The Couch Slouch

If an XFL tree falls in the forest...

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The XFL is back. Ask not why but why NOW?

The reboot of the XFL just debuted – the weekend after the Super Bowl. That's like having a sewerage commission election the Tuesday after the presidential election.

They start playing XFL games on the heels of the NFL's grandest game?

That's like going to Paris, Texas right after going to Paris, France.

That's like ordering a New York strip at Sizzler right after ordering the porterhouse at Peter Luger.

That's like visiting the border wall right after visiting the Great Wall of China.

That's like watching 17 years of Jimmy Kimmel right after watching 17 years of Johnny Carson.

(I'll stop now because I think you all get the point and, frankly, I'm even starting to annoy myself.)

How badly do you need to see more football six or seven days after the Kansas City Chiefs rallied to beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 54?

And when I say "more football," I mean the XFL, where the 'X' stands for Xtraneous, Xcessive, Xasperating, Xpendable and inXplicable.

We don't need more football.

We certainly don't need year-round football; we don't need year-round anything.

I mean, I'm a big fan of food detox, but there is a big difference between a 14-day cleanse and, say, a 365-day cleanse. Trust me, you'd be cleansed out before the 365-day mark.

The XFL, which fabulously failed during its one-season incarnation in 2001, has returned to prove again that few people want to watch more pro football after the NFL signs off for six months.

The expression is "March showers bring April flowers," not "XFL passes bring spring masses."

Nobody is thinking about RPOs in March and April. It would be as if pro hockey – training camp to Stanley Cup finals – decided to consume 10 months of the calendar.

(Editor's Note: Actually, the NHL already does this. We would have deleted the previous paragraph, but Mr. Chad is contractually obligated to provide us 800 words per week.)

The new XFL consists of eight teams – in seven NFL cities, plus St. Louis -- playing a 10-game schedule.

Out of professional responsibility to Sports Nation, I decided to take in the XFL's opening day. On ABC, it was the Seattle Dragons at the DC Defenders; on Fox, it was my Los Angeles Wildcats – I'm thinking about season tickets, but I figure I can find cheap seats on the secondary market – at the Houston Roughnecks.

This is what I saw and heard:

-- ABC's excitable Steve Levy: "The first carry – everything's a first!"

-- Analyst Greg McElroy: "If you look at Ja'Quan Gardner…probably not a name you recognize." Uh, you think?

-- McElroy was intent on emphasizing that these players were THIS CLOSE to being in the NFL, much as I am THIS CLOSE to writing for the New York Times.

-- With 11:25 left in the first quarter, the crowd chanted, "MVP! MVP!" for Defenders quarterback Cardale Jones. Now, that's funny.

-- Defenders fans, thinking they were at a R*dsk*ns game, started booing the home team early in the second quarter.

-- Fox analyst Joel Klatt never stopped talking. He's still talking right now as you read this.

-- We got to hear the coach or offensive coordinator calling the plays from the sideline, which captivated me almost as much as hearing the pimply kid shout out my order at Wienerschnitzel.

(Memo to the Houston Astros: In the XFL, you don't need to steal signs, you can just listen to the other coach telling you the next play on live TV.)

Anyway, the football was entertaining and many XFL rules changes will be keepers. But for all the bells and whistles, it doesn't alter the inescapable fact that we are not pining for more football the next 75 days.

The XFL is the proverbial tree falling in the forest that no one hears, so does it make a sound?

In this respect, it resembles most Couch Slouch columns – exquisitely written, extraordinarily unread.

Ask the Slouch

Q. Did someone forget to tell Joel Embiid that the Philadelphia 76ers aren't tanking anymore? (Dan Cantwell; Albany, N.Y.)

A. Speaking of which, I guess The Process is complete – the 76ers are now trading away draft picks.

Q. With Bob Knight ending his 20-year split with Indiana, did that give you any thoughts about your first marriage? (Ken Ryan; Huntsville, Ala.)

A. I would have to violate a court order.

Q. Shouldn't fellow Vienna, Va., resident Terry Golden get a bonus – say, an extra 50 cents – for having the most questions answered in your column? (Jan-Peter Ozga, Vienna, Va.)

A. Listen, pal, Mr. Golden has built an addition to his home off of Ask The Slouch winnings.

You want me to INCREASE his windfall? You send him the extra half-buck and I'll sign the card.

Q. Is it true that the NFL will be using the Iowa caucus app to speed up the replay process? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!


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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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