A BOLD MOVE

It's time for the Texans to reach out to Colin Kaepernick

The Texans should sign Colin Kaepernick Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

This story originally appeared on houstonsportsandstuff.com

Follow me on Twitter @ODonalsVanguard

After reading Fred Faour’s article yesterday about the effort needed by the Texan’s defense for the remainder of the 2017 season I thought about what it would take to make that feasible. The answer has already been written and talked about by numerous people besides me; Colin Kaepernick. My opinion is not based on some high opinion of him though. I don’t really have an opinion of him. My thoughts are simply based on my low opinion of Tom Savage, Matt McGloin and T.J. Yates. And that is why it’s time for the Texans leadership to get off their high horse and sign him to finish out the season.

Bill O'Brien was asked several times about Kaepernick at Monday's press conference. He did his best to deflect but it was a hot topic.

Going into Sunday’s game the Texans’ offense with Deshaun Watson was putting up 30 points a game and for the first time in team history looked like a juggernaut. Against the 31st ranked defense, at home, without Watson; they looked pathetic. The defense kept them in it and my only take away was this: could they have won that game with just a serviceable quarterback? I think it’s possible. What does that mean for the next 8 games?

Without Watson I don’t think the Texans will make the playoffs. The Jaguars and Titans are playing too well to allow the Texans to get in. Normally, I would say fine. If you can’t win without “the man” then do your best and settle for a decent draft pick.

The Texans can’t do that this year. They gave away their draft picks in the first 2 rounds to the Browns. Without that sort of incentive waiting in the offseason, Bob McNair should be acquiring the most talented players to give his team a chance. That’s the least he can do.

Kaepernick is the best available quarterback on the market and can duplicate at least some of what made Watson effective on the field. Signing lesser talent with the reasoning that they have experience in the offensive system is a poor excuse. But we all know that it comes down to politics.

And it’s those politics that would defeat some of the reasons for making the move. This is Texas. In a solid red state like this one, anything deemed unpatriotic must be shunned by the strongest means. Signing Kaepernick would turn a lot of fans away. They would have to wait until next year to come back when he can be cut and they can pretend not to have noticed he was ever there.

I believe the opposite is true. Bringing him in would be a move for the fans. It’s an indication that just because the Texans might not make the playoffs, at least they are trying to put a good product on the field while they wait to get their quarterback and their ability to draft back. As a fan, I would appreciate that. From where I sit now; not only are the Texans bad to watch, they won’t get better while the teams around them do. That includes the Browns who would benefit immensely from their own high draft picks and the high ones they received from the Texans.

What about free agency? If the Texans can’t get players with immediate impact ability in the draft then surely they have to seek out free agents. Not signing a player who might make this team competitive because of a political line in the sand sends the wrong message. Bob McNair is telling potential free agents that he only wants to help this team win if it doesn’t make him uncomfortable.

That’s fine. He can do that. Down years can happen in business from time to time. After all, he’s already a billionaire owner. He can wait out this season, and the next, and the next until all of this is forgotten and he can rebuild again.

Wait, did I say business? This can’t be about business, can it? Nah, every business owner I’ve ever met would do whatever it takes for his business to be successful year in and year out. But I guess just owning a team is enough as long as fans keep showing up to games. In Texas that means losing games because it’s better than signing a player who ruffles a few feathers.

I just can’t understand the contempt he has to have for those who pay for his product. I know he’s already past the point where he wouldn’t look completely hypocritical by signing Kaepernick, but at least he can say he did it for the fans. People like someone who swallows his pride for the sake of others. I’m not sure how much they like someone who keeps this team from being watchable because of his pride. Time will tell.

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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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