Friday, September 7, 2007

Sleeping With the Enemy: Week One, Chiefs @ Texans

Welcome to the House of Georges' newest feature, "Sleeping With the Enemy." Each week, we'll publish a chat, recorded via a series of e-mail exchanges, with a fan of our teams' opponents for the week. Kickoff weekend pits the identity-seeking Kansas City Chiefs at Reliant Stadium where they'll battle the Houston Texans, while the Broncos invade Ralph Wilson Stadium for a dogfight with the Buffalo Bills. Your Texans expert is my cousin Yellow Rose, and what follows is her take on Gary Kubiak's new-look Texans, and how they'll fare on Sunday.

(Editor's Note: Yes, the title of this feature is terribly cliche, and no, no incest occurred in the making of this dialogue.)

Bankmeister: The Houston Texans. Where to begin. Your team was a lone expansion franchise that sort of got its wheels turning in 1997. Five years later, they hit the brand new turf at Reliant Stadium, with Head Coach Dom Capers at the helm, and Fresno State quarterback David Carr under center. They saw some early sucess in the form of wins under that regime, but they never put together a good enough offensive line to protect Carr from taking his weekly behind-the-woodshed throttlings. By the time the team got some decent running backs into the mix and someone not named Andre Johnson for Carr to throw the football to, it seemed like the window of opportunity had closed on that particular team. Do you chalk it up to too many unexperienced guys on the field? Poor coaching? Some sort of half-Mexican, half-cowboy Texas jinx? I'd vote for the latter seeing as how the franchise was somehow then spooked into taking Mario Williams over Regge Bush.

Yellow Rose: First of all, let’s clear up this Reggie Bush thing… had we had picked Reggie Bush, he would have had to run behind our famously weak offensive line. Bush’s style would have never fit in with Kubiak’s north/south, run-between-the-tackles type of offense. While picking Mario over Bush may have had the rest of the country scratching its head, not picking homer Vince Young left many Houstonians tearing up their tickets.

We are eternally optimistic here in Houston. Now we have Matt Schaub –- not as pretty to look at, but he might stay on his feet more often. If Ahman Green can stay healthy, the Texans have a chance of winning nine games and a possible playoff berth. Would this break the curse you speak of? Probably not, but it gives the city a good excuse to drink in excess. Besides we all know that in Texas, it’s really all about high school football.

Who are the Chiefs putting on the field at the QB slot? Will you be going with the youngster or the old man? We know one area where there will be no contest: uniforms. Ours are much prettier than yours.

B: You know, I always forget about the Vince Young thing. Probably because Bush was such an animal at USC, that you're thinking "whoever drafts first drafts this guy" -- no brainer -- right? But you make a good point. How fruitful would it be to have the nation's best college tailback behind the country's worst pro O-line? Not very.

And speaking of animals, acquiring Schaub was a whale of a deal. I mean, you guys coughed up significant draft picks to do it, but if you hadn't pulled the trigger then, the price might be even higher now seeing as how Arthur Blank, Bobby Petrino and company have all that Bad Newz on their hands. When ol' Ron Mexico was hurt last year, The Lone Reader and I talked extensively about how the Chiefs should go about nabbing Schaub. Of course then we thought that Trent Green would still be around (but look as bad as he did post-concussion) and Damon Huard would be gone, leaving us in a pretty unpretty quarterback pickle. But you guys scooped him up, leaving us less than pleased, however, the Chiefs had re-signed Huard, so we were okay with it.

Number 11, by the way, has drummed up more focus/media attention than I ever imagined possible for a Huard brother. The old guy, as you call him, has had my vote since doctors cleared Green to practice last year; I never wanted him pulled from the starting job. I've been hopeful all along that Huard would get the nod, but Herm Edwards' offseason praise, combined with HBO's "Hard Knocks" focus on Croyle, made it imminent that the young guy would get the green light. That had Chiefs fans wretching at the gut and wringing at the hands. Surprisingly though, Edwards announced that Huard will start against the Texans, which just made my flippin' year.

