Tag: football

Jerry Jones: Still Just The Worst

Deadspin, on the Team Jerry response to the disturbing photos they published this morning:

Jones’s support of Hardy doesn’t come as a surprise. The Cowboys declined to comment on Deadspin’s story when contacted, but have stood behind him since his signing earlier this year. Just 11 days ago, after Hardy blew up at a special teams coach on the sideline, Jones told reporters in a surreal interview that Hardy was “one of the real leaders on this team.”

Jones and his son Stephen—the team’s executive vice president—have both said that they want to sign Hardy to a long-term deal.

Why does Greg Hardy still have a job playing a boy’s game on national television? To be sure, much of the blame has to do with the continuing saga of Sheriff Roger Goodell, the most inept lawman on either side of the Pecos.
Don’t think you’re forgiven though, Bob McNair.

Do Nice Guys Finish Last — Even In The God-Awful AFC South?

Earlier in the week I opined that Houston Texans owner (and right-wing sugar daddy) Bob McNair was not wrong in passing over the Ray Rice opportunity. I gave several arguments, one of which was that hiring someone who was in the middle of a domestic-violence controversy would be wrong on “principle.”

John Nova Lomax (formerly of the Houston Press and now writing for Texas Monthly) writes (I am paraphrasing loosely here) “to hell with your principles“:

To their credit, I guess, Texans brass are aware of the team’s irrelevance and ineptitude, as head coach Bill O’Brien famously said on HBO’s behind-the-scenes reality show Hard Knocks this summer:

Let’s be honest with each other. This place has no respect in the league, just so you guys are all aware of that. This organization is 96-126. [Actually, it was 90-122 at the time and is now 91-126.] Thirty games below .500. Turn your TV on. Nobody talks about the Houston Texans because nobody thinks we’re gonna win. And the disrespect that they show our quarterbacks? I’m tired of that, too. Because both those kids can play. They just need a chance and one of them is going to get it. Enough is enough. Every player that is out there — all 90 players — are players that I want for the 2015 season. When you f—— guys show up to practice tomorrow, they better be ready to f—— go.

Stirring words, indeed. And about half of them true, right up until he started talking about how both Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer could play winning football at this level. So even the head coach acknowledges that the Texans are woeful, pitiful, forgettable. But why do the Texans, who sell out every single-game in their football-mad mid-major market, continue to perennially stink?

Well, there is one statistic in which the Texans lead the NFL. Unfortunately, this tally is not chalked up on the field.

The Texans lead the league in players not getting arrested. Only one Texan has been arrested over the last five years, and that player (rookie Brandon Ivory) was an undrafted free agent who never even made it to his first Texans training camp, because he was cut from the team a few days after his arrest for first-degree burglary charges in Alabama.

This is no accident. The choirboy Texans are very much the deliberate creation of owner Bob McNair and his braintrust.

Three years ago, McNair and general manager Rick Smith were riding high on the hog. As November rolled into December 2012, the Texans were coming off two overtime victories in five days and sported the NFL’s best record at 10-1.  Back then, McNair and Smith were keen evangelize the world with their message that Leo Durocher had been wrong. Nice guys didn’t always finish last.

McNair said there were three types of guys who were “unacceptable” as Texans draft picks: Those with a pattern of domestic violence (“People who do that are just a bully. Bullies are usually not courageous when they’re facing someone as strong as they are”); substance abusers (“That can become a habit, and they might bring that habit with them. I’m not talking about someone who smoked marijuana. I’m talking about a persistent user of drugs. We take them off the list”); and guys with no respect for authority (“We have a very strong chain of command. Our coaches don’t want to have a debate with a player every time they tell him to do something”).

…continuing…

All of which is well and good if you are staffing an operating room, investment bank, or air traffic control tower, but the NFL is none of those things. The NFL is insane. These guys risk paralysis, crippled knees, and debilitating brain injuries play after play, year after year. Every player in the league knows they are potentially one violent collision away from being wheeled off on a cart and breathing through a tube for the rest of their life, that all those helmet-to-helmet hits might one day in the not-too-distant future leave them unable to recognize their wives and children.

