Free Agency Fiasco

Patrick Creighton: Did Texans owner Bob McNair just further alienate himself from his players?

Mr. McNair is back in the news for all the wrong reasons. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Bob McNair is going to have to answer some questions to his team again.

During the season, Bob McNair found himself having to address his team for racially insensitive comments he made during a meeting between owners and players to discuss the ongoing player demonstrations during the national anthem protesting social injustice.  His comment about “inmates running the prison” set off a media firestorm and infuriated his own players, some of whom (including DeAndre Hopkins) walked out of practice as a result of his comments.

His attempt to explain he didn’t mean to refer to the players but to the league office went over very poorly and the players were not buying it.  Those fences did not mend. Now, he likely will have to try again.

Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle reported Monday that two NFL agents told him the Texans aren’t interested in any players who participated in an anthem demonstration protesting social injustice.

Unfortunately, this should be a surprise to no one.  I say unfortunately because Bob McNair is one of the most respected men in the city of Houston and one of the most respected men in the NFL owners’ room. However, all we need do is look at the Texans actions to see this was always going to be the case.

Houston didn’t want to give Duane Brown, a Pro Bowl LT who could have greatly helped an offensive line that was more sieve than solid, a new contract or any guaranteed money despite his standing as a leader on the team, being the team’s best lineman, or being a top-5 Texan all time.  It made absolutely no sense at the time. It’s much clearer now.

I said at the time that Brown’s participation in an anthem demonstration was a major issue for the Texans and that they would be okay with moving on from him even though they would hurt the team in the process.  Brown confirmed this in an interview with former Texan Arian Foster on Foster’s podcast.

The Texans made no attempt to work a deal with him as he exercised the only leverage point he had, holding out.  (Before anyone starts with the stupidity of 'he was under contract – a contract is a binding agreement between two parties' – a non-guaranteed deal that doesn’t require any commitment on the team’s end is a contract in name only.  No one should be put in a position to play for nothing.)

Brown then was critical of Bob McNair when McNair was exposed for his ‘inmates running the prison’ comment.  It was so offensive to NFL VP of Football Operations Troy Vincent that he got up and walked out. Vincent said in his playing days he had been called many things, but never an inmate.  

Brown not only criticized the owner’s comments but spilled the beans that he wasn’t surprised because it wasn’t the first time he had heard McNair say racially insensitive things.

Brown recalled that during his rookie season in 2008, McNair addressed the team regarding the election of President Obama.

“(McNair) was visibly upset about it. He said, ‘I know a lot of y’all are happy right now, but it’s not the outcome that some of us were looking for.’ That was very shocking to me.”

Brown further went on to recall McNair addressing the team after Donald Sterling, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was exposed for making many racially based discriminatory comments by his mistress.

“The message was more to be careful who you have private conversations with because things that you think are confidential can spread like wildfire.  In my mind, it would probably have been better if he said ‘don’t be a racist’ instead of ‘be a racist in private and make sure it doesn’t get out.'”

Brown addressed how the team “sent him to the wolves” when he protested during the anthem, and that the team did not back him as a leader or as a player.

Now consider Texans COO Cal McNair’s comments on Brian Cushing, who served a 10 game suspension for another failed PED test:  "Brian Cushing has meant a great deal to the McNair family and few players have meant more to the Texans franchise…  His work ethic, toughness, and leadership, not only as a member of the team but in the Houston community, is to be commended, especially his dedication to the military and their families.”

Just a little bit different, right? One stood for what he believed in, one left his teammates hanging getting caught cheating.  Do I really have to say what is worse?

Brown played one game for the Texans this year before the team gave him away for 40 cents on the dollar to the Seahawks. The Texans were desperate for offensive line help and gave away a Pro Bowl tackle.

So, they didn’t back one of the greatest players in their team’s history after a demonstration.  They refused to give him a new contract when he was a team leader, and team’s best offensive lineman when they were going to play 2 quarterbacks with a combined 2 starts between them in the NFL. They traded him on the cheap to a contender in the NFC. They lauded and praised their PED using LB who has been a shell of his former self for years.

Now agents around the league know the Texans will refuse to consider any player who has participated in an anthem protest or may participate in the future.  