Now, let's back up a minute. I understand the concept of eternal optimism. I really do. In fact, I sometimes feel as though I'm the only one around that is when it comes to the Chiefs. I do, however, know where the line is. I seriously don't see any way the Texans can win nine games this year. Yes. Anything's possible. Yes, nine wins isn't asking a ton, but you always have to look around your division first. Jack del Rio's Jaguars squad is always a step away from being downright scary. With both the release of Byron Leftwich and the decision to go with David Garrard out of the way, the Jags are stacked and the run game is brimming with potential in Maurice Jones-Drew, even if he has to split carries with the 60-year-old Fred Taylor. Tennessee started playing some good football at the end of last year, and your boy Vince Young could have his breakout season. That leaves, yeah, the defending-champion, cut-that-meastly-Manning Colts. I doubt they'll be as tough as they were last year, but hell, they may even be tougher.

I'm not a gamblin' man, but if I nosed around for the Vegas stakes on the Texans winning the South, I'd not be surprised to find those odds a long shot. That's pretty much how you get it done in the AFC, too. Nine-game-winning wildcards in the AFC are a fluke, much like the Chiefs’ playoff berth was last year; the way in is to win the division. Right now I don't see that in the cards for either of our clubs, but they both have potential to put up a fight.

High school football? For real? I thought Texans were all about their college teams and their Cowboys. I do know a lot about drinking in excess. In fact, the entire House of Georges staff does. At least we're on the same page there. Not so much in the handsomer QBs/prettier uniforms department. But whatever.

YR: I understand your reluctance to embrace the idea of the Texans winning nine games, but watching them beat the Cowboys made my optimism even stronger. Giving the Cowboys a good old fashion ass kickin’ thrills us in Houston and earns us bragging rights for the rest of the year. The pre-season is making me feel that we are on the right track and will be ready for your Chiefs when they hit Reliant Stadium on Sunday. I caught a few episodes of Hard Knocks on HBO and have read that it was instrumental in getting your boy to re-sign. He says, “It was really about loyalty to my teammates to get back here as soon as I could.” Yeah, it had nothing to do with his $12 million signing bonus. He looked lonely on the show - working out all by himself. Do you think he will be ready? Is the team welcoming him back with open arms? Is Priest finished? There was a lot of speculation in our papers that he might get cut, or at least given a much-reduced role. Is there nothing sacred left? If a Priest isn’t safe, who is?

What about that Jacoby Jones? The third-round pick out of Lane College – wherever the hell that is – is definitely someone to watch when we suit up against the Chiefs. He provides some excitement that we have been lacking here in H-Town. The question now is how Kubiak is going to get the ball to him more often. (Ahman) Green was pretty impressive, so he should continue to carry the ball and our Johnson looked good with his TD. We are starting to look downright multi-faceted. Obviously the key here is Schaub. Not only was he 12-of-16, but we saw more scrambling from him in three quarters of that Cowboys game than we saw from Carr in his career here. I have a feeling that this “whale of a deal” will continue to improve and bring the whole team with him.

Mario is coming around – he had a sound game against Dallas and hopefully will be building on this. We looked pretty strong defensively after moving some things around. Doesn’t really matter that the old guy got the nod (personally, I think Croyle should be starting as he is your future, which will hopefully be stronger than your present), we are ready. I agree with your breakdown of our division, but I have to stand behind my team. In classic Houston fashion, we feel they are destined until proven otherwise. Hopefully this year they won’t prove otherwise.

And, by the way, high school football in Texas? Come on now. Haven’t you ever heard of Friday Night Lights? It’s not far from the truth. The state comes to a virtual halt on Friday nights when every Bubba leaves their trailer and heads to the small town stadium to re-live their glory days with the help of a six pack of Lone Star. We consider ourselves a bit more sophisticated here in the big city – we drink Bud Light.

B: I'll say this: "Hard Knocks" has been bad ass. Incredible entertainment. I agree that LJ looked lonely, but am skeptical that the show had anything to do with his return to the club. It was primarily about his green Benjamins (or Clevelands, I guess), but I do think there was a team aspect to it as well; they bridged a pretty huge financial gap (in the Chiefs' favor) and LJ full-on hustled to get to practice. Best I can tell, the reception has been the epitome of open-armed. Guys looked/sounded stoked to get him back on the field, and the player quotes in The Kansas City Star match up. And, yeah. He'll be ready. He may not have quite the workload against y'all that he'll have versus the Bears and Vikings in the following weeks, but he'll be good to go.

Priest, as always, is a bizarre story. Star columnist Joe Posnanski put together this incredible piece on him in. I really do think he wants to make the team, but with LJ, Michael Bennett, Kolby Smith and Marcus O' Keith all competing for spots, it'll be tough. Real tough. (Editor's Note: Teams announced their 53-man rosters prior to the publication of this piece, leaving Chiefs' running backs Holmes on the Non-Football Injury Reserve list (he can't suit up for six weeks) and O'Keith cut from the team.)

