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Total Titans questions about the Texans

Thanks to Matt and bigfatdrunk of Da Good, Da Bad & DeMeco for answering our questions about the Texans this week.  Despite their irreverent description of the Titans*, I’ve generally found them to be pleasant and knowledgeable, and I hope you find their answers interesting.  Plus, they both answered some of our questions, so you’re getting a double dose of info.

1.  Matt Schaub.  Is he the Texans quarterback of next year?  What
about 3 years from now?  Should he be?  Is Jerome Solomon right when he
writes about Matt Schaub turning into an elite QB?

bfd’s response: It’s hard to say that he’s turning into an elite QB
as he still has a long way to go in his decision-making.  However, it
IS his decision-making where he lacks, and this is a curable ill. 
Otherwise, he certainly has the physical potential, and he’s in a
system where his talents are utilized well.  In addition, he seems to
be showing leadership with his offense.  That’s one of those
touchy-feely areas we can’t actually measure, but after the David Carr
Experience, leadership is necessary.

:  My problem with the whole “elite QB” discussion is that the
Dan Marinos and Peyton Mannings of the world–guys who were born to QB
and would succeed with any team at any time–are few and far between. 
As we’ve seen, most of the elite QBs are found where natural talent
meets a system that is perfect for it.  For example, no one would argue
that Joe Montana and Tom Brady were not elite QBs, but likewise few
people would argue that they didn’t reach that level because they were
perfect fits for their coaches’ offensive systems.  Looking at it that
way, yeah, I think Schaub could become very, very good, if not
“elite.”  Let’s not forget that he’s only in his second year as a
full-time starter, so he’s still somewhere on the left side of the
learning curve.  Yet he just rolled into 6-degree Lambeau and hung 414
on the Packers above-average secondary.  If he learns when to eat the
ball (which he’s been better about as the year’s gone on) and stops
making poor red zone decisions once per game, days like last Sunday
suggest, to me at least, that he’s well on his way to becoming one of
those elite system guys.

2.  Matt, you’ve written extensively on why defensive coordinator
Richard Smith should be fired.  Can you summarize that case for our
readers?  Also, given the maxim that offense can be about scheme but
defense is mostly about talent, how much difference would a different
defensive coordinator really help?

Richard Smith?  Dear Lord, where do I start.  OK, it breaks down like
this:  Every year of the Richard Smith era, the Texans’ defense has
been ranked last or near last by Football Outsiders (and has fared
nearly as poorly by more traditional metrics).  Even if we give him a
pass for the first year because the team was transitioning to a 4-3
from a 3-4 (an argument I don’t really buy by the way), he’s still yet
to show an improvement.  He has superstars at the two most important
positions in the 4-3 (DE, MLB), yet he’s shown zero clue how to use
them (example: putting Mario Williams in zone coverage EIGHT times in
one game).  He has no talent at safety and his best defensive backs are
all corners, yet he refuses to run a Cover-3 shell to hide some of his
problems; he prefers to hang the secondary out to dry in a Cover-1
because he’s infatuated with a bastardized 46 front.  Of course, the
last two weeks notwithstanding, he’s been afraid to blitz out of that
46, negating any value it might have.  (Buddy Ryan would be rolling
over in his grave if he were dead.)  When he does run his base 4-3, an
overwhelming majority of the few blitzes he’s shown have been horribly
designed zone blitzes.  (Note: I have nothing against a zone blitz when
done properly and set up by traditional blitzes.)

I’m angry now.  Thanks, Tom.

As for your other question re:
scheme v. talent, I don’t really buy that maxim.  Defense is about
having the right talent for your scheme or, conversely, designing a
scheme that best utilizes the talent you have.  While this team still
has holes (Safety, DT, RDE), Smith has talent on the D.  Along with
Mario and DeMeco, he’s got two good cover corners in Dunta and (at
least until he seemed to regress under Smith) Fred Robinson.  Even
better, he’s got some youngsters that seem to be better than the
veterans they are backing up.  The problem is not (entirely) a lack of
talent.  It’s the lack of a DC that has Clue One how to use the talent
he has.  That 46 front?  Ridiculous if the safety in the box can’t
cover and never blitzes.  Mario in coverage?  Probably not when he’s
the ONLY DL that gets pressure.  Continued use of wastes-of-DNA Petey
Faggins and Travis Johnson?  Not smart.  Refusing to play the
youngsters (Molden, Okam), despite the players in front of them sucking
up the joint?  Again, dumb.  ALL of these are problems that firing
Smith would, in theory, immediately solve.

Plus, we didn’t even touch on how two of his promising second-year guys
(Amobi, Fred) seem to be regressing because he has no clue how to set
them up to succeed.

3.  bfd, as an Austin guy, you’re probably close to this.  What’s
the reaction been among VY lovers to him sitting on the bench because
the Titans are a better team this year with Collins?  Should we expect
a bunch of people wearing Titans #10 jerseys in the stands like we’ve
seen the past 2 years, or has fan interest shifted more to the Texans?

Austin is a little tricky when it comes to relationships with pro teams
since we, obviously, don’t have one.  For example, just heading down my
row here at work, we have Packers fans, Cowpokers, Dolts, Jaguars
(two!), another Texans, and a Vikings fan.  Lots of Steelers fans here
and several Saints, so it’s kinda all over the place here in Austin.

Now, when the Texans passed on VY, it angered a bunch of the more
fair-weathered Texans fans and a few of the Longhorns.  But over the
past couple of years as we’ve seen Mario evolve into a one-man wrecking
crew and VY compete with Ryan Leaf as a bust, a lot of opinions have
been changed.

As far as in Austin?  He’ll always be revered as one of the three or four best players in college football history.

4.  The Texans are eliminated from the playoffs.  What do you want
to see out of the team the rest of the year-tanking for better draft
position, playing hard to continue to win after a bad start, playing
the younger players, what?

bfd’s response: Play the youngsters, the people who will actually be
with the team next year and in two years.  One of the major problems on
D is that Richard Smith has been completely unable to dress the right
people, much less get them on the field.  Every snap that Jeff Zgonina
or DelJuan Robinson or Petey Faggins or Morlon Greenwood plays is a
wasted play, a wasted opportunity to evaluate the talent with some
level of upside on the roster.

:  Agreed, play the youngsters.  We have to figure out what we
have in Molden and (especially) Okam because both of those could be
areas of concern heading into the draft. 

I was leaning toward the “tank for draft pick” theory until I
realized (1) because there are so many REALLY bad teams this year, more
than half of the league will be above .500, meaning an 8-8 or 9-7
record won’t be as bad of a draft slot as in years past, (2) this is a
young team that, more than anything, needs to learn how to finish a
season strong, and (3) Rick Smith is a draft ninja, so drafting low
isn’t necessarily bad (see Brown, Duane, and Slaton, Steve.)

5.  What players have been the most pleasant surprises this year?  What about the biggest disappointments?

bfd’s response: Surprises?  The offensive line.  Duane Brown
still can’t handle speed rushers, and Chris Meyers struggles with
top-level DTs, but considering the new system, they have exceeded my
expectations.  Kevin Walter and, of course, Steve Slaton are here, as

Disappointments?  Wow, where to begin.  It’s probably easiest to
say: just about everybody on the defensive side of the ball, including
the coaching, with the notable exceptions of Mario, DeMeco, and Dunta
Robinson.  It’s not that they haven’t improved, but many players have
obviously regressed, such as Amobi Okoye, Travis Johnson (who finally
showed spark in 2007), Fred Bennett, Morlon Greenwood, Will Demps,
etc.  And you can add Jacoby Jones to this list, as well.  He’s so
close to becoming an elite return man, and possibly wide-out, yet he
will make a horrible mental mistake about every game.

:  Surprises:  I’ll just agree with BFD’s list, but I’ll add
Xavier Adibi.  Also, I want to add that I had high hopes for Slaton
after the draft and he has even blown me away.  His vision, speed, and
toughness are on par with the elite RBs in the NFL and I see no reason
he can’t be a Pro Bowler for years for us.  He’s like Clinton Portis
without the insanity.

Disappointments:  Amobi Okoye, Fred Bennett, Morlon Greenwood,
Rosencopter, the overall record, Gary Kubiak’s clock management,
Richard Smith’s continued employment…there are lots.  Yet, despite
all that, we have an outside chance at a winning record in 2008, which
I suppose is the biggest surprise of all.

Thanks again to Matt and bfd for their replies.  I hope you found their answers interesting, even if you don’t always agree with team..  Check back tomorrow when I post my responses to their questions.

*-Alas and alack, that irreverence is an accurate description of what the Titans from Greek myth actually did.  Then again, the Titans at least didn’t rip off a nickname formerly used by a team in the rival city, pick the most anodyne colors possible (granted, the most successful color scheme in world history), and certainly have never inflicted on a national television audience anything like those hideous all-red uniforms they wore against the Jaguars on Monday Night Football.