On Notice

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December 16, 2006
On Notice

by Ric Sweeney

Sean Payton. Drew Brees. Reggie Bush. Marcus Colston. They ALL could have been standing on the Texan sideline Sunday… watching Tennessee beat Houston…

Instead, they were 250 miles north helping the Saints completely and utterly de-ball the Dallas Cowboys (a pretty decent consolation prize, if I do say so my darn self). Which I bring up not to rub salt into the by now festering wound of the Houston Texans, but to demonstrate two inherently obvious facts about our local football team: 1) they haven’t caught a single break in five years; 2) they have no one to blame but themselves.

And in case that message wasn’t getting through to the organization loud and clear, Vince Young rolled into his hometown and dropped, by my unofficial count, 531 exclamation points on top of Bob McNair. Yep, Young could have been a Texan, too. But he’s not; David Carr is, and that’s causing quite a ruckus these days.

Many Texan fans had circled Sunday’s game against the Titans as Carr’s requiem; his opportunity to quiet his critics and bury four years of lost hopes. It was, without hyperbole, the biggest game of Carr’s life. And none of us should be surprised that under such a blinding spotlight, Carr kind of, sort of rose to the challenge. Maybe… we’re not really sure – can we have three more years to evaluate him, please? Here, David, here’s another quadruple-billion dollar extension…

The game-tying drive Carr orchestrated with 3:31 remaining was nice, but it perfectly encapsulated his near five-year career with the Texans: Needing three to tie, seven to win, Carr did just enough to get the three. He was workman-like and exceedingly unspectacular in doing so; a commendable performance by any stretch. Unfortunately, moments later, Young gave us a breathtaking glimpse of just how green the grass is in Tennessee (underneath Billy Joe Bob’s broken down El Dorado that’s been parked in the yard for months, of course), hoisting the Titans on his back and dashing 39 yards for the game-winning score. Field goal? Vince Young scores touchdowns, you female dogs.

And as Young glided across the goal line, it likely brought to an end Carr’s tenure in Houston. I can’t imagine trying to sell David Carr to the fan base again next year, meaning the first ever pick in franchise history is likely to be gone – joining the 2nd-, 5th-, 6th- and 7th –ever picks in franchise history…

And if it does indeed happen, that means Carr’s whipping boy routine won’t be around next year to deflect the rest of us from ignoring the roster’s many, Many, MANY remaining shortcomings. So in the grand tradition of The Colbert Report (read: I’m stealing it and being unoriginal), I’m putting the following Texan-related components on notice – bring out the big board!

The Denver System
Gary Kubiak gambled that the system he had grown to love and cuddle with in Denver – the system that consistently churned out 1,000-yard rushers – didn’t actually need pesky things like talent to effectively run it – that just got in the way of his genuisness. But after half-assedly throwing every Tom, Dick and Samkon into the backfield and failing miserably, here’s hoping Kubiak has learned his lesson: Get some talent in your backfield, Gary.

And that goes for the offensive line, too. Your efforts thus far have been decent, but you need to do more than just add two third round picks and an aging veteran to the unit; hell, if we wanted to just place a band-aid over an amputation, we could have kept Charley Casserly around for that. The entire line needs an overhaul. Why is this still a problem? Unfathomable.

And why is this so important? Here are some interesting stats to chew on (and then likely spit back in my face, but whatever – I can take it; spit away, you!): Six times this year, the team’s leading rusher has gained 63 or more yards (63 being the per game average required for a 1,000-yard season). Hey, guess what? The Texans are 3-3 in those games with two of the losses coming on the game’s final play (Buffalo and Tennessee). Funny how that works, isn’t it? So keep Carr, trade Carr, or kill Carr – whatever, but build a consistently effective running game that successfully marries a workable system with enough talent to actually make it work. Until then, you are on notice, Denver System.

Steve McKinney, Chester Pitts and Fred Weary
Let’s be perfectly fair – Carr’s not the only guy who’s been here all five years of the team’s existence: Now in its fifth smash year of sucking (!), McKinney, Pitts and Weary have all been part of the worst stretch of offensive line play in the entire history of football. So if we’re jettisoning Carr because he represents the franchise’s continued ineptness, then let’s hold equally-tenured players in units not succeeding to the same standard, and that means you three. Effectively immediately, McKinney, Pitts and Weary are all on notice. Has does that feel? Didn’t think so!

Andre Johnson
Oh, yeah – I’m going there…

Johnson will likely lead the league in receptions this year. But if we’re going to dismiss Carr’s high completion % because the vast majority have been underneath the coverage (a consistent complaint), then shouldn’t we also at least be dubious of the guy on the receiving end of those passes the majority of the time?