I will definitely be eyeing Mr. Jones. He's put together a dazzling pre-season, one that's been a nice mix of Schaub, Johnson and Green as well. Your team does look pretty tight. It is, however, the pre-season; I'd try to cage a little of that optimism if possible. You do have a good nucleus of a team there, though, and, I'd guess that most opponents see Houston Texans on the schedule and chalk it up as a W before the opening kickoff. That might be a hasty approach this year, as this club will definitely surprise some folks.

I understand your philosophy on Brodie Croyle, but he is just not ready. While this Chiefs team lacks some parts, there are segments of it that are ready to make a push for the playoffs (playoffs?!?) now. Thus, you go with the proven guy, especially when you open the season with two games on the road, the first of which is against an energetic young team looking to knock some teeth out, the second against the defending NFC champs. Put Croyle in that situation and he gets knocked around, you may have set him back irretrievably in terms of progression and confidence.

Yeah. Sure. I know about Friday Night Lights. I just didn't realize the magnitude of it in The Lone Star State. I have to say, if I were to join in on the festivities, I'd prefer doing so from the big city instead of with the trailer-dwelling Bubbas, but I'll drink a Lone Star over a Budweiser product any day of the week.

(Note: Yellow Rose, being the football fan that she is, passed this conversation along to her 14-year-old son, Blake Goldberg. Here’s what the young Texans fan had to say about the development of our exchange, thus far.)

BG: I have read over everything and I don’t know a whole lot about the Chiefs but I have a couple things to say about Texas and the Texans. First off, the whole Reggie Bush/Vince Young/Mario Williams argument: I think every Texan, when they heard the name Mario Williams as the number one draft pick for the Houston Texans, died a little bit inside. It was the one of the worst decisions in Texans history. Yellow Rose says he made two and-a-half tackles this pre-season against the Cowboys which is his highest yet. Two and a half tackles? That’s supposed to be a number one draft pick? And the other two? Bush is tearing it up against every team and Young even made the cover of Madden 2008. And need I remind everyone that the Saints, led by Reggie Bush, made it to the playoffs? Vince Young, on his very first pro game in Houston , pulled off a QB sneak to win the game. Yellow Rose says that Mario Williams is a long-time player and all, but shouldn’t a first-round (especially a first-overall pick) draft choice show a little more greatness then a measly two and-a-half tackles? I think we should have picked Reggie Bush and then let the Texans focus on stacking up its O-line and once they do that… Super bowl Champs. But since the Texans had to pick the pansy Mario Williams, stacking up its O-line won’t do anything - less sacks, yes, but more touchdowns, no.

High School Football/Schaub- Every Friday night from about August to October, every Texan that is a true football fan is asking the question “Who is playing tonight?” Everyone knows that high school football in Texas is as important or even maybe more important then dogs are to Michael Vick. Well, anyway with the new highly respected Schaub finally here in Texas and finally getting rid of the soon-to-be-backup quarterback for the Panthers, David Carr, I think in a couple years and a few semi-smart draft picks later, the Texans will have a very good shot of making it to the playoffs. Two years ago, that seemed impossible. Schaub will with no doubt have a HUGE impact on this team not only as a strong player but in leadership skills while Carr couldn’t run to save his life and was way too obsessed with his hair to care about anything else. I think that this year that the Texans will go .500, a game above, or a game below. Texans are going to have to have time to grow with their new quarterback. Also, Amobi Okoye, the Texans' 19-year-old first-rounder of this year, was the best pick they could have done. They have a growing team; of course they need someone that could grow with the team and improve with them. In the next couple of years, the defense will be led by this man, not Williams.

B: Alright, kid. Your passion for your team has clouded your judgment a bit here. YR is right in her assessment of not taking Reggie Bush. In the NFL, you develop a running back one of two ways: he plays immediately, even if his new team is terrible, or he gets minimal action because there's someone in front of him on the depth chart. Bush would've had someone in front of him in Domanick Davis, er...Williams, whatever, had he stayed healthy. Your points regarding the selection of (Mario) Williams may be valid; he should indeed be producing more. Your points on the other two guys, however, hold no water. The Saints were destined for success last year, regardless of Reggie Bush's role, which I might add was pretty minimal for the first 10 weeks of the season; he returned kicks on special teams and lined up in the back field very little since he had Deuce McAllister in front of him. Drew Brees was the leader of that squad with his four billion passing yards and guys like Joe Horn and Marques Colston to throw it to.

To claim that Bush is "tearing it up against every other team" is just plain silly. They got whooped by the Steelers, then beat the Bills, Bengals and Chiefs, victories that had next to nothing to do with Reggie Bush, not to mention the fact that it's the pre-season. And your boy Vince Young? On the cover of Madden? Nobody cares. That means you're a pretty good player. There're lots of those in the NFL. A game-winning QB sneak against the Texans? Big deal. I could've done that. As could've you.

Everyone knows that about high school football in Texas ? I beg to differ; I didn't, but either way, back to things that matter. You shouldn't be so quick to worship Schaub and throw David Carr under the bus. Had you ever even heard of Schaub before the Texans acquired him? You don't know how he'll face adversity, and you certainly don't know how Carr will fare in Carolina. One of the hardest things to do in pro sports is have success as an expansion club. Dom Capers did it with Jacksonville. Scotty Bowman did it with the St. Louis Blues in the late 60s, and the Florida Marlins have somehow managed to eke out two World Series titles in their short existence.

To a degree, you have to recognize that the chances of the Texans having, up to the 2006 season, success as a franchise, are about as slim as a member of the Bush family not being a total ass. You can't dog Carr for not being quick on his feet; the guy was running for his life for four solid years. And I won't even address your hair-obsession comment. Five hundred, a game above or a game below? Which is it? Stake a claim. Finally, good call on Okoye. He was a pretty hyped-up kid, one that definitely has potential. Be careful with your quarterback bashing, though. Let's not forget that Carr threw for almost 14,000 yards, 60 touchdowns, and a 75-plus passer rating in his time in Houston. Those are pretty decent numbers, my friend. Not bad for a team fresh out of the gates.

BG: Alright, first of all, Reggie Bush: You cannot say that that the Saints were destined for greatness… In the 40-year history of the Saints, they had never made an appearance in an NFC championship game until last year. Reggie Bush did have someone playing in front of him; that is true, but Mario Williams didn’t. Reggie did not show a lot of action but still did a whole lot more then Mario Williams. Plus Reggie Bush played running back/tailback, wide receiver, punt-return, and kick return. Mario Williams plays D-end (and sucks at it). Skip past the regular season to the post-season, in the NFC divisional game, Bush ran for 52 yards and scored a touchdown and had 3 catches for 22 yards. Mario Williams sat on his couch and watched the game. Now to the NFC Championship game, Bush caught a pass on the 22-yard line and ran 78 yards dodging a Bears' safety for a touchdown. Again Mario Williams was watching the game on television. It is true that Reggie Bush could not have led the Texans to the playoffs last year but I have no doubt in my mind that he could in years to come. Mario Williams will most likely not.

Vince Young- Who cares who is on the cover of the biggest football game that will be out in 2007? How can you say that? How many players are in the NFL? And how many players out of all of those get put on the cover of a video game? The answer is one. Vince Young is a rookie and he got put on it. You can’t say that it does not matter if he is put on it. You have to be an unbelievably good player to do it as a rookie. Also the QB sneak against the Texans wasn’t (easy); the invincible Mario Williams in on that play? Also why didn’t the Titans score every play if it was so easy to score on the Texans?

Schaub- Well me bashing David Carr was a little harsh. We still do not know how Schaub will turn out, but I think most people would agree that Carr was not the best quarterback ever. Carr was also a no. 1 draft choice and throughout his 5 years with the Texans he went 24-56 with 250 sacks.

B: Listen bud. Last year, while you were nursing your hours-of-Madden-induced sore thumbs and pining over your Texans drafting guys not named Reggie Bush and Vince Young, the state due east of you was addressing real-life concerns. One in particular was called Hurricane Katrina. Maybe you've heard of it. The NFL, along with a major chunk of its nationwide fan base, was steadfast in getting behind the city of New Orleans and its football team. Drafting Reggie Bush, acquiring Drew Brees through free agency and developing rookie wide receiver Marques Colston put the pieces of destined-greatness into place. Oh, and the organization also hired a guy named Sean Payton to coach them. He won a small prize called NFL Coach of the Year. We're not talking about the 40-year history of the Saints. We're talking about the 2006 season.