The truth is the Texans aren’t the only team who will take this stance, but it bothers me more because of who the owner is.  Bob McNair brought the NFL back to Houston. He is a magnanimous man known for his charitable works. Bob McNair isn’t supposed to be the kind of man who holds these petty grudges.  

McNair always talks about wanting to win, and give a championship to the city of Houston, but in this instance is he more concerned with peripheral issues than putting the best possible product on the field?  Perception is 90% reality.

McNair couldn’t win back the locker room when he spoke to the team after his “inmates running the prison” comment.  His excuse held no water. How does he mend the fence with his African American players when agents know the team is holding a grudge against all their fellow players who stood up for their rights and their beliefs?  How does the owner look his players in the face and say he cares about them and the issues that are important to them when his actions clearly indicate otherwise?

McNair has a trust issue with his players, the majority of whom see the reasons for the anthem demonstrations as important social issues.  He needs to change the perception that he views them as little more than gladiators being sent to the Colosseum to please the Roman mob.

It will not be an easy task since he is already fighting an uphill battle, but he is the ultimate leader of the team.  As such, he needs to change the perception, not just to the public, but to his players, and soon. Another such episode could result in a full-scale mutiny that could have ripple effects throughout the league.

Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate & Creight” heard weekdays 1-3p CT on SportsMap 94.1FM, and “Sports & Shenanigans” heard Sundays 12-5p CT on SB Nation Radio.  Follow him on Twitter: @pcreighton1

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Springer had two homers Sunday

Springer helps lift Astros to series win over D-backs

Photo by Bob Levey / Getty Images

With a win on Saturday to tie the series 1-1, the Astros took the field at Minute Maid Park for the last time of 2020 on Sunday. A victory would give them the series against Arizona and move them one step closer to securing one of the two playoff spots for the AL West's highest-record finishing duo. Here are the quick highlights from Sunday's rubber game:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 27-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-1, 2.41 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Junior Guerra (1-2, 3.04 ERA).

Urquidy goes six while allowing two runs

After three scoreless innings on both sides, Arizona would start the scoring in the top of the fourth. They would load the bases with no outs against Jose Urquidy, getting back-to-back singles to start the frame before Urquidy issued a walk. He would get out of the jam with just one run allowed, though, thanks to a timely double play and a flyout to end the inning.

The D-backs ambushed Urquidy in the top of the fifth, getting a leadoff solo homer to double their lead to 2-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings while allowing just the two runs. His final line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 90 P.

Springer takes it into his own hands

After tagging him with eight runs on August 4th in Arizona, the Astros were unable to figure out Madison Bumgarner on Sunday, going scoreless over his five innings on the mound. They went to work against Arizona's bullpen in the bottom of the sixth, starting with a near-conventional homerun turned inside-the-park homer for George Springer to start the inning, cutting the lead in half 2-1.

They went on to load the bases with two outs but would strand all three runners to keep it a one-run game heading to the seventh. Andre Scrubb was first out of Houston's bullpen and had a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. In the bottom of the seventh, Springer tied the game with his second homer in as many innings, this time over the right-field fence, making it 2-2.

Astros grab the late lead, take the series

Scrubb would retire one more batter, getting a groundout to start the top of the eighth before Houston moved on to Blake Taylor to face the top of Arizona's order. He would keep it a tie game, working around a two-out infield single to end the inning.

Houston would get the go-ahead run in scoring position in the bottom of the eighth, with Alex Bregman getting hit by a pitch then moving to second on a walk to Michael Brantley. They'd go on to load the bases with another walk and one out, setting up a go-ahead sac fly by Carlos Correa to take a 3-2 lead.

That presented another chance for a save for Ryan Pressly, which he would notch as the Astros would take the final two games of the three-game set to win the series. The win moved them up to 27-26 on the year, keeping them a leg up on the Mariners for second place in the AL West.

Up Next: Seven games remain in Houston's regular season, all on the road, with a three-game series in Seattle against the Mariners and then a four-game set in Arlington against the Rangers. The opener in Seattle will get underway at 8:10 PM Central on Monday and features the pitching matchup of Marco Gonzalez (6-2, 3.49 ERA) for the Mariners and Lance McCullers Jr. (3-2, 4.87 ERA) for the Astros.

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