How many well-adjusted young men want to risk that? Yes, the fact the Texans are able to stock a full roster every year shows that there are some, but as losing seasons plague the Texans, it appears ever more apparent that their policy of passing up the troubled (who are often also the hungriest) players is simply not working. That maybe cranky old Leo Durocher had been right after all.

This is not to say that the Texans should be out there trying to spring Aaron Hernandez and slot him in at tight end, or that they should dust off Ray Rice and line him up behind Mallett and Hoyer. But think about it: Former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor enthusiastically waved most of McNair’s red flags through his whole career, and yet to call him a game-changing player sells him short. He didn’t just alter individual games, but the very way defensive football was played across the entire sport.

To boil down JNL’s argument to its core: character does not contribute to value in professional football in the same way that it does in other professions; and by privileging it above other concerns, the Houston Texans are fundamentally failing to measure the value of their prospects.

One thing that I am surprised that JNL did not mention is the effect that college football programs plays here. It is trite to note that college football is essentially the minor league for the NFL (albeit one dependent upon undercompensated labor). When college football programs invest in and reward players (and coaches!) who don’t respect the rules, their classmates (particularly women) and sometime, the law — then a disproportionate amount of the potential recruits for a professional football team are going to have “character” issues. This leaves owners like McNair scrambling to hire the best of a bad bunch.

One issue that JNL does point out, albeit obliquely, is that “troubled” players are often the “hungriest.” To flesh this out : players who have always had success on-and-off-the-field have a sense of complacency that tends to prevent them from achieving true NFL excellence. Case-in-point for this would be RG III.

Lomax notes in his article the comparison that John McClain made (and Whitney Mercilus re-tweeted) between the Astros and the Texans. It’s not entirely clear what McClain’s point was in making the comparison, but a reasonable sports fan might point out that the Astros have done exceptionally well in part because they have embraced the Gospel of Moneyball. Jeff Luhnow’s passion for analytics is exceeded only by Dork Elvis himself.

If the Astros and the Rockets can both put decent teams on the field by using cold statistical logic, then the Texans might want to consider doing the same. Although Bill Belichick is definitely evil, his keen grasp of football analytics is probably a better explanation for the Patriots’ success than spying and ball-tampering.

When Bill O’Brien (a member of Bellichik’s coaching tree) was brought on as headcoach, the expectation generally was that he would follow these analytical methods. While some of the draft picks of late have been inspired, the game-day evidence heretofore has not been overly-encouraging.

In the final analysis, I can forgive the Texans organization for caring about “character,” even if it is pointless. I will not forgive them, however, if they remain skeptical of analytical methods that other teams are already using to crush the Texans.

Bob McNair is Not a Bad NFL Owner for Refusing To Hire Ray Rice

The Houston Press complains that Bob McNair isn’t a micromanaging jackass like Jerry Jones:

No owner in the history of Houston sports has accomplished less with his franchise than Bob McNair. Yet no owner in the history of Houston sports is less criticized than McNair. Who cares if his teams don’t win? It’s not McNair’s fault. He saved football in Houston. He puts smart people in charge of the team. He leaves them alone.

But in 14 seasons, McNair’s Texans have won just 89 games against 124 losses. There are only two playoff seasons, only four winning seasons in those 14 seasons. Can you imagine the treatment Bud Adams would have received from the Houston media if the Oilers had accomplished so little? The Oilers wouldn’t be praised as the ideal model. The Oilers would be mocked as a train wreck run by an owner concerned only with making money. There’d be no praise for passing on players with troubled backgrounds; instead, there’d be loud criticism for Adams being willing to stick with unproven players like Alfred Blue instead of taking a chance on a proven veteran like Ray Rice.

