The #1 Pick
The Houston Texans were perhaps the NFL's biggest disappointment in 2013. Correction: They WERE the league's biggest disappointment. In fact, it wasn't even close.
Houston opened the year as the league's 7th best team according to the ESPN's Power Ranking system. Where did they finish you ask? Dead. Last.
2012 Season: 12-4 regular season. Wild Card victory against Cincinatti.
Divisional Round Loss to New England.
2013 Season: 2-14 Regular Season. 14 straight losses.
Casualties: Gary Kubiak, Ray Marciano, Wade Phillips, Rick Dennison, Matt Schaub ability's to throw the ball to his own team.
Complete List of Terminations
How could a unit with so much supposed talent, so much promise, find themselves free falling to bowels of the NFL? As a Houston native I've stayed up many nights crying into my pillow a la Tobais Funke wondering the exact same thing. In summary many aging players who did not deserve lofty contracts(Schaub, Foster, Reed, Walter) inked huge deals and underperformed mightily. The lack of cap space proved deadly, leading to the departure of Mike Brisel and most notably right tackle Eric Winston. The importance of the offensive line cannot be understated. Injuries ensued and an offensive scheme appeared dated. If you are a self-loathing Texans fan my boy Bill Barnwell has you covered with more details. Barnwell is the G.O.A.T.
But for the rest of us after any bad breakup, it's time to move on.
Make no mistake, this is a destitute team with many issues and numerous needs. One draft selection will NOT make this team a contender or even a postseason threat. But as much as any other professional sports league, the #1 pick in the NFL is a powerful beast. Don't believe me? Have a sip of this.
Hall of Famer's Selected by Round:
8th or more 26
Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Orlando Pace, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, John Elway, Earl Campbell, Jim Plunkett, Bruce Smith, Bo Jackson, O.J. Simpson, Chuck Bednarik.
All #1 Overall Picks.
Tim Couch, Jamarcus Russell, Courtney Brown, Ryan Leaf, Ki-Jana Carter, and last but not least David Carr.
All #1 Overall Picks.
The #1 overall pick boasts more leverage than any financial instrument an investment bank can offer. It's for many teams the first step to super bowl glory, but for other organizations another mistake that sets their franchise back another 5 years. When a #1 overall pick misses coaches are fired, GMs are replaced, and fans are left with bitter tastes in their mouths.
Trey Wingo echoed it best on Twitter yesterday by stating "In the NFL, there is no offseason."
Every day is an opportunity to improve or retrograde. Just as the new Texans coaching staff(THE HOUSTON PATRIOTS) is working intensely to make their mark in the AFC South, as am I. Here are the three primary routes for the Texans to travel in the Bill O'Brien era.
*Assessments to change post combine/pro-day workouts
1. Blake Bortles
I firmly believe O'Brien has found his gunslinger of the future in Blake Bortles. Media reports are swirling that the Texans are closing in on two QB's, presumably Manziel or Bortles.
Blake Bortles has deep ties to O'Brien. Last season at Central Florida, Bortles led UCF to a 27-20 win against O'Brien's Penn State University. The Texans HC got an up close and personal look at the physical and cerebral abilities of Bortles and was impressed to say the least.
Here's what O'Brien had to say regarding Bortles in his opening presser as Texans HC:
“I was able to see Blake Bortles up-close because we played Central Florida at Penn State and they beat us. He was a smart player. An accurate passer. A guy that could do a lot of different things. You could tell he was really a student of the game. He’s a good football player.”
George O'Leary, Bortles college coach at UCF, first hired Bill O'Brien as a graduate assistant in 1995 at Georgia Tech. (Irish Much?)
O'Brien and O'Leary
O'Brien also recently hired George Godsey to serve as Houston's QB coach. Godsey developed a rapport with O'Brien when he coached along side him in New England.(TE's coach) Oh and did I forget to mention Godsey coached at the University of Central Florida until 2008, Bortles' first season on campus as red shirt freshman? You can't make this stuff up.
Sure there are some strange relational connections between Bortles and O'Brien, but are these legitimate reasons to draft him at the #1 overall pick? No, but Bortles skill set, physical ability, and style of play are reasons to either trade down and draft him or select him before everyone else.
O'Brien's offense is the poster child of a modern day "pro style" attack. He uses multiple tight end sets and loves to use the fullback in the running game. In a league where many full backs are disappearing from rosters due to the integration of the spread, O'Brien still enjoys sending a run blocker in motion.
Running his variation of the pro style requires a heady quarterback who is able to make many checks at the line. His system is "highly complicated." In New England he worked with a future hall of famer in Tom Brady. He won't have that luxury this time around. But he did refer to Bortles as a "student of the game."
Bortles' physical attributes equate to O'Brien's offense better than Manziel's. Bortles is 4 inches taller and possesses a more traditional quarterback style in comparison to Manziel's erratic and often spectacular style of improvisation. Manziel's ability to thrive in a spread offense may make him better suited in Cleveland. (But more on that later)
Bortles Full Game Highlights @ Penn State
Game Winning Drive @ Louisville ^
Trent Dilfer believes one of the most important traits found in a successful NFL quarterback is "competitive poise". Competitive poise is hard to quantity but think of it as the ability to maintain your entire emotional capacity while increasing your competitive edge. Quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck rarely change their facial expressions or berate their teammates for screwing up in pressure situations. When tensions are high it's easy for human beings to lose their sense of poise. Instead these players look within themselves to take responsibility for their team's wins and losses in crunch time. Competitive poise is one of the main qualities I look at in quarterback evaluations.
Bortles embodies the very essence of this quality. Leading comeback wins against South Carolina, Memphis, Louisville, Temple, and Baylor, Bortles does not waver in moments of pressure. When the moment gets bigger, so does his level of play. He often throws errant passes but manages to move to the next play quickly. He possesses the rare ability to put mistakes in the rear view.
Physically he is the most gifted signal caller in the 2013 class. At 6'4 240 pounds scouts have said he resembles Andrew Luck when moving in and out of the pocket. He is no where near as polished as Luck as far as throwing the ball down field to open receivers. UCF's offense relied on many quick outs and wide receiver screens so the combine will help us know more about his ability to throw the ball down the middle of the field accurately and effectively.
2. Jadeveon Clowney
The smart money may be found in drafting Jadaveon Clowney. At least the owner's money is.
McNair Envisions Watt & Clowney Tandem
The dude defines the word FREAK. If Clowney tests anywhere near where I think he's capable at the combine, he will shatter records of size and speed. Many people say he has a lack of worth ethic citing his dismal Junior season and overall demeanor. What if Clowney was merely sleep walking with his eyes on NFL glory? He's predicted "amazing" numbers for himself and is saying he "should be the #1 pick."
A Watt and Clowney tandem in the 4-3 as edge rushers would unbearable for opposing offensive lines. Watt's sternness and laser focus on perfection could inspire Clowney to reach his full potential. The great way to negate a future HOF QB in Andrew Luck is to put him on his backside.
Clowney just may be the Texans #1 overall pick if Bortles performs poorly in March.
3. Johnny Manziel
Certain athletes evoke emotions of love and hatred in the same breath. Johnny Manziel is one of the chosen few.
"Johnny Football" is more than just a quarterback. He's a brand. When you are friends with Drake, you lose the right to be called a student athlete. Sitting courtside at Miami Heat games. On a first name basis with Lebron James. Swagger through the roof. Not a bad life, kid.
Forget the fame and controversy let's talk about that action boss. What Manziel was able to accomplish at the collegiate level was astonishing.
He followed up his Heisman winning freshman season with 4114 yards, 37 touchdowns, and only 13 interceptions. Coupling that with 800 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground, these are almost video game numbers.
His performance against Alabama sticks out in my mind reflecting on his sophomore campaign. Against the country's best defense Manziel was unstoppable. Time and time again he led A&M's offense down the field at will. That day he told the world I am a legitimate NFL prospect.
I believe Manziel is poised for success at the next level. Whether that success is short lived or long lasting is another story entirely. His style of play may be to the detriment of his physical being. Then again his build is very compact at 6'1 210 similar to Russell Wilson's thickness. I wish him success and tremendous health and hope he can learn to protect his body at the next level.
When I watch Manziel escape the pocket as he spins to his left, I see shades of Tony Romo. What Manziel needs is a coach to adapt to his style, not the latter. His skill set is rare.
Manziel to Cleveland makes sense to me. Kyle Shanahan is the new OC in town and he lit the world on fire with a variation of the pistol/zone-read with a mobile quarterback named Robert Griffin III.
Wade Phillip's told the Texans before he exited the door they should draft Johnny Football.
Could you imagine Manziel in a Texans uniform? The amount of revenue the Texans could generate off a ticket and jersey sales from the local A&M base would be some AUTOGRAPH STACKS.
Key Upcoming Dates:
- NFL Combine (February 19-25)
- Free Agency Period Begins (March 11th)
- NFL Annual Meeting (March 23rd-26th)
- 2014 NFL Draft (May 8th-10th)