The Pallilog

Texans have work to do in free agency

Kevin Johnson (right) was released by the Texans. Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

The bell rings to start NFL free agency Wednesday at 3 p.m. Central Time. Among the 32 teams the Texans enter the weekend with the fifth most salary cap space. Having more than $60 million dollars to spend doesn't mean the Texans can fill all their needs.

They better be aggressive after an offensive tackle and a cornerback. Ideally this offseason they add two quality starters of each. With their first round pick (#23) and two second rounders (picks 54 and 55 overall) this year they should nab at least one at each spot. In free agency, Trent Brown would seem to be one sensible tackle target. The largest player (about 6'8" 370!) in the NFL is good, only 26 years old starting next season, and adding him would also be subtracting from the Patriots. But it's fair to wonder how much better Brown is with superior Patriots coaching and in Tom Brady's quick pass offense than he would be as a Texan. The cornerback pickings are slim. ESPN's free agent rankings have Kevin Johnson as the third best corner available. The same first round draft pick bust Kevin Johnson the Texans cut this week, freeing up another nine million bucks in cap room. Pierre Desir would seem a worthy pursuit. A la Brown from New England, adding the 28 year old Desir would be the Colts' loss.

General Manager Brian Gaine's first crack at free agency a year ago produced a mixed bag. Safety Tyrann Mathieu was solid on his one year contract, corner Aaron Colvin a huge flop in the first season of his four year deal. Among the offensive linemen signed Zach Fulton was OK, Senio Kelemete middling at best, Seantrel Henderson was a question mark lost opening day to a broken ankle.

Franchise-tagged free agents hardly ever get offers from other teams, the cost being a huge contract and two first round draft picks. The Colts have the most cap space in the league. Landing Jadeveon Clowney would be a substantial boost to their rising defense, and a huge blow to the Texans. The Colts could make a massive offer to Clowney they're comfortable with, forcing the Texans to spend more to keep him. If the Texans found a Colts' offer too pricey, the alternative to matching is taking the Colts first rounder this year (26th pick) and first rounder next year.

Big game coming

The 12th ranked Houston Cougars are 28-2 as they head for a Sunday showdown at Cincinnati. With the Bearcats loss at Central Florida Thursday night (the same UCF that won at the Fertitta Center last Saturday), UH has clinched at least a share of a conference championship for the first time since it won the Southwest Conference in 1992. Not one SWC team cracked the top 25 at any point during that season. Sunday should be ferociously contested. The Coogs take aim at an outright league title. The Bearcats earn a share of the crown with a win. In the season's first meeting at the Fertitta Center, UH pitched a shutout over the last six minutes and won by seven. The Cats have won 16 straight at home, and in their last 51 home games are 49-2.

Tearing it up

Wednesday night LeBron James went past Michael Jordan for fourth place on the all-time scoring list. 32,311 points. LeBron up to fourth came the night after James Harden became the 73rd player in NBA history to reach 18,000 points. Which makes one think, how high on the scoring list will Harden climb? Barring an injury that knocks him out for several games, before this season is over Harden will vault into the top 70, passing Hall of Famers Tracy McGrady, Dave Bing, Rick Barry and Dr. J.-Julius Erving.

This summer Harden turns 30. While I'm generally a never say never guy, there is basically no chance Harden will have another season scoring the way he is in this one. After this season he has four years left on his contract.

Let's be conservative, saying Harden plays 70 games per season over the next four. Except for a lockout shortened season he has never played fewer than 72. Let's say next season he scores "only" 27 points per gameā€¦then in subsequent seasons 24 per game, then 22, then at age 33 20 points per game. That would vault Harden over 25,000 points. In NBA history only 22 players have massed 25K. The only other guy who'll gain admission to that club before Harden is Kevin Durant.

Whether James Harden wins a second MVP Award is up in the air. This is not: If Harden retired today, he's a lock Hall of Famer.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Daylight Saving Time kicks in tomorrow night. Yes! 2. My Colts/Clowney hypothetical: would you match and keep him or take the picks? 3. Most distinctive college basketball homecourt settings: Bronze-Memorial Gymnasium, Vanderbilt Silver-Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke Gold-Carrier Dome, Syracuse

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

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.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome