KEEPING IT RAHEEL

Raheel Ramzanali: How good does your offensive line have to be to win the Super Bowl?

The Texans offensive line was bad last year. This year one website says it is the worst. Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Working in sports radio in the month of July is a blast because we get to repeat storylines and talk NFL without seeing any of our questions answered for another two months. One storyline that is hot right now is the Texans O-line. Pro Football Focus was not high on them and had them ranked 32nd as a unit. On paper, this O-line is not good, but man, when Deshaun and the offense were rolling, we weren’t questioning the line as much as we are now. So, is it possible to win with a below average line in the NFL?

Using the adjusted run and pass rankings from Football Outsiders, I looked at where the final four teams ranked in both run and pass. You can see the breakdown of what Football Outsiders uses to measure O-line play here. Note: after talking to several NFL writers and “gurus,” these rankings were the best to use since they only accounted for the regular season and looked at key indicators and not human grades.

2013 (Run/Pass)

  • San Francisco 29/22

  • Seattle 9/32

  • New England 1/9

  • Denver 8/1

2014

  • Indianapolis 16/7

  • New England 5/2

  • Green Bay 8/13

  • Seattle 4/24

2015

  • Arizona 3/5

  • Carolina 12/21

  • New England 2/18

  • Denver 17/13

2016

  • Pittsburgh 3/4

  • New England 9/6

  • Green Bay 19/11

  • Atlanta 10/23

2017

  • Minnesota 19/6

  • Philadelphia 22/12

  • Jacksonville 13/5

  • New England 1/13

Here are some key takeaways for me:

  • The average run ranking for the eventual champion was 12.4 and the average pass ranking was 13. Basically, you have to be slightly better than average in both the run and pass to win it all.

  • The best pass protection line out of the four only won it all once, New England in 2014.

  • The best run line out of the four never won it all in the last five years.

  • Seattle was the only team with a pass protection score less than 13 to win it all and that team did it with defense.

  • The only constant in the last five years is that New England will be in the final four and the will more than likely have a top 10 unit both run and pass.

This column is by no means an attack on offensive linemen and their importance, but rather a look at how having a just above average O-line doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. Texans fans, don’t let the constant badgering of your unit by sports radio hosts change your prediction of the Texans winning it all.


 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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