Now, if you want to talk about leading clubs, scan through those same 40 years of NFL history and tell me how many times a defensive end led a team to the playoffs. I'm too lazy to look it up, but I can guarantee you that the answer is zero. On the rare occasion that a defensive player of any variety leads a team into the playoffs (and perhaps a championship), it is almost always a linebacker. See Ray Lewis and the 2001 Baltimore Ravens. Defensive ends are meant to bolster your pass rush and tighten up your D in a more global sense. I'm not arguing that the Texans drafting Williams wasn't a mistake. Let's not forget, though, that the rest of your squad also watched those games on television. Much like the rest of David Carr's teammates are to blame for "his" record and sack total.

Finally, the guy that coached the Chiefs before Herman Edwards was a game named Dick Vermeil. Maybe you've heard of him. He's famous for hugs and tears and being old and coaching two different teams in the Super Bowl. He also had a great mantra, something he'd pound into his teams' heads. It went like this: "Let's not forget guys, that the main thing is the main thing." Loosely translated, "We're all here to do one thing: hoist the trophy with Vince Lombardi's (not Young's) name on it. No one's out there auditioning to be graced with the highly jinxed cover of your precious video game. They're there to win championships. Well, and to collect piles of dollars, too. But they're in it to win it.

And to answer your "Why didn't the Titans score on every play..." question, I'll keep it simple: That never happens in professional football, wise guy. Ever. You know that as well as I do. The bottom line is that the Texans, in their brief history have been pretty awful. As I mentioned, that's to be expected from an expansion team. They've had some talent. They've showed some flashes of rounding the corner. This could very well be that year. You've got to load the chess board, though, before you move that first pawn. I feel your draft-debacle pain, brother. I really do. Trust me. I've been a Chiefs fan for 27 years and suffered through draft nightmares so big in comparison to the Williams/Young/Bush scenario, that you'd need six Texases to fit them all in there.

(Note: We now return to our regularly scheduled, non-video-game-oriented conversation concerning the non-dream world and this year’s football season.)

B: Nevertheless, Miss Rose, your club, as have most, I believe, has announced its starters. You’ve got Schaub under center, Green toting the rock, Jordan “I-65” Black at left guard, Steve McKinney having his sac fondled by Schaub, and Jacoby Jacobs as one of your five wide outs. Not one of those guys have taken a regular-season snap in an allegedly pretty Houston Texans uniform. That’s five of your starting 11. Any concerns there? My feel is that the first quarter of this campaign could be Carr Re-visited especially when game one pits you against a relatively scary-looking, young-and-tough Chiefs defense. Regardless, best of luck with your season, at least the last 15 games of it.

YR: I have to say – I am nervous. The last time Larry Johnson faced the Texans he rushed for 211 yards and two touchdowns. It was a pretty embarrassing defeat and if I am to believe all the hype, he hasn’t slowed a step. I am just hoping that he doesn’t quite have his football legs after missing most of training camp. Hopefully he won’t get too many carries and our defense will shut him down. The other thing that makes me a bit on edge is the fact that we changed both our quarterback and our running back this year. While Kubiak feels a certain level of comfort because both Schaub and Green come from very similar offenses, it doesn’t often bode well for teams that experience that much change. But, as we all know, change it what the Texans need. We made some drastic changes in the off-season and the players seem pretty psyched up about it. This emotional turnaround may be enough to make a difference – especially since the Chiefs are not as strong as they were in 2005.

I attended the annual Texans Players’ lunch last week and was able to sit next to Jerome Mathis. Would love to say that he gave me an inside look into the pregame prep they were doing, but NO. The kid is really going to have to work on his press skills if he continues in this line of work. He got some playing time against Tampa Bay but will most likely be designated to special teams and kick returns. What I did learn was this: The Texans like to bowl as a team together. Shantee Orr is the best bowler but Mathis is gaining on him. Not a lot of useful information in our quest for pre-game hype, but it was a fun time. By the way, Ephraim Sallaam (left tackle) can look forward to being a stand-up comedian when he retires from football.

In general, I think the Texans are ready and out to prove something. They are truly pumped –- you can feel a different energy in the whole city. I predict that Schaub will have a great game (with less than 2 sacks), finding his tight ends often to complete his arsenal. We just have more weapons this year and it has to be more difficult for the Chiefs to prepare. Ahman Green should rush for decent yardage and we would all love to see another dramatic return from Jones. I am going with a home-team victory. The paper is citing a three-point spread and I think it probably will be that close.

Yellow Rose: 31-28, Texans

Bankmeister: No way is this game that high scoring. 19-10, Chiefs