One of my best friends just went through one of the more difficult situations we, as humans have to deal with. His 75-year-old father was strapped to a ventilator and being given heavy doses of medication to keep his blood pressure at a somewhat stable level, and oxygen to keep him alive. As difficult as it was for him to come to the realization that his father’s time had come, it was a recognition that his stepmother refused to accept..
As he related to me, his frustration was growing because his dad had been unresponsive for days, yet his stepmother continued to instruct the medical staff to intervene with god’s will. Ultimately, after eight days, his father was taken off the ventilator and after peaceably passed after briefly regaining consciousness to utter his last words, “I’m tired.”
As my good friend reflected on this difficult situation, he called the process a learning experience. He was immediately going to create a living will for he and his wife. In difficult times emotions run high and it can become almost impossible to think clearly.
This is the position I see Texans owner Bob McNair placed in. His team is metaphorically alive simply because of the outstanding care provided by Houston Methodist. For an owner that places such a high value on friendships and making honorable decisions, his emotions apparently prevent him from coming to the proper conclusion. It's time to pull the plug Bob. Clean house.
Gary Kubiak can no longer motivate his team or put his offense into positions where they can be successful. While Wade Phillips defense is among the league leaders in yards surrendered, its 28th in points allowed. An organization that seemed a quarterback short of being the most talented in the league now looks to have more holes than Sonny Corleone’s car following his tollbooth assassination in the Godfather.
With six games remaining we as Texans fans are forced to watch this team – essentially strapped to life support – waiting for the Mr. McNair to sign the “Do Not Resuscitate” papers and allow us move on from the agony of not knowing when this dreadful situation will end, to a grieving process over unrealized expectations and move forward to a hopefully brighter future.
This was supposed to be the weekend you could try to knock at least one of those New Year’s resolutions off the to-do list. Instead the “Road to New Orleans” for Super Bowl XLVII (aka 47) starts Saturday at Reliant as the Texans host the Bengals. (Coverage on SportsRadio 610 starts with the Countdown to Kickoff at 12:30pm)
A season that was seemingly paving the I-10 path to the Super Bowl in red carpet, instead may be the roughest stretch of highway to New Orleans among playoff teams. How did this happen?
The Texans started the season 11-1, but finished 1-3. The team needed to win just one of its final two to secure home field throughout the AFC playoffs, yet dropped them both in a laissez faire manner. As Bill Barnwell points out at Grantland.com, the Texans were among the best in the NFL in the first half of the season – ranking eighth overall in offense (4th passing, 11th rushing), and third overall in defense (3rd pass defense, 11th rush defense) according to Football Outsiders. However, in the second half they more resembled the 2010 Texans instead of the 2011 playoff team, falling to 22nd overall in offense (21st passing, 24th rushing) and seventh in defense (14th pass defense, up to 4th rush defense).
The credit, or more appropriately the blame goes to the following: quarterback Matt Schaub, an unresolved offensive line, lack of production beyond Andre Johnson at wide reciever, and poor play at linebacker. All criticisms are fair.
Schaub, who this season had his lowest quarterback rating since becoming a starter in 2007 will be making his playoff debut after nine seasons in the league. The Texans’ five “Prime-Time” games this year have been five of his worst six performances – the other being last Sunday’s “must win” game in Indy. With home-field and playoff momentum on the line, he managed one touchdown and three interceptions in the team’s final four games. More importantly I believe, he has lost the faith of his head coach. Faith displayed when the coach gave him a four year contract extension.
On the second play from scrimmage at home against the Colts in week 15, Gary Kubiak designed an awesome play-action pass that found Andre Johnson quickly behind the defense for an easy touchdown. Perfect play call. Perfect strategy for quickly repairing the teams’ psyche following the Monday night meltdown against the Pats. Instead, Schaub is slow to react and under throws Johnson allowing the defense to recover. On paper the result is great, a 52-yard completion. In truth, the execution must have frustrated Kubiak and costs the team four points as the drive stalls and the Texans are forced to settle for a Shane Graham 29-yard field goal.