Yes, we should.

Johnson’s 11.5 yards per catch is going to be the lowest for a receptions leader since 1994. In fact, 65 receivers with at least 30 receptions this year currently have a higher per catch average than Johnson.

Now I won’t pretend to be an aficionado of the West Coast offense, and certainly not an expert on Kubiak’s bastardized version of it – hell, I know very little about football, period – but do any of you ever remember Jerry Rice consistently streaking downfield on post patterns, yelling, “I’m open!!” while a 49er? The answer I’m looking for is, “Why no, Ric… I do not.” And there’s a reason for that; I quote the West Coast innovator himself, Bill Walsh: “The 49er West Coast offense relies on short passes turning into big plays with the ability of the skill players.” (Emphasis mine.)

So, for everyone SCREAMING about the Texans’ short passing game – it’s by design, people; a design that is supposed to give Andre Johnson the freedom to make plays. But in his four years as a Texan, he’s been less a playmaker than Corey Bradford – and I challenge you to dispute that. Bring it on!

There’ve always been excuses for Johnson’s consistent non-factoriness: He was always double-, tripled – hell, most teams just stuck 11 guys on him; he didn’t have a competent #2 receiver, or a threat at tight end, or time to get downfield because of the offensive line, or a quarterback who could throw the deep ball – in other words, Johnson was David Carr lined up wide. Well, this year the Texans brought in Eric Moulds and Kevin Walter, they drafted Owen Daniels… and Johnson remains the league’s most dangerous possession receiver.

Up 14-13 in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Titans, Carr lifted a pass to Johnson at the goal line that Renaldo Hill defended perfectly. And as the opportunity to put away the Titans fell harmlessly to the turf, not a single person raised their voice to call out Johnson for a) letting Renaldo F-word’ing Hill get position on him – IN SINGLE COVERAGE; or b) not making what would have been a spectacular catch to break open the game (after all, isn’t that what elite Pro Bowl receivers are supposed to do?). Nope, we booed Carr instead.

Well, Andre Johnson, your free pass is being revoked, mister. The next time you turn a 5-yard slant into another play that comes up a yard short of a first down, I am going to run to the nearest message board and flood it with anti-Carr-like threads titled, “Johnson sucks!” or something more clever… Not sure yet. Are we cool, Andre Johnson?

Plantar fasciitis
It’s been a rough year for Mario Williams. The deck stacked too high; the expectations were put on a rocket ship bound for space… and then he had to go and develop some plant-like ailment on his foot, costing him a chance to put it in everyone’s face and prove once and for all that he was the right pick (had Reggie Bush and Vince Young stayed in school another year…).

Well, plantar fasciitis, you are now officially on notice – isn’t there a local NBA player you could be harassing instead? No one cares about basketball, so go bother Steve Francis, or Cuttino Mobley or whoever the Rockets are currently starting. Just leave our guy alone. In the meantime, get healthy, Mario Williams – big guy (may I call you big guy?), so you can come back next year and give us “second quarter against the Giants” for 16 consecutive weeks, OK?

And I’m going to take this one step further – injuries, you, too, are on notice. You’ve decimated the offensive and defensive lines; crippled two players that would have made a significant impact if healthy (Domanick Davis and Jerome Mathis), and essentially run roughshod over our entire roster for far too long, now. So, enough, I say! Go blow out Peyton Manning’s knee, or something; I’ve had it up to HERE with you.

Dunta Robinson
I know you hit harder than two Hispanic women fighting in a club parking lot on a Friday night at 2:06 AM, but if I see Drew Whiteguy get behind you even once next year, I’m having the NAACP revoke your black card. And hey, while we’re here – I have a novel idea: make a play every now and then. Honestly, Pacman Jones did more in the Titans’ fourth quarter comeback against the Giants than Dunta’s done in his entire pro career, and I’m fairly certain Jones was playing with a state-issued electronic ankle bracelet that day.

And finally, Houston Texans Fans
If the vast majority of you do get your wish, and Carr is leading the Denver Wildcats to an Arena Bowl Championship next year, then you better stop being a bunch of whiney, insufferable females at that certain time of the month.

Next year, you’re on notice to unequivocally support your local football team, especially when our “Anybody But Carr” quarterback looks suspiciously like David Carr while he runs for his life and hands off to Iron Head Heyward, or whoever Kubiak deems should split time with Terrell Davis’ ACL. If you can’t or won’t do that, then you, like all the jack assess pulling for Vince Young Sunday, are dead to me. Bring out the board…

Ric Sweeney thinks the truthiness of what’s really wrong with the Texans goes much deeper than David Carr, but, oh well – what’re you gonna do?

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