Every-Thing Sports

It's time to give Bill O'Brien some credit

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The Texans are now 6-3 after beating the Jags 26-3 in one of the London games this past Sunday morning. They're also in first place in the AFC South since the Colts laid an egg against the Broncos. Despite injuries on both sides of the ball, this team appears to be hitting their stride, and it's coming at the most critical juncture of the season. They're off this coming week, but get the Ravens in Baltimore, then the Colts come to town for a Thursday Night Football showdown, followed by the Patriots coming to NRG for a Sunday Night Football game. This is like facing the heart of a baseball lineup with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Some may feel that this team is in real trouble, and they wouldn't be wrong to feel that way given this team's history and penchant for folding in crunch time. There are also many, including myself, that feel as if this team has a shot to win two of these three games or bare minimum perform well enough to be considered a tough out in the AFC playoff picture. As strange as it may sound coming from someone who's bashed Bill O'Brien in the past, I believe he's a big reason why I feel they have a shot and here's why:

Play calling

Over the last five games, the Texans are averaging 32 points per game. They are 4-1 in that stretch with the lone loss coming to the Colts in Indy by a touchdown. The offensive line and wide receiving corps have both had injuries derail the depth. Next man up mentality has seemed to work since other guys have stepped up and played well enough. I'm assuming O'Brien is still calling all or most of the plays because he's too much of a control freak to allow anyone else to do so. The plays being called are accentuating the players talents. Most notably...

Deshaun Watson has benefitted from the play calling

Watson is an amazing talent. He does something every game it seems that makes you wonder "how the hell did he do that?!?" Since O'Brien has opened things up, Watson has looked more and more like an MVP candidate. The guys calling the London game for NFL Network pointed out that all the plays were looking the same. Not that they were running the same plays, but if the defense sees the same type of play but get a different one, how can they possibly defend it? Watson runs the RPO (run pass option) stuff masterfully. He's also a wizard when it comes to escaping pressure and making something out of nothing. Things look promising if this keeps up.

GM O'Brien may have found some diamonds in the rough

I know this is a sore subject for some, but hear me out. Carlos Hyde, Kenny Stills, Duke Johnson, and Garreon Conley have all played well. Granted, sometimes some of these guys have made fans want to pull their hair out. Good thing I don't have on my head because I would've done so a few times. Losing Lamar Miller was thought to be a death warrant for the run game considering he didn't have a backup. Hyde and Johnson have filled in admirably. Stills was thought of as a throw in on the Laremy Tunsil trade. One could argue he's been the better player given Tunsil's affinity for penalties. Conley has had his ups and downs in his short time here, but should look a lot better once Bradley Roby and Tashuan Gipson are expected back soon. The jury is still out on GM O'Brien and is still leaning towards a guilty verdict. If these guys can continue to perform at a high level, GM O'Brien would be able to breathe a bit easier.

I'm not the kind of person to refuse admitting I'm wrong. In the sporting world, I actually don't mind and welcome being wrong. Especially when it comes to a local team I write about like the Texans. O'Brien has, and most likely will continue to, get heat from me. Right now, he's earned the right to be given credit for the streak of offensive ouput the team is on. Sure, he's got one of the best receivers and best young quarterbacks in the game, but the offensive line and the running backs were both thrown together last minute. The defense traded away one of the more dynamic players before the season started, lost JJ Watt last week for the season, and have continued to march out randoms in the defensive backfield. All that being said, they still have managed to stay more than competitive. I will hold off on crowning O'Brien until he wins more than a first round playoff game against a hapless Bengals team. Try beating the Patriots in the playoffs and/or making an AFC Championship game. If he brings a Super Bowl to Houston, he's going to have carte blanche forever. Let's not get ahead of ourselves though. He's got more work to do. But for now, let's give him credit where it's due.

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College football needs to call a timeout on the 2020 season.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are set to announce, maybe today, perhaps in a few weeks, whether they will play football this fall.

Already the Ivy League, Mountain West and Mid-American Conference have canceled their fall football season for health and safety reasons amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Power 5 conferences – the Big Ten, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference – should get onboard and put their football seasons on hold, too.

While some elected officials without medical degrees say that coronavirus amounts to little more than sniffles for young people, healthcare experts argue that college-age people, while they do recover quickly and may not exhibit symptoms, do contract and spread the virus.

There has been a 90 percent increase of young people testing positive for the virus in the past four weeks. More important, health experts say they can't measure the long-term effects of the virus, which may include brain damage, heart disease and reduced lung capacity.

There is a simple solution to play or not play college football this fall – postpone the season to next spring, when health experts will know more about the disease. There possibly could be a vaccine by then, which would allow fans back in stadiums.

Many high-profile college players and coaches weighed in on the debate Monday, almost unanimously saying that the 2020 football schedule should be played on schedule, starting in a few weeks.

Players, including Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, adopted the hashtag #WeWantToPlay. In a tweet, Lawrence said that players would be more at risk for coronavirus if the fall season doesn't move forward. "We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football."

Lawrence added that, if the football season is canceled or postponed, players "will be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely."

Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN, "Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home."

Two points: University presidents should listen to only one group of people – healthcare professionals – when they decide whether to cancel or postpone the fall football season. Yes, players want to play during this pandemic. But players also want to play when they are injured or their brain was just scrambled by a vicious tackle. We applaud athletes who play with a broken leg. We see players with concussions plead with their coaches to put them back in the game.

As for the argument that players are more likely to catch the virus if they're sent home – who's sending them home? These are student-athletes. Students. Most college campuses will be open with students attending classes this fall. Major college programs like Clemson have 85 full scholarships designated for football. Colleges won't take away players' scholarships if the football season is canceled. Clemson's campus will open Sept. 21 for in-person classes.

ESPN college football analyst Greg McElroy also said the season should be played as scheduled: "If they're (players) OK, then I'm OK." Texas governor Greg Abbott chimed in on the players' side. He said, "It's their careers, it's their health."

What "careers" is he talking about? There are about 775 colleges that play football. Only 1.7 percent of all those players will play in the NFL or another professional league. On Sept. 3, Rice University will play Army. It is unlikely that any of those players will have a career in football. However, given the excellence of academics at those colleges, players will have career opportunities in something other than football. The average NFL career is 2-1/2 years. Rice and Army grads can top that.

The NBA is completing its season in a bubble in Orlando, with players confined to their hotels between games. Only 22 teams are in Orlando for the lockdown. The Rockets organization sent about 35 people, including coaches, players and essential personnel to Orlando.

Baseball is playing its season outside a bubble. So many players are testing positive for coronavirus that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred last week threatened to end the season if teams don't do a better job of enforcing the league's health protocol. What's left is an unbalanced season. For example, the Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners have played 18 games, while the St. Louis Cardinals have played only five games. The ironically first-place Miami Marlins, which had 18 players test positive, have played only 10 games.

College football can't be played in a bubble. There are too many teams, with some having more than 100 players and 20 coaches. And no sport thrives on fans' excitement and marching bands like college football. Several colleges, including the University of Texas and Texas A&M, have stadiums that hold more than 100,000 fans. Even if college football could be played in a bubble, it would require isolating players from August to January, when they're supposed to be in class. I know … supposed.

This one is easy. For the health and safety of players, play the fall 2020 season in spring 2021.

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