Friday, September 29, 2006

Week 3 With no Rose-Coloured Glasses

Optimism was high as David Carr drove the team down to an early score. However, Washington drove right back and tied it up. I wondered how the team would respond.

Now I know.

I’ve put off writing this until Thursday, because I honestly didn’t know what to write. Who is responsible for the attrocious defensive play that resulted in yet another heart-breaking loss, this time at the hands of the Washington Redskins?

Generally, I would put that decision in the hands of management. I’m not the guy who determines who plays and who doesn’t play, I’m not paying anyone’s paycheque, my annual fieldpass subscription aside. I have my opinions as to who has played well and who has not played well, but as I said, I will defer to the experts who hold the clipboards, parse videotape, know what people are supposed to be doing, and get to make these decisions.

That said, those people have said that they accept the blame for this debacle. I refuse to follow my initial instinct and see it as the coaches throwing themselves on the grenade of scrutiny. If Gary Kubiak accepts the blame for the urine-poor play of the team, then he’s to blame. I’m still going to think that Ceandris Brown, Thomas “Big Yards” Johnson, Mario Williams, Morlon Greenwood and various others on the defense need to step it up big-time, but I don’t blame them for the loss.

That falls squarely on the coaches. If they are not properly preparing the players to play, which is basically what they’ve been saying, then they need to change their approach. If they can’t get the team ready to play, then they should be replaced.

I realize that replacing the coaching staff mid-season in their first year is not realistic, it’s harsh and it’s unfair. And I’m not going to carve Kubiak’s name into a piece of pink soap, but Kubiak himself has said that he’s failing. I’m not going to blame the players that this coaching staff thought were good enough to play. If they’re not good enough, they shouldn’t have made the team. And I refuse to believe that this team is so across-the-board bad that setting bad yardage records is, not only in reach, but seeming like an inevitability.

If the players are not good enough to play, Kubiak should not be taking the blame for preparedness, and I don’t think he would. In my opinion, it looks bad on him (not that anything in an 0-3 start with 450+ yards against/game would look good) but it’s not classy, it’s arrogant, to think that he’s bulletproof enough to be able to take the blame and keep going.

Enough with the negativity.

David Carr continued to improve, in my opinion. Despite what sounded like heavy pressure, he was sacked only once, and threw what sounded like a pressure interception. (Andre Ware said, anyway, that he didn’t have room to step up)
Shantee Orr could have had a defensive score.
Glenn Earl continued his goal-line stalking ways. He was an overturned call away from another turnover in the red-zone. (That puts him at 1 with 2 taken away) He’s starting to emerge as more than a solid starter, I think. People who have seen the games can feel free to disagree, of course.
Andre Johnson had a MONSTER game. It’s nice to see him doing what he’s supposed to be doing. He sounds like a man among boys, as it should be.
Mark Bruener got ANOTHER touchdown catch. I like that. Not quite as much as I would like to see Joppru in there, but it’s not like Jop would have gotten more points for the touchdowns.
Did anyone other than Dunta Robinson make a tackle in the second half? I swear, that guy was all over the field. Looks like he was embarrassed by his effort in the week before.

Thomas Johnson. Did this guy get cut? I don’t like him. I hear he has good work-ethic but COME ON! We lost six points and probably gave up a scoring drive on two of his antics. I’m tired of him.
22/22 – Can’t we get an incompletion? Can’t we hit him as he’s throwing to knock it off-line? GOOD GOD, DEFENSE, yell while he’s throwing, at least!
30-yard draw-play. I have no way of telling whose fault this was by the play-by-play on the radio, so I choose to blame EVERYONE.
91,74,82,70 – these were the drives that resulted in touchdowns. Make a freaking stop. We don’t need 3-and-out every time, but what about 5-and-out, 8-and-out, something?!

I think Houston can beat Miami on Sunday. Whether they will or not, I’m not sure. I’ll be there, though, listening, loving it, and hoping for Houston.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Week 2 vs. the Colts (or – This Sh!t’s Getting Old, Fast)

What can I say about week 2 of the NFL season? Well, I missed the start of the game. I was outside with my son, kicking a soccer ball.