There are several reasons why Bob McNair shouldn’t be blamed for this. First, hiring a known wife-beater is offensive on principle (at least when it comes to professional sports). Second, Ray Rice is getting old (for a running back). Third, letting Rick Smith manage things is the smart thing to do. There is probably a solid case to fire Rick Smith, but if you’re not going to pull that trigger, then don’t point.

So no, Bob McNair is not a bad NFL owner for failing to hire Ray Rice.

Bob McNair is a bad NFL owner for backing the anti-HERO campaign.

This is not just a rumor; it was confirmed to the Houston Chronicle by Jared Woodfill.

Bob McNair and Lance Berkman can kiss my ass.

Horns Rally, Beat OU, I’ll Shut Up Now

This is what Texas Football looks like when it’s running on all four cylinders:

No. 10 Oklahoma was favored by as many as 17 points against Texas. The Longhorns were 1-4 and full of drama after losing by 43 points to a banged-up TCU the week prior. The unbeaten Sooners ranked No. 1 in the country according to a collection of ratings and the author you’re reading.

None of that mattered. Texas rarely appeared to be the younger or more turmoil-y team in a 24-17 victory, with Charlie Strong crowdsurfing at midfield. The Horns went up by 14 immediately, thanks only in part to OU’s offensive line tipping off play calls. The challenged Longhorn offense spread the ball around in its own way, with quarterbacks Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes splitting 26 carries and committing no major blunders, and the Texas defense had its most impressive day since at least 2014.

I have to admit, my expectations were so low I slept through the game, preferring an all-night binge of World of Warships.

Texas Has A Healthcare Crisis And An Entitlement Crisis

#prayforbevo

I was saddened to hear the unfortunate news that our beloved mascot, Bevo, has a “life-threatening condition” and therefore will be unable to watch the Texas-OU game Saturday from the sidelines. Don’t feel too bad for him, though.

Right now, Oklahoma is a 17-point favorite per vegas.com. I’ve been a pessimist all year long and I (naturally) think that the spread might be too generous to the Horns.

Sports Illustrated’s Campus Rush blog has a new article up analyzing the recent problems with the Longhorns varsity football squad. It lays most of the blame on the upperclassmen recruited during Mack Brown’s final years as head coach:

Speculation about Charlie Strong’s future at Texas has intensified with his team’s woes, but Strong won’t blame his predecessor. “I never will ever say it was Mack Brown’s fault,” Strong told reporters Monday. “It wasn’t his fault. It is on me.”

But numerous coaches who have faced Texas this season and are familiar with the Longhorns aren’t as diplomatic about Strong’s 1–4 start entering Saturday’s game against No. 10 Oklahoma in Dallas. They point the finger at Brown and his former staff for the lack of talented upperclassmen and an attitude of entitlement that’s resulted in public clashes with younger players recruited by Strong.

“In two years, Charlie could not have f—– that place up,” a coach tells The Inside Read. “It was already f—- up before.”

. . .

It’s apparent the Longhorns’ most talented players are mainly those Strong signed in his first two recruiting classes. Offensively, coaches rattle off freshman wide receiver John Burt, sophomore running back D’Onta Foreman as well as freshmen offensive linemen Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe as the best at their respective positions for the Longhorns. Defensively, it’s freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson along with freshmen cornerbacks Kris Boyd, Davante Davis and Holton Hill.

The best quarterback on the roster is redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard, but coaches attribute his immense struggles the last two games to opponents’ crowding the box defensively to restrict his dual-threat ability. With enough video of Heard finally in action, the opposition has discovered he can’t complete the intermediate passes needed to exploit those defensive schemes.

“That’s no secret,” one of the coaches says.

Neither is the void of talent among the upperclassmen. It’s so bad that the Longhorns’ have become a punch line among NFL scouts, who joke they now make the trip to Austin for Sixth Street instead of The Forty Acres.

Senior cornerback Duke Thomas is considered Strong’s best senior because of how hard he plays but is unlikely to make an NFL roster. It’s widely believed Texas won’t have a player selected in the NFL draft for the second time in three years after its 76-year streak was snapped in 2014.

