Some of my observations from the first day of workouts for the Texans
Texans want Clowney
Bill O'Brien didn't mince words when stating his desire to have his star player back. He made it clear they obviously have to work with Clowney and his agent to make it work for both sides.
Texans have Watt
J.J. Watt at Texans Training Camp 2019
A surprise for sure to see J.J. Watt out and practicing. There was some expectation he would miss a couple of days when he was announced to be on the physically unable to perform list. He missed nothing. Watt joked he found out Thursday morning. He also said his plan was always to practice day one.
He didn't look like he has missed a beat from last season either. He gets limited reps because when he is in the offense can't execute their plays in practice. It's light work the first couple of days but offensive linemen have to breathe a sigh of relief when Watt exits the field.
The first round pick
True to form with most of the Texans offensive linemen Tytus Howard gets work at plenty of positions. He is getting a lot of reps and it will be fun to watch him work when the pads come on. Howard handled Brennan Scarlett on one rep and kept hand fighting with the linebacker for a few moments after the drill was over. He also held his own against Whitney Mercilus in one rep as well.
The young lineman showed good feet and a solid base in some of the drills. Saturday, when the pads are on for the first time, will tell a lot more.
The former first round pick
Matt Kalil was out working with the Texans. The former Vikings and Panthers left tackle got plenty of work for the Texans which was nice since he was recovering from injury earlier in the year. Ideally a veteran presence like him would help should there be a first or second year player next to him at left guard. The experience may not matter if Kalil can't play. He wasn't tested much Thursday.
Is your refrigerator running routes?
I say this with the utmost respect: Jordan Thomas is the size of a refrigerator and he shouldn't move as well as he does. He showed some huge progress as a rookie last year and developed a solid relationship with Deshaun Watson. That has only gotten stronger. Watson and Thomas are always on the same page and I am not sure how teams are going to guard Thomas but I know they aren't going to have an easy time if this continues.
Will Fuller is back
One of the best surprises of training camp is the fact Will Fuller is practicing from day one of the workouts. He looked crisp and on the same page with the quarterbacks. There was a toe-tap back of the end zone catch he easily hauled in. He also snatched a ball out of the air with ease that was a rocket. His hands are worlds better than his last year at Notre Dame and first year in the NFL.
Kinda coach Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson's official title is special adviser to the head coach. Today, and most days, he was working with the wideouts. He coaches like you would expect Andre Johnson to coach. He is quiet and deliberate. Everyone is listening and watching when he shows something. Today he was delivering advice on footwork in a certain drill. Later he pulled second-year wideout Vyncint Smith aside to coach him up.
Lonnie Johnson learning
There were some teachable moments for Lonnie Johnson the team's second round pick this year. He was coached up on how much to use his hands and when to use them. He's a physical corner and when he lines up with any of the wideouts it is apparent what the Texans liked to see. He lost a rep earlier in a drill only to recover later and beat that same wideout to the ball for an interception. There's a ways to go but there is something there.
The free agent corner was a terror in drills. He is freaky athletic and played wideouts multiple ways to his success. Very impressive day for a guy the team is counting on.
Play of the day
Deshaun Watson is a wizard. The drills obviously aren't full contact and they don't even have pads on but there is still a pass rush. J.J. Watt looked to have blanketed Watson on one drill. It was moments away from being blown dead. Then the wizarding started. Watson, off balance, slipped one past Watt's massive mitts into the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. It was incredible.
Quote of the day
"I've always been involved in personnel decisions since I've been here. It'll be no more or no less."
Said by Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien.
On Thursday Dusty Baker made official what had been speculated for weeks – he will not be returning as Astros manager in 2024.
This was not a retirement announcement. Technically his contract with the Astros had expired. Thank you for a job well done. Good luck with your future endeavors. Don’t be a stranger. You’ll always be a part of the Astros family.
He wasn’t fired for the same reason. You can’t fire someone who is no longer an employee of the organization.
He’s just not returning. Let’s leave it at that.
Basically Baker was just getting in front of the situation. He’s smart. He wanted to control, at least appear to control his destiny. By announcing that he won’t be back as Astros manager, he saved owner Jim Crane and general manager Dana Brown a possible backlash of dumping a 74-year-old future Hall of Famer.
This way, there is no bad guy. Baker is leaving and it’s his choice. He goes out with dignity intact. Now he can return home to Northern California and spend his days hunting and fishing and, as Marvin Zindler used to say, whatever makes you happy.
Baker used the old “you can’t fire me, I quit” tactic. At least he didn’t tell the Astros to “take this job and shove it.”
The first recorded ploy of “you can’t fire me, I quit” was in 1964 in, oddly enough, the Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer animated TV special. Rudolph performs the song, “We’re a Couple of Misfits.” The lyrics go “Why am I such a misfit, I am not a nitwit, they can’t fire me, I quit!”
In 2023 Dusty Baker was a misfit in the Astros organization.
Reports had circulated for several weeks that Baker would not be invited back for 2024. The decision was inevitable and probably best for both Baker and the team. The Astros were flailing in second place, more threatened by the Mariners creeping up the standings than the Astros overtaking the Rangers for first place in the American League West. Plus there were disagreements between Baker and management over how to award playing time to roster players. Baker clearly had grown tired of being told how to run his business.
There’s a saying that a new broom sweeps clean. Earlier this year, Crane hired Brown as the Astros new general manager. One of the key decisions, perhaps the biggest, that a general manager makes is who manages the team. Dana Brown didn’t hire Dusty Baker.
Dusty Baker wasn’t a Dana Brown guy. While the Astros made it to Game 7 of the ALCS, it was a troublesome regular season. The Astros finished with 90 wins, 16 fewer than their World Series title year in 2022. There are cracks in the team’s foundation that must be addressed from a new perspective. This is Dana Brown’s team moving forward.
Listen to Baker’s carefully chosen words – and what he didn’t say - when he broke the news to USA Today that he would not be managing the Astros in 2024.
“What I really appreciate is that Jim (Crane) has been totally honest and transparent with me on all things,” Baker said.
That could either mean that Baker read the writing on the wall or was told that a decision had been reached to move in new a direction after the 2023 season.
“I have a lifetime of knowledge, much more than those who have never played the game.”
He might be talking about fans and the media, who have been on Baker’s back this season for his perplexing lineup choices and other strategy moves. Baker can read the newspapers and he has a radio in his car. He likely recognized that he had lost much of the public’s support.
But listen to his closing words.
“I still have a lot to offer, baseball has been my life. I’m gone, but I will be back.”
Baker is 74. If the phone were to ring tomorrow and it’s a team looking for a veteran manager with playoff experience … "when do I start?"
Remember Daryl Morey’s reason for leaving as Rockets general manager on Oct. 15, 2020 after 13 years in Houston. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Seventeen days later he signed to become president of basketball operations with the Philadelphia 76ers.