Time for a move?

Fred Faour: As strange as it sounds, Texans trading Jadeveon Clowney makes sense in a lot of ways

Jadeveon Clowney is having a big year. Should the Texans consider moving him? Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

It might seem silly on the surface to suggest trading your best defensive player. But now might be the time for the Texans to cash in on a deal for Jadeveon Clowney -- before he cashes in himself.

Clowney has been one of the lone bright spots for the Texans in an otherwise dismal year. He has been a force all year, with a career-high nine sacks and is second in the league in tackles for loss. His value has never been higher.

He has one year left on a contract that will pay him over $13 million next year and will likely become the highest paid defensive player in the league when he gets his new deal. But if you are the Texans, does it make sense to pay him that much when you already have significant money tied up in J.J. Watt? Presumably, Watt will return healthy next season, although he may never be what he was. The defense will also get Whitney Mercilus back. Should there be a coaching change, it’s possible you would have three players all making huge money as pass rushers. Does that make fiscal sense?

The Texans have significant holes on the offensive line and secondary and will have to hit the reset button on several veteran players on defense. They have no early picks in this year’s draft and will have to commit money through free agency. While they have solid salary cap room, a Clowney trade could give them even more flexibility.

The pros and cons

The other key reasons to do it:

  1. Clowney may never be any better than he is right now, and you will have to commit significant dollars to keep him.

  2. As good as he has been, it has not helped. The team and the defense have been dreadful.

  3. Another team might offer a No. 1 pick to replace the one the Texans traded, and possibly a player as well who can help the OL or secondary.

  4. The Texans have always been good at finding D Linemen and linebackers. While you won’t get the same quality, you can mitigate his loss.

  5. He is the one player on the roster with the contract status and value to get back a significant return.

There are reasons not to move Clowney as well:

  1. There is no guarantee Watt will ever be healthy again, much less the dominant force he was before.

  2. Clowney is a rare talent and with more help he could get even better.

  3. You simply don’t trade your best players in the NFL. Deals like this are rare, although we have seen a lot more lately. 

In the end, however, the potential return outweighs those factors. Obviously, you would have to get a first round pick, another pick and a plug and play starter at a position of need, just to get the conversation started. Some might suggest dealing Watt instead, but after missing most of the last two seasons, he would have little trade value, and his onerous contract makes moving him almost impossible.

As silly as it sounds, the Texans best move might be to move on from their best defensive player and trade Clowney.

Johnny’s back?

In case you missed it, Johnny Manziel has been cleared to play football in the CFL and sign a contract. Details in my SportsMap story here.

Some fun stuff

If you like some non-sportsy things, check out my update on Houstonsportsandstuff.com. Making fun of a perceived slight, some TV news, gambling updates and more. And follow me on Twitter @fredfaour

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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