THE HOUSTON SPORTS SCENE

If only the Texans and Rockets could be more like the Astros

Things were not so good for Ken Giles. Al Bello/Getty Images

 Now that we are a city of champions again we need to start acting like it. That means you Texans. And you Rockets. It’s not like they can take the Astros blueprint and copy it exactly. They each have their own challenges but there are some things they can pick from here and there, throw it in the pot and hopefully come out with a nice gumbo of sports greatness. The first ingredient they both need? They need to grow a pair.

What I loved most about this Astros team was that it had giant nuts. The kind you need a wheelbarrow to carry around. I mean huge balls. When you lead the league in hitting in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings it means you don’t give a bleep. Ken Giles agrees with this theory.

I’m not sure Giles is the guy that should be repping the “zero (blanks) given” shirt. I wish he would start caring about stuff like getting guys out. I’m referring more to the hitters that didn’t give a bleep about who the pitcher was, what his stats were, how hard he threw, what inning it was in what game or how much they were down.  Chris Sale? No problem. Craig Kimbrel? Knocked him around. C.C.? Come on. Clayton Kershaw? Pssshhh. Kenley Jansen? Bring it. Game 7? Twice? Whatever.

The Rockets and Texans? Not so much. You don’t earn a name like Elimination James unless you really wilt under the pressure of the big moment. This is not even arguable. The evidence is starting to pile up. It started in the 2012 NBA finals when he was with OKC. It got even worse in the ‘15 Western Conference Finals when he went 2 for 11 with 11 turnovers in the 5th and deciding game against the Warriors. Then there was last year’s Game 6 debacle against the Spurs. I don’t even want to go there. Come on man. $181 million deserves a better effort in the biggest games. I don’t know if you heard James but that’s not how we act anymore. That’s how we used to act back in ‘92 when we were playing the Bills and had a 32 point lead or in ‘98 when we struck out 11 times against Sterling Fricking Hitchcock. But we don’t act like that anymore. We just don’t.

Well, the Texans still do but that’s gonna have to change as well. One thing that hasn’t changed at all is their luck. Holy crap. This season had so much promise thanks to one guy and that guy’s gone now. Deshaun Watson out for the year with a knee injury. Add that to J.J. and Whitney and this is beyond cataclysmic. Those two were bad enough but there was still a thrill in the air thanks to Deshaun and if not for Bill O’Brien choking in the final minutes of the Patriot and Seahawks games this team could have been 5-2 instead of 3-4.

That’s the kind of behavior that has got to go. Maybe BOB can take a page from A.J. Hinch’s book and grow a pair when the game is on the line. Game 4 in Boston? Up one. What the hell, let’s bring Verlander in. What???!!!! Twitter exploded. You would have thought A.J. said something about inmates in prison. No. All he did was win a series.

Up 2 with under 3 minutes to play the Texans drive down to the Patriot 20. A touchdown puts it away. What does BOB do? Lamar Miller for 7 yards. Lamar Miller for 2 yards. Lamar Miller for no gain. Field goal. Of course you know how it ended. What a shock. Give Tom Brady the ball back down 5 with 2:24 to play and guess what happens?

In Seattle, up 4 with 2:10 left the Deshaun runs for a first down. One more first down and this thing is over. What does BOB do? Run Lamar Miller three times again, punt it back to Seattle and lose the game. You’ve got the most dynamic player in the game. He was probably wearing Ken Giles’ shirt under his uniform. He didn’t give a bleep about the legion of boom. He went in there and dominated the Seahawk defense but BOB stole all that thunder by playing scared.

Those two faux pas aside, BOB seemed to be a different coach this year. His staid and incredibly dull offense was scrapped in favor of originality and fun. The sign of a good coach is that he can adjust to the talent he has as opposed to the players adapting to his scheme. He was learning as much from Deshaun as Deshaun was from him and other than how he turtled at the end of those two games he was coaching his tail off. It’s going to be interesting to see how he’s going to be judged at the end of this year. He showed ingenuity for the first time as the Texans head coach and Deshaun was flourishing in this offense. Can you fire him now even if they don’t win another game? How can anyone expect him to make chicken salad out of this? Back to boring football. Damn.

One other thing that would be awesome is if BOB in some way somehow might learn to be a little more likeable like A.J.  

A.J. meets with the media twice a day. He sits down with pretty much the same guys before and after every game; 180 this year. That’s at least 360 sessions and that doesn’t count his radio obligations. It can’t be easy. When a reporter asks him about leaving Giles in while he’s blowing another save it really means, “What the hell were you thinking there? Have you ever seen him pitch?” But A.J. answers every question no matter how dumb or unintentionally insulting it might be and he does it thoughtfully and respectfully.

BOB? Again, not so much. I don’t care that you hate the media. I don’t care that you don’t respect the media. I don’t care if you never talk to the media again but since you have to you might as well be nice. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice.  You’re not Bill Belichick. You haven’t won enough to act like him. Part of it could be that northeast upbringing. Those people (yes those people) are abrasive. It’s just how they are. But you’re in Houston now and I hope someday Houston rubs off on you a little.

So here’s what we need from our Rockets and Texans. Take a look at the Astros and grab some of that swagger. Grow a giant pair and don’t be afraid to win big. Try to be nice along the way and maybe people will like you. How about that? A championship team that’s likeable. Crazy but true. Someday maybe we can have a few of those in this city.   
 

 

  

  

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

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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