“None of the older guys are going to the NFL, so you can tell most of them really don’t care,” one of the coaches says.

To make matters worse, there appears to be a lack of leadership among the players, a role usually filled by upperclassmen. “(Texas) doesn’t have any dogs,” one of the coaches says. “They don’t have anyone that will stand up and say, ‘F— this bull—-, let’s go kick these f——‘ a–.”

The rift between Texas’s underclassmen and upperclassmen is so evident that coaches could sense the animosity well before it spilled over publicly in recent weeks. They see confidence in the Longhorns’ younger players, but not the older ones.

“The upperclassmen are killing everything,” one of the coaches says. “The freshmen just want to play. They’re balling their a—- off.”

The piece also slams Mack Brown for not recruiting some of TCU’s most talented players.

Look, I know as a Texas Ex that we can’t always be national championship contenders. But this really hurts. Heretofore I have tended to, like most people I think, blame Charlie Strong. Even Charlie Strong (publicly) blames Charlie Strong.

But as Burnt Orange Nation points out, we need to put stock in this piece:

And perhaps that’s partly Strong’s fault, for not empowering the upperclassmen he inherited and the underclassmen he recruited to be leaders. But the coaches speaking to Evans and Thamel — perhaps including ones at Big 12 rivals Oklahoma State and TCU, who would seem to have far more to gain from noting the conference’s dormant superpower is still poorly-coached than from praising the man in charge of it — seem mostly laudatory of the job Strong has done, with the reporters even writing “many coaches still can’t believe Strong was able to will the Longhorns to a 6-7 record last season.”

Given a chance to play politics, those coaches chose truth. And it’s crystal clear that those coaches — who see more, talk more, and know more about locker rooms, even their opponents’, than virtually anyone else in the college football ecosystem — feel that the lion’s share of the blame for this Texas plight should fall at the feet of Mack Brown.

And given that, I’ll sure as heckfire be mad if the University chiefs even consider hiring Mack Brown as Athletic Director. There is no way he could possibly be objective. (Fortunately, the latest is that he doesn’t want the job).

Whether Charlie Strong can succeed in turning things around is yet to be proven, but he has earned the opportunity to try. If anyone should feel entitled on the 40 Acres, it should be him.

Astros clinch AL Wild Card berth. Hallelujer!

Yup:

The Astros lost 5-3 to the Diamondbacks in Game No. 162 at Chase Field but nonetheless clinched Houston’s first postseason berth since 2005 and the 10th in franchise history by virtue of the Rangers’ 9-2 win over the Angels.

Even in clinching an American League West title that looked for so long like it should belong to the Astros, the Rangers did not entirely wrong their in-state rivals. The Angels were the only team that could catch the Angels in the Wild Card race.

The Astros end their regular season at 86-76, a 16-win improvement from a year ago. On Tuesday, they’ll take on the Yankees at 7:08 p.m. at Yankee Stadium in the one-game wild card playoff that sends the winner into the American League Division Series against the league’s defending champion, the Royals.

Getting to taste the sweet, sweet postseason for the first time in 10 years is almost sufficient to make me forget about what a travesty the Houston Texans are this year:

In the postgame news conference, he was short with his answers, and succinct in his self-criticism, hardly allowing any room for discussion of his theory that he was mostly responsible for the 48-21 shellacking.

“Terrible coaching,” O’Brien said. “(I’ve) gotta do a better job, gotta figure out what I can do better to be a better head coach of this team.”

“It starts with me. It’s a bad job of head coaching today.”

No need to argue with him about that.

Nope!

Hey Cupcake, cont’d

post-33738-OMG-girl-gif-fan-oh-my-gosh-go-H7lZ

I went to the HamExpo swap meet in Temple this morning. This is part of my annual ritual of avoiding the overrated hipster confab known as ACL Fest.

After concluding my business there (in other words, after collecting a couple of new nerd toys), I went to my car and fired up 105.3 FM “The Horn”, Central Texas’s sports-talk station and local Longhorn Radio broadcaster.