When I got inside I kinda wished I hadn’t. It was 14-0 before I sat down and as I started the NFL Fieldpass radio, I heard Wali Lundy fumble the ball. Would we see the same uninspired football we’ve come to know and expect when the Texans were down big against a powerhouse?


It was nice to see the offense keep on trying. I understand that the majority of the offense came against a prevent defense, and that the team had basically no chance, coming back against the Colts after basically handing them a bunch of points, but I was encouraged that Johnson, Moulds, Daniels, Bruener and especially Carr went out there in the fourth quarter, down by a bunch, and didn’t hang their heads. The defense, however, should be ashamed of what happened to them.

With that in mind (and keeping in mind that I know only what I heard on the radio):

Pressure on the quarterback. It sounded like there was a lot more activity in the backfield.
Weaver against the run. I heard a couple of times when he had the runner for a loss.
Travis Johnson. All I heard from the radio guys was positive about him. Maybe it wasn’t a blown pick after all. (Time will tell)
Glen Earl. Two drive-killing plays in one drive. He can’t help that there was a penalty on his INT.
Samkon Gado. I know, this is a reach, but it sounded like he was comfortable back there and he knew where to be. Pretty good for a first game.
David Carr. (just wait… just wait) Four incompletions in a game, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Sure, it was in garbage time, but it happened. That cannot be denied. It sounded like he was making some throws down the field (the touchdown to Daniels sticks out) and when he didn’t have time, he was making the right decisions.
Playcalling in the 4th quarter. Again, it was against a defense trying not to lose, but the playcalling was aggressive, it got the team down the field and put points on the board.

Defensive coverage. I know, nobody can cover Peyton Manning teams. That’s not an excuse. 400 yards, 43 points. That’s just disgusting. These guys should hang their heads in shame (after the game, of course).
CC Brown. What the hell, buddy? Where’s the ball going? Where are you going? How the heck can you defend the pass when you’re five yards off the line of scrimmage? It just seemed like he had his head turned the wrong way all game.
Dunta Robinson. I don’t like to think that he would give up on a play, but it sounds like he did. Grow up, Dunta. Sure, you have to trust your teammates, but that’s no reason to give up when things don’t go right.
Charles Spencer. I’m not saying he didn’t play well. We lost him for the season. We have the worst offensive line in the league and we just lost the most important part of our line. I don’t know what else to say about that.
Ron Dayne. Nice job, sh!thead. I’m just kidding. He apparently ran pretty hard. He just ran at the wrong guy. (For those who don’t know, he put Spencer out for the year by breaking his leg)
Wali Lundy. I guess my expectations were just way too high for this guy. He was a sixth round pick. What was I expecting? Mike Anderson? And that fumble was just a killer.
David Carr. (That’s right) 3 fumbles in a game is unacceptable. I don’t care how they came, I don’t care what the situation is. You can’t spot a team like that Colts any points.
Playcalling through the rest of the game. 14 pass attempts through three quarters, when you're down by 14 before you can blink is just unacceptable. Granted, I understand the need to keep Peyton Manning off the field, but you have to do something to keep up with them, especially when you're down. If you can't run the ball (and all accounts I've looked at show me they couldn't), air it out, and let some things happen.

I guess what’s next is the Washington Redskins, but it seems like the Texans are their own worst enemy right now. I know it’s a cliché, but they have to stop fighting the ball. I would like to see them calm down and actually play the game.

If what has happened continues, Santana Moss is going to have a field day against the Texans. I can only hope they come out and play well, win or lose, for the whole game.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Week 1 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

My thoughts from listening to the game on FieldPass:

