rabies, how isn’t really relevant because no matter what might’ve happened, you still have to take the poor pooch out back and shoot it.

For Carr to bounce back now, after all he’s endured, would require the team to wipe his mind like the criminal rehabilitation at the end of A Clockwork Orange. Short of that, a team looking to start over doesn’t need a mentally damaged quarterback hanging around its neck. Best to cut your losses and move on, especially if you can do it in a way that doesn’t damage the cap.

Because cap space is one of the many reasons why, despite the mess Casserly and Capers have created, the Texans will be a hot destination for unemployed and employed assistant coaches. Not only do they have a healthy cap, they also own the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, a first class facility, great fans and a committed owner. As bad as things look right now, coaches will want to be a part of this. The question is who.

At this point, I don’t think the Texans have a choice. I’m sure there are a multitude of assistants out there that would be great hires. Personally, I think the Colts’ quarterbacks coach, Jim Caldwell, deserves a long, hard look. But this team is bleeding fans hourly. If McNair wants to win them back, he’s going to have to make a bold statement when he replaces Capers. So while Caldwell may intrigue, not a single soul is going to suddenly get interested in the team again if that’s the direction McNair goes.

The only coach I know of that has both the track record and built-in excitement McNair needs is Jimmy Johnson. Yep, I’m declaring we dance a few songs with the Satan himself. What else can McNair do? It’s a move he has to make, unfortunately – another byproduct of the mess the team has become. Fans are jumping off the bandwagon in droves. If McNair wants to generate some excitement around his team again, he has to wipe our memories clear of this debacle. He has to hire Jimmy Johnson.

Would Johnson want to do it? I think McNair could probably offer him 8 million reasons why he should come out of retirement. The upside, beyond the money, is that he’d be taking over a young team (unlike the one he inherited in Miami) with no real identity and players starving for a change. He’d have cap space and draft picks. And oh yeah, a 2006 date with a certain former team of his that would, I’m sure, whet his appetite. The nation’s, too. Johnson’s hire would ensure a team that doesn’t deserve it would again be in the national spotlight.

And if not Johnson, the same idea has to prevail – get someone who will light a fire under the fan base. Bob Stoops, Mack Brown, Vince Lombardi’s corpse… anything to stir excitement for a team that bleeds boring.

And speaking of excitement – that brings us to the 2006 NFL Draft, in which it’s looking more and more likely that the Texans will have the first overall pick. Joy! I’m not about to get into who they should draft and why, except to say it needs to be the best player available, regardless of position. Period. The team cannot go into this draft assuming it has to address a single giant weakness (coughcoughoffensivelinecoughcough), because, in truth, it is littered with giant weaknesses.

Sure, they could use an infusion of talent on the offensive line. But the same could be said for the defensive line, the linebackers, the secondary, the backfield, the wide receivers, the coaching staff, the front office… this isn’t a team one or two players away. So the idea of trying to reach with the first overall pick, or getting cute and trying to trade down and gather more picks needs to be flushed from the plan if there’s a head-and-tails, no doubt about stud at the top of the draft. If that player is Reggie Bush, then Domanick Davis be damned, you better not pass on him to take someone else or trade down. There isn’t a player on this team that couldn’t be upgraded.

…Entering the draft, that’s my only caveat. Well, that and that Charley Casserly be dispatched to some Alaskan scouting trip that weekend and that a restraining order be placed on Dom Capers to keep him out of the war room.

If that happens, then 2006 already looks brighter.

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