Week 17, and the Texans must beat the Colts to secure home field. With just over four minutes left in the first half and trailing 7-6, Kubiak again calls an awesome play-action pass. This time the intended target is the forgotten fullback James Casey. Casey’s beaten his man within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Again, Schaub is as
in reading the play as the Colts defense – slower in fact, because by the time he winds-up and floats his pass to Casey, Indy’s Vonte Davis has had time to recover and intercepts the pass. Instead of a touchdown that would propel the Texans to a 13-7 halftime lead, the Colts respond with a touchdown and lead 14-6 at the half.
I can’t speak for Kubiak, but I would be livid when successful strategy after strategy is failed by my quarterback’s inabilities and then I have to answer to endless criticism about being a conservative play-caller.
Perhaps Schaub can turn and blame the offensive line, which just hasn’t found the replacements for Eric Winston at right tackle and Mike Brisiel at right guard. While the drop-off from Winston to Derek Newton has been obvious – and a more calculated and risky decision, the loss of Brisiel has been more significant. Neither Antione Caldwell or rookie Ben Jones have been good. Now the Texans seem to be turning to a third option in rookie Brandon Brooks, whose allowed some unforgiveable sacks and missed assignments at this point in the season. That’s not his fault, the position should have been settled by now. At tackle it seemed the team was hell-bent on making Newton the starter over the more experienced Rashad Butler. When Butler was lost to injury in the preseason finale, maybe the ability to solidify the right tackle position was as well.
As the Texans enter the playoffs, short of a unforeseeable turnaround, the front office’s strategy to spend money elsewhere (like on a new contract for Matt Schaub) thinking they could do with unproven players on the line has failed in the same manner the unproven secondary failed in 2010 when the team chose not to resign Dunta Robinson. That decision seems like the right decision today, but was a disaster in ’10 when the defense finished 31st in the league (don’t believe me ask Kareem “toast” Jackson). The O-line may also be great in two years, but it doesn’t look ready for a Super Bowl run this year.
Similarly, the team knew the need for production at wide receiver needed to improve. In similar fashion, the solution looks like it has not arrived in time for the playoffs. The team rightfully let Jacoby Jones leave, and drafted Devier Posey in the third round, and Keshawn Martin in the fourth round of the draft. When you throw in undrafted free agent Lestar Jean – who spent his rookie season ’11 on injured reserve, Jacoby’s replacement[s] totaled 22 catches for 323-yards and two TD’s. Jones accounted for 31/512/2 last year (which wasn’t good enough remember?!)
At linebacker, the season ending injury to Brian Cushing in the Jets game has been brutal but cannot be blamed. The drop off by Connor Barwin, and first round pick Whitney Mercilus not being ready to contribute have certainly hurt. So too has the poor health of Daryl Sharpton, and the inability to add sufficient relief by Bradie James, Barrett Ruud and Tim Dobbins.
How do the Texans right the ship and deliver on the promise this season originally held? By returning to a level of play displayed just twice this season – in wins over Denver and Baltimore. That won’t be easy.
The Bengals team that comes to Reliant for this playoff opener is better than last years. Cincinnati is tied with the Patriots for points scored in the first quarter. The Texans defense is 21st in first quarter points allowed. The Bengals pass defense is tops in the NFL in the second half of the season, and defensive tackle Geno Atkins is the best defensive player in the league not named J.J. Watt.
The outmatched Texans offensive line must control the line of scrimmage and allow Schaub time to throw, and Arian Foster time to run. Schaub must come up big in his postseason debut and learn to find receivers besides Andre Johnson. Foster would be a good place to start as he’s off 400 receiving yards from last season. It would also be nice to see a more aggressive Arian, who will have to get more “yards after contact” than he’s shown the ability to do this year.
On defense, the “Bulls on Parade” must return. The defense hasn’t had an interception since creating three against the Titans on December 2nd. Katy native Andy Dalton may provide the cure. He gave up three in last season’s 31-10 Texans playoff victory, and the Bengals have won in spite of him down the stretch. Dalton’s quarterback ratings the past five games: 66.9 (@SD), 76.1 (DAL), 74.2 (@PHI), 58.8 (@PITT), 101.5 (BAL). Keep in mind the Ravens game came mostly against Baltimore’s back-ups.