When I heard that TCU was beating Texas 44-0 early in the third quarter, I said a four-letter word that begins with an “F”, and it was not “FROG.”

The Horns did just manage to avoid the blowout… we’re in garbage time now and it’s 50-7 TCU. Jarrod Heard went 8/20 and had only 48 passing yards and 23 rushing yards on 12 carries. Oooooph.

Things seemed so hopeful last week. Even though the Oklahoma State game ended in the “L” column, it seemed like the defense and the offense both were going to get things going. But whatever enthusiasm I had last week is pretty much gone now.

No doubt about it: the Horned Frogs are good. They deserved to be in championship picture last year. But even granting that this was going to be an uphill struggle today, the Longhorns just sound (can’t say look as I am not watching) like they’re having real trouble all the way around. From special teams snafus to swiss-cheese defense, and of course our latest stupid QB controversy. Can’t blame the officiating crew for this disaster.
(Does anyone think that Tyrone Swoopes might be getting the #1 spot back after this game? From what I heard, at least when he was in the huddle, the chains were moving.)

Next week: Unbeaten (probably) Oklahoma in Dallas.

Update 10/4: BurntOrangeNation has a run-down of Coach Strong’s press conference, calls it his “worst day” as head coach.

Update 10/4 #2:  Oh, come the f*** on!!! We may have a morale problem, Coach.

Hey Cupcake

Tony Buzbee is someone I would call a “remote acquaintance.” I was a precinct chair in Galveston when he was county chair (I believe he’s now a Republican, or at least cozy with the ruling elite). I rented an apartment through his property management company. And I think I dropped off a resume at his law firm once.

Generally speaking, I’d say I respect the guy, although I have to admit he can be awfully ambitious sometimes.

And that’s why I can’t take too much offense at the latest brouhaha in Texas college sports:

If any Longhorn fans were offended by their football team being called a “cupcake” by a Texas A&M System regent, well, “that’s just too damn bad,” says Tony Buzbee, the Aggie regent-turned-provacateur.

A day after the American-Statesman’s Hookem.com posted the provocative comment that Buzbee had made on Facebook, Buzbee told the Houston Chronicle via email that he’s not particularly worried about criticism coming his way from anyone who questions whether his conduct befits a university regent.

In calling for the Longhorns and Aggies to renew their recently interrupted century-old rivalry in football, Buzbee said on Facebook that the Aggies could use some “cupcake games” against easy opponents like the struggling Longhorns, given how tough A&M’s conference schedule is since its move to the SEC.

Here’s the deal: as a Texas alumnus, I am too busy to be offended by what Tony Buzbee thinks, because I am too busy fretting over our 1-3 record and secretly loathing Charlie Strong’s campaign to turn our football squad into a bunch of gentlemen-scholars.

More to the point, I suspect that Tony Buzbee doesn’t really care what Longhorns think because he’s not really talking to us — he’s talking to the Aggie faithful. Remember, they’re the ones who were eager to bail on the Big XII, and ultimately, they’re the ones that have to be persuaded to play Texas again.

I could trot out usual tea-sip chestnuts like “76-37-5”, but the fact is that A&M has put together a great program under Kevin Sumlin. I don’t think anyone expects them to be as good this year as they were in the recent past with Johnny Football, Mike Evans, and crew. In fact, they might even be a little overrated at #15 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and #14 in the AP Poll. But, they are a good program, on par with where the Horns were when I roamed the 40 Acres (this was early in Mack Brown’s tenure).

Accordingly, the Aggs ultimately going to have more leverage in any discussion regarding scheduling. All things considered: I’m actually grateful to have someone like Buzbee advocating for a reunion game.

Now with that said, do I think Buzbee’s comments are simply being made out of “love of the game”? I have no idea. The cynic in me thinks that he might be trying to gin up some publicity for a future political campaign (even though he is wildly successful as an attorney, property developer, etc. I would not be surprised if he ran for statewide office — especially if he smells blood in the water regarding attorney general and admitted-felon Ken Paxton).