THE PALLILOG

How the Texans could turn things around sooner than you think

This happens every year in the NFL. Composite photo by Jack Brame

The Texans could be a surprisingly good team in 2021. It's unlikely, but that's what would it make a surprise! Feast to famine, famine to feast teams occur every year in the NFL. The league is structured to foster such possibilities. It's not a fluke that since the Texans became the 32nd franchise and the eight four teams per division alignment was established, every season at least four of the 12 (starting this year 14) playoff teams were different from the prior season. This is the 43rd consecutive season in which at least one team went from missing the playoffs the year prior to division champ. The Steelers and Washington Football Team did it this season.

So why not the 2021 Texans? Well, a bunch of reasons, which in part explains why new General Manager Nick Caserio got a six year contract to leave his role as Bill Belichick's right hand man in New England and run his own show for the first time. For several weeks I've been calling 2021 a redshirt year for the Texans' new Head Coach and GM. The thin roster, salary cap mess, and no first or second round draft pick this year make the rags to relative riches story tougher to pull off.

As for the HC gig, the Caserio connection makes many think Patriots' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the connect the dots hire. Meh. McDaniels sure got a lot less smart with Cam Newton as his quarterback rather than Tom Brady. On the subject of connecting dots, meet Bills' offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. He has the same agent as Caserio and Svengali Jack Easterby. Daboll has done a tremendous job developing third year mobile and strong-armed Buffalo QB Josh Allen into a top five MVP candidate. Daboll would seem a strong pairing with Deshaun Watson.

At the Texans' Caserio introduction press conference, he and Cal McNair should be pressed on why the Texans' are the only one of the six teams presently without a head coach to not book an interview with Chiefs' offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy. No way is Bienemy clearly the right choice, but to not even interview him (if that is to remain the case) is conspicuous.

As for Watson's alleged rumination of seeking a tradeā€¦if true, whatever. He's under contract for the next five seasons. The only reason for the Texans for even milliseconds to consider trading Watson is if Jacksonville offered Trevor Lawrence and multiple other high picks. I don't know that the Jaguars would trade Lawrence for Watson straight up.

Failure to launch

The Rockets are out of the gate 2-0 vs. Sacramento, 0-4 vs. everybody else. Now they get 6-2 Orlando followed by consecutive games against the Lakers. The Magic isn't really that good and just lost point guard Markelle Fultz to a torn ACL. The Lakers' roster is better than the one that dismantled the Rockets in the playoff bubble as a small stepping stone enroute to winning the NBA title.

The trade market for James Harden remains soft. Barring the smoking of a giant peace pipe the Rockets best hope re: Harden is that an underachieving team or three get panicky over the next month or two. Off early season returns Daryl Morey's Philadelphia 76ers aren't a great candidate. The Sixers are 7-2.

Other than his Westbrook-ian three point shooting John Wall has generally looked pretty good and Christian Wood like a solid investment but the Rockets still don't have the top end talent of the top contenders. That they may be a little deeper than the last couple of seasons is more an indictment of how weak the bench was those seasons. David Nwaba and Jae'Sean Tate would not be getting significant run with many good teams.

Roll Tide

I'll take Alabama over Ohio St. 38-27 in the National Championship game Monday night, after which Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian leaves to start his head coaching job at Texas with an absurd six year 34+ million dollar contract. That's on the UT tab on top of the 15 million Tom Herman gets to not coach the Longhorns going forward. In six full seasons as a head coach (five at Washington and one at USC) Sarkisian lost a minimum of four games per. Without success at a much higher rate, working for overbearing UT boosters (oh yeah, and the University) certainly isn't a low stress task. Hopefully Sarkisian's problems with alcohol are permanently behind him.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. The Mets landing Francisco Lindor from the Indians makes George Springer winding up a Met seem even more likely.

2. The Astros have still done next to nothing to improve their roster. But that's still true for numerous teams this offseason.

3. Most interesting Wild Card weekend games: Bronze-Steelers/Browns Silver-Bills/Colts Gold-Titans/Ravens

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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