Am moving away from my position that the Houston Texans should draft a QB with their #1 overall draft pick this year. Have not changed my view that QB is far and away the most important position in football, and still think Seattle’s success signals a lot of things – including the fact that it does not take a 6’ 5” QB to win a Super Bowl. (Hello, Johnny Football.) No, I am thinking about other aspects of the Seattle model – especially the fact that the team was built on terrific defense, excellent personnel at nearly every position (located without high draft-picks), and an adequate QB. (Hello, 85 Bears.) In particular, am thinking about the fact that the Texans are an old team – almost all their best players are old: six offensive starters (left tackle, center, wide receiver, tight end, running back, fullback), and six defensive starters (left end, right end, middle linebacker, both corners, one safety), not to mention long snapper and punter, will need a walker pretty soon.
Under the dismal 8-year stewardship of GM Rick Smith (only 2 winning seasons out of the 8, and dead last in 2013), who somehow kept his job when the Texans fired the man who was their head coach during that 8-year span, the Texans built a team that was old, fragile, and unable to survive less-than-stellar play at QB. Unlike Seattle, Houston was painfully slow to play rookies, ditch under-performers, make trades, bring in free agents, and otherwise keep the roster fresh. Also, they gave out some outsized contracts to players who do not play QB. (See the enormous contract for a running back who appeared to physically break down from the effort of signing the papers.)
The dilemma: Had the Texans been smart enough to sign Peyton Manning two years ago, when they could have, when he wanted to come here, when the Texans were a little old but still plenty good, the Texans would have played in the latest two Super Bowls. Now, they are two years older and slower and less-healthy, meaning even a Peyton Manning might not be enough, but for sure a Johnny Football – even if he proves to be the second coming of Russell Wilson – is not going to be enough, certainly not in his first year in the NFL.
If the Texans had Seattle’s GM (or maybe the football equivalent of Dale Morey, the GM of Houston’s NBA franchise), and if we could expect them to change personnel philosophies along with coaching philosophies (see new coach Bill O’Brien), this might be the time to bring in JF, or Teddy Bridgewater, or Blake Bortles. There is every reason to expect the Texans will not get another #1 draft pick at any time in the near future, so it might be wise to get the best available QB even if he is not nearly as good a prospect as (however he spells his first name) Clowney. But something tells me Rick Smith, for all shortcomings (including a congenital inability to utter a direct and concise answer to a direct and concise question), might not be the problem.
Something tells me that Texans’ owner Bob McNair, a man who turned good timing into an art form in his business career (e.g., cashing out of Enron just before the crash), is the real source of the Texans’ troubles. That same something also tells me that McNair probably gets it, probably knows how badly he screwed up in sticking with Coach Kubiak far too long, making personnel and salary decisions with his heart rather than his head, and letting his team get old and slow and clumsy. If so, and if he thinks an unencumbered Rick Smith is smart enough to make the team younger and faster across-the-board a la the Seattle model so that it does not require an experienced QB to make it a winner, he will draft a QB #1.
But if McNair has his doubts about Smith, and figures the safe play is to squeeze one more year out of his aging favorite players, he probably will sign up the best available experienced QB (Ryan Mallett?) and then either draft Clowney or trade down in the draft in order to plug other holes in the lineup. Because I think he does have such doubts, and because he does not need J. Football in order to sell-out the stadium, and because he has already survived one episode of public outrage over his refusal to use the #1 pick to draft a highly-popular local favorite (Vince Young), my bet is he will not use the #1 pick on a QB.