3 headlines 2 questions and 1 bet ahead of the season opener with the Saints

No time to be new with Saints nearing

@HoustonTexans

"I understand everybody is going to dissect how we did it"

Bill O'Brien hears the commentary the Texans didn't get enough in the trade of Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans tried to negotiate a contract but they couldn't get to Clowney's number and he wouldn't come down to their number. Thus, the trade.

As for the timing, O'Brien knows it didn't help the value.

"There were a lot of talks that took place. There were contract proposals between the player and us that we just couldn't come to an agreement on relative to the franchise tag. We couldn't come to that agreement, and we had several discussions with many teams over many months and we feel like we made the best decision for the team."

Ultimately the Texans get no Clowney and a third-round pick a year early than say eight games of Clowney and a third round pick in 2021. I don't believe Clowney was ever going to put himself in a position to be traded where he didn't want to go. With him not letting the Texans decide, they did what they thought they could do.

"I feel really good about being able to get a proven left tackle to protect Deshaun Watson"

"They're hard to draft, they're hard to develop, but Laremy Tunsil is an excellent player who was here last night, yesterday afternoon, in here right now meeting with Mike (Devlin) – a really good guy and it's been good getting to know him over the last, let's just call it 36 hours."

Bill O'Brien is right, the left tackle spot isn't easy to fill. Only three tackles drafted in the back half of the first round are starters at left tackle for their team. Taylor Decker (Lions), Garett Bolles (Broncos), and D.J. Humphries (Cardinals) are those players. Decker is fantastic, he was the 4th rated pass blocker at tackle last year according to Pro Football Focus. The other two graded out terrible and they are nothing special. Various other players have slid inside or are on other teams already.

I say all that to say, if the Texans didn't stink, it was unlikely a Laremy Tunsil-level player was getting to them. So, there would be an investment to move up, likely an additional first, to eventually get that left tackle and that player is an unknown. If the Texans aren't very good going forward then there should be criticism for not having the picks to improve the team.

Tunsil has to get ready in a hurry. He is expected to play Monday against the Saints.

"Me being in the offense a little longer than him maybe I can help him with some stuff"

Tytus Howard was excited to talk about his new running mate on the left side of the offensive line in Laremy Tunsil. Howard was a little tongue in cheek when he said he could show Tunsil something but noted they have work to do with each other to get used to one another on the line. It would take reps said Howard.

"I plan on learning as much as I can from him," said Howard. "Let him show me the ropes."

The Texans know four starters on the offensive line. Tunsil and Howard will man the left of center Nick Martin. Seantrell Henderson is the team's right tackle. The only spot up for grabs is if rookie Max Scharping or veteran Zach Fulton get the nod at right guard.

Will Kenny Stills still kneel?

Kenny Stills is one of the last few players still kneeling during the National Anthem. The Texans have rarely come across kneeling players, with one exception a few seasons ago.

Stills has been outspoken on why he kneels. He goes into detail on his website.

"We were not protesting the national anthem. We were actively working to create a conversation regarding police brutality and the race issues that plague this country...My goal truly is to build bridges. I want to foster a positive relationship between police officers and the communities they protect. I want to encourage open conversation, which allows people to discuss issues and learn from each other. I want to help establish opportunities for at-risk kids to have the same opportunities in and outside of the classroom as everyone else."

As for whatever Stills decides, his head coach has his back.

"Relative to any social justice initiatives," O'Brien said. "You guys know that my history here with the Houston Texans is I love the players. I have the players' back and we communicate about those things. I'm not going to get into any discussions that I would have with any player about those things, but I support the players in social justice initiatives."


How will the defense fare against the Saints?

Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas is just the start of what is a fantastic Saints offense. They are also coached by one of the best offensive minds in the NFL in Sean Payton.

The Texans will be breaking in a couple of new starters including cornerback Bradley Roby and safety Tashaun Gipson. The front seven will have no Clowney but Whitney Mercilus is back at the "JACK" position which focuses more on pass rush.

Aaron Colvin is a question mark for this team at slot cornerback. He was disappointing last season. The defensive linemen outside of J.J. Watt and D.J. Reader have plenty to prove. The depth is a concern with a rookie, like Lonnie Johnson, or new faces, like Barkevious Mingo or Jacob Martin playing what could end up being key spots or moments.

Romeo Crennel has his hands full.

I bet there will be some friendly wagering this week between veterans and rookies

Rookies Cullen Gillaspia from Texas A&M and Charles Omenihu from Texas could be wheeling and dealing this weekend.

Omenihu's Longhorns play new teammate Barkevious Mingo's LSU Tigers this weekend. I joked with Omenihu he could get to know his new teammate with a friendly wager. He predicted a 28-17 Texas win.

Gillaspia is in a much more difficult spot as his Aggies ready to play the Clemson Tigers. There are four Clemson players on the roster with DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson, D.J. Reader, and Carlos Watkins. I would imagine Gillaspia may keep the stakes low with four people to pay off if he decides to make a friendly wager and lose.

J.J. Watt wore a Northwestern shirt a couple of years ago after former Texans linebacker Brian Peters saw his alma mater take down Watt's Wisconsin Badgers. Could we see Watson in maroon next week?

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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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