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How the Texans could benefit from potential Rooney Rule amendment

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The NFL instituted the Rooney Rule to encourage teams to include minorities in the hiring process for head coaches and general managers. The rule states teams must interview at least one minority candidate in their hiring process before making a hire. This was presumably to be done in good faith. However, teams have found a myriad of ways to make a mockery of the rule and its intentions. To pour salt in the wound, there's a disproportionate amount of minority head coaches and GMs in the league.

Given the great racial divide, the NFL has tossed around the idea of giving teams the incentive of moving up in the draft if they hire a minority head coach (six spots) and/or GM (ten spots). Those changes have to be voted upon. However, there are other changes that will be in place starting this point forward. They include: teams must interview at least two external minority candidates for head coaching positions, at least one for coordinator positions, and at least one for senior-level front office positions (females were included in the front office positions).

So how could the Texans benefit from all this? Where could they stand to improve their team? Here's how I see it:


Bye Bye Bill O'Brien!

About two months ago, I made my case to be Bill O'Brien's replacement. The Texans must've ignored my plea because I haven't gotten a call or email yet. A week later, I gave a realistic exit for O'Brien. Depending on how this season goes, that plan may be executed in the offseason. I've previously stated my hope for Chiefs' offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to be hired as head coach given his tutelage under Andy Reid and what they've done for Pat Mahomes. ESPN's Louis Riddick is a very sharp guy who'd be a good GM hire given he's served in front offices previously, and he's pretty talented evaluating talent on television. Bringing back Rick Smith would be another front office move I could see Cal McNair doing. Getting out from under the dictatorship of buffoonery should be priority number one.

Draft position improvements

Looking at the Texans' lack of draft picks could present an unattractive task to any incoming regime. Couple that with the piss-poor contract extensions that have been handed out, I wouldn't be surprised if the organization had to overpay and over-promise. The potential to maximize the minimal draft capital the Texans have could help entice candidates. Knowing you're without a 1st or 2nd rounder, but have a greatly improved position in the 3rd and possibly 4th rounds helps. That, and number four is under center is a nice carrot to dangle.

Quality replacements

Quality minority candidates are out there. Anthony Weaver is the new defensive coordinator on Kirby and replaces an aging Romeo Crennel. Many questioned his hire. How do you find the next hot coaching prospect unless you give them a shot no one else was willing to give? This applies to minority candidates. I was shocked Bieniemy didn't get hired this offseason. When Sean McVey's assistants got hired after one or two good seasons, you'd think Bieniemy would've been a shoo-in. The Dolphins hired minorities at head coach and GM last offseason. After fleecing the Texans for numerous draft picks and flipping other players into more picks, they used said picks to stockpile young talent. They also spent their cap space wisely to bring in veteran talent and are well on their way to contending for the AFC East in the post-Brady era.

The Texans are in an unenviable position. Number four makes this job a lot more attractive despite the other obvious flaws this organization has. One thing an incoming regime could take solace in is job security. The McNairs are notoriously slow to pull the trigger on organizational changes when it comes to head coaches and GMs. They'd come in knowing they'd have at least four to five years to build something. The first one or two years may be difficult given the shape the organization is currently in, so that job security looks even better. Do I see the McNairs being the type of folk who'd actually go through with an idea this radical? Not really. But what better way for Cal to take charge and put his own stamp on this organization's future than with a total reset under this potential rule change. It could also help set a trend and that's something this team is not known for. In the meantime, we wait. The jackassery on Kirby can't last forever.

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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