McNair, Texans, Have No One To Blame But Themselves

Don't speak, I know what you're thinkin, I don't need your reasons.

The Texans, and before them, the Cleveland Browns, were thought to be franchises that would take a little while to gel into teams worthy of the NFL. The Browns and the Texans have both had similarly star-crossed histories, each starting by selecting a poor quarterback with their first pick in the draft. Neither team has broken past 10-6 in any given season, and while the Browns did get a token playoff appearance that the Texans didn't, long-term success of any kind has been elusive for both of them as well.

Bob McNair came out earlier this week, in an interview with Dale Robertson, and placed some of the blame on the NFL itself for not having anyone to train him. While there were some good rebuttals of this piece, I think Alan Burge spelled it out best. It's hard to take these comments seriously given all the Chronicle propaganda of the day about what a well-run organization the Texans had in 2002. Here's a nice piece from that era.

How about some actual accountability? Well, the real reason the Texans and Browns have failed in comparison to the early starts the Jaguars and Panthers were able to make is pretty simple: personnel, personnel, and personnel.

The Jaguars were able to form a long-term dynasty almost out of the gate thanks to a winning combination: good drafting, good coaching, good trades, and good scouting. Tony Boselli was an inner-circle talent at left tackle while he was healthy, Kevin Hardy was a star, if not superstar, linebacker in his prime. They nailed both of their top picks, and they supplemented those with players like Tony Brackens, Aaron Beasley, Rob Johnson, and Seth Payne in the later rounds. What about a quarterback? They drafted a pretty decent one in Steve Beuerlein, but they were able to bring in an even better one in Mark Brunell for just two picks: a third rounder and a fifth rounder. Perhaps most impressive was that they were able to find Natrone Means and Jimmy Smith off the street, and brought in Keenan McCardell as a free agent from the Browns. The Jaguars, through years 1-3, probably had the most impressive scouting and development department in the NFL. That gave them a respectable turn of success from 1996-1999 until (later) poor drafting and cap mismanagement caught up with them. 

The Panthers, like the Texans later, were built on a foundation of older defensive stars from the get-go. Free agents like Lamar Lathon, Sam Mills, and Kevin Greene were brought in to hold opponents down while the offense developed. Kerry Collins, while he wasn't a real franchise quarterback, was much better than either David Carr or Tim Couch wound up being. However, the Panthers bungled picks on mediocrities like Tim Biakabutuka and psychopaths like Rae Carruth, and while they were able to find a few decent late rounders like Chad Cota, they weren't able to keep things stable once that old core dissolved. The Panthers turned into a team that eternally chased that one piece to get them back to where they were until a disastrous 2001 season left them searching for a new beginning.

In contrast to the Browns, who tried to develop almost the entire team from the ground up, the early Texans followed that Dom Capers Panthers blueprint, employing guys like Jamie Sharper, Aaron Glenn, Marcus Coleman, Gary Walker, and Payne to try and hold down the fort until the offense could fend for itself. Unfortunately, the Texans drafts were even worse than the Panthers drafts. Outside of Andre Johnson and Dunta Robinson, Gary Kubiak inherited nothing from the Casserly regime. While the current regime has been able to replicate the low-cost findings that the Jaguars had on offense, with guys like Kevin Walter, David Anderson, and Joel Dreessen, that hasn't extended to the defense yet.

Instead of pointing the finger for the Texans poor start at the NFL, perhaps McNair should criticize the person who actually bungled all the personnel decisions here: Charlie Casserly. Then again, that might distract from his "poor pitiful me" agenda that his friends at the Chronicle are helping him pursue here. While there were many poor quotes in this piece, this stood out to me the most:

"Honestly, I wouldn't want to be in a situation like Carolina or Jacksonville, whose early success was greater than what they've enjoyed recently."

Yeah, except the Panthers were almost exactly the model your team pursued from the get-go. And there hasn't been a lot of recent success here either.

The excuses aren't making anyone here look good. I don't think these Texans are beyond hope yet, partially because the Frank Bush to Wade Phillips upgrade is going to be enormous, and partially because this offense should continue to be stellar next year. I also understand that there are going to be times where McNair is interviewed and has no choice but to say that the team needs to do better and is still battling, as they always do.

But don't go around giving someone access if all you have to offer is pandering excuses about why the Texans were disadvantaged from the start. Your handpicked scouting department had almost two full years to monitor the class of 2002, and they came up with two players: Chester Pitts and Jabar Gaffney, who could have been complimentary pieces on a winning team. This despite having six extra picks granted to them by the NFL. 

Maybe instead of preaching about how your guys are working hard and getting things fixed, you could stop letting pieces like this slip out and actually work hard and get things fixed. That would be a whole lot more productive then interviews with little tidbits like this.

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