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since beating the Oilers in 1991. They’ve never won a playoff road game, hence their head coach Marvin Lewis is winless as a playoff coach. They also face the statistical fact that three times in NFL history the same two teams have met in back-to-back playoff seasons, and all three previous times the team that won the first game (Texans) won the rematch.
The Texans have made the path to the Super Bowl as difficult as possible, (win on Saturday and the prize is a return trip to New England and we all remember the 42-14 beat-down Patriots) but at least there’s a path.
Think About It...
December 5, 2012
November 18, 2013
November 21, 2013
Like most bullies, standard operating procedure is to pick on those he knows to be inferior until somebody with either the courage or skill or both stands up to him. At that point a bully typically runs in search of the next easy victim.
This pattern of behavior defines Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer to a tee. Meyer is looking to bully those in charge of the BCS Title game - and the College Football Playoff - which replaces the BCS next year.
Why is Meyer throwing his weight around? Because after two seasons of insignificant wins his Buckeyes - though undefeated again - are on the outside looking in for a spot in the title game. Last year Ohio State was denied the opportunity for post-season play by the NCAA for violations that occurred during the Jim Tressell years.
This season, the Buckeyes are eligible to play in the BCS Title game, they're just not good enough. Instead of directing his rage at the BCS, Meyer should look in the mirror, but bullies never do that.
If Urban Meyer wanted to play for titles he had two simple choices:
1. Toughen up his Ohio State schedule. The Buckeyes non-conference schedule this year; Buffalo, San Diego State, Cal, and FCS (aka Div. 1-AA) Florida A&M. His Big 10 schedule is equally weak. The only ranked teams Ohio State has played - in conference - are a 31-24 win over Wisconsin (ranked 23rd at the time - 19th in the current BCS standings) and a 40-30 win over Northwestern (ranked 16th at the time, the Wildcats haven't won since beating Maine on Sept. 21 and are neither ranked nor bowl eligible today). Even in 2012, they played only two ranked teams - 20th ranked Michigan State (which finished 7-6 and out of the polls), and 21st ranked Nebraska (the Huskers finished 10-4 and 25th in the final AP poll).
2. Meyer's other choice was to remain at Florida and in the SEC - where the last seven BCS title teams reside. But when the bully was bullied, he found a way to make himself a victim and ran away. When the Gators - thanks to Tim Tebow - we're running through the SEC with ease on the way to a pair of BCS titles, Meyer bullied his fan base, and local media with regularity.
Then Nick Saban took over at Alabama, and after one loss to the Gators, the Tide won three straight by a combined score of 101-29. The bully was bullied. Meyer spent one more mediocre year in Gainesville going 8-5, losing to the four ranked teams he faced by a combined 131-56. Like the Abominable Snowman holding his just removed teeth, Meyer starred at a fading program and 25 player arrests in six season, and ran for retirement.
After bonding with his family that had already left the nest, and apparently soaking in the healing waters of Lake Okeechobee, suddenly the health issues which were his excuse for "retiring" from Florida were all healed-up and he was ready to start bullying again.
What better place to pick on the less fortunate than a heritage program like Ohio State. Meyer's plan seemed perfect. Beat-up on a weakened Big 10 and schedule some non-conference tomato cans and waltz into the BCS Title game with significantly less effort than was required in the SEC.
What Meyer didn't foresee is that pollsters, media and fans were smart enough to see through this paper lion - just as they were when Boise State cried foul years earlier.
In a system where human observation plays a large role in determining who's the best, your schedule matters. Meyer knew this - that's why he left Utah for Florida.
No surprise the Buckeye Nation has Urban's back - bullies usually surround themselves with groupies. But for the rest of the college football loving world, we see a petulant jerk poorly attempting to portray himself as a victim.
The only thing Urban Meyer is a victim of, is his arrogant, "holier than thou" attitude coming home to roost.