1. The Zone Blocking system is designed to open up cutback lanes and give the RB some room to make a play or two. I didn’t hear a single time where that was open. One of the backs found some room with a toss, but that was about it. Obviously, Philadelphia knew what to expect and J. Johnson found a way to counter it with defensive-line gap-discipline. His line also sounded like it was a lot better than Sherman’s.
2. It sounded like Carr had a good grasp of the offense and what Kubiak wanted him to do. There were some cases where he was waiting and waiting, but they were less than I would have thought. This gives me some cause for optimism. He had some brain farts around the goal-line and the results were very last-year-esque (tackle for loss, sack, sack). So that’s something to work on.
3. Eric Moulds and Andre Johnson are awesome! What a combination. And as the running game gets it together, these two are going to bust out huge.
4. I didn’t hear Joppru’s name at all. (Looking at’s gamecenter confirms it). I’m sure he played special teams, but it would have been nice to see him get a few reps.
5. Why in the world was Lewis Sanders on the one Philadelphia Eagles receiver that did anything long? Granted, one of those long completions was said to be over Dunta, but McNabb and Reid saw something, obviously, and exploited it all day, with Sanders bringing up the rear constantly.
6. In the first half, Houston’s radio sideline reporter said that Mario wasn’t getting pressure by himself, but that there was a lot more activity than before. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds impressive, I guess. I heard a play where Babin and Peek met McNabb in the backfield and McNabb had to throw an incomplete pass. It’s nice to hear, but whenever they used the playaction (who the heck should Philadelphia’s play-action fool?) McNabb had all day to throw. That sounds like a case of too much thinking and not enough single-minded devotion to the elimination of an opposing quarterback.
7. Five sacks. That’s way too much for this offense to be giving up. I refuse to accept that protection continues to be this big a problem. However, as long as it does, and Carr doesn’t respond to blitzing with long completions and scores, opposing teams will continue to blitz and get gaudy sack numbers.
8. I was excited about how our team played early on and I look forward to more play like that.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Backseat Quarterback

Once in awhile, I'll read a book, and it will seem utterly absurd. The premise doesn't work, the writing is bad, the characters are fake, or the frame of reference is just off.

Backseat Quarterback, at first look, seemed to be an absurd book. The archaic language, the outdated name-dropping, and most specifically, the reference to the lifestyle of a professional football player. All these things seemed to me to be completely out of place. This was even knowing that the book was written in the 1960s. Granted, the NFL, pre-merger, did not have the high salaries that are commanded by today's players, but it was hard for me to believe in professional football players, living in the same hotel during the season, playing bridge together. I'm not saying that Perian Conerly is a liar. I truly believe that the events she wrote of in her book took place. It's just hard to see. I couldn't see, for instance, Drew Bledsoe getting together with Jason Witten on Monday nights to play bridge. It just doesn't work for me.

Another thing that struck me was the fact that professional football players, in those days, did not make enough money to retire on. Some of them didn't make enough money to keep from working another job in the offseason. One of the things that has always mystified me about the NFL is how commentators would say, “It's becoming a year-round job for these guys.” All I can think is, 'What else are they going to do? It's not like they have to sell TVs or anything.' When I think of the way the players have it now, compared to the way they're outlined in Backseat Quarterback, it makes me wonder what kind of perspective Bryant Gumbel, Warren Sapp and other mouthpieces have on the history of the league when they spew their venom, Gumbel characterizing Gene Upshaw as a lapdog and Sapp likening the lot of NFL players to slaves. I'm not saying they don't deserve the money they make. Football draws a lot of revenue and the people who generate the revenue should share in it. I'm just saying that because the NFL got a favourable collective bargaining, and because these people have to work for their money, people feel the need to spout off.

This book alludes to some players who ended up sticking around the game after they retired from playing, as broadcasters – Pat Summerall and Frank Gifford to name a notable few. It is my belief now that they didn't step into the broadcast booth because they wanted to stay connected to the game. Or not only that. They did so because they couldn't afford to retire. How crazy is it that former players are having to fight for their pensions when the dollars floating around professional football nowadays are bordering on obscene?

Perian Conerly does an excellent job of chronicling the life of a football player, organizing it into meaningful and digestible chunks and, in the end, she has told a story that culminates with Charlie Conerly's decision to retire. I have read a fair number of books about football players (usually by football players) and this is easily the best one. It makes me sad, a little bit, to realize that those days are gone and the innocence and purity of the game is now so polluted and diluted with the “me me me” attitude and the crime and chemical dependency that any wrongdoings in those days seem almost comedic.

Charlie Conerly died about ten years ago, but given what he went through, his tacit exterior and the ass-kissiness of some of his contemporaries, I would be very interested in hearing what he would have to say about the state of the game nowadays.