WITH LUCK RETIRING DUE TO EXCESSIVE INJURIES, IT'S TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT PROTECTING WATSON

Who replaces Miller won't matter if Texans don't fix O-line

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Andrew Luck is walking away from the NFL because he can't take the punishment anymore and the toll it has taken on him mentally and physically. Even after new General Manager Chris Ballard re-built the offensive line and gave him more of the resources he needed, it was too late to save Luck who had to endure too many seasons of little to no protection on the field and less than stellar coaching and upper management off of it. If all of this sounds far too familiar and hits extremely close to home, it should, because Deshaun Watson is headed for a similar fate if things don't change and change quickly. The Texans and the Houston fans waited forever to finally get a franchise quarterback and the organization has done very little to protect and serve his best interests since he came on board.

If you need any recent proof of how bad the line is again this season and how dangerous the situation can be for the offensive weapons on the team, you only need to look at the first half film from the game Saturday night against the Cowboys. Watson was under constant pressure and found himself running for his life seemingly every down he was in the game. Running back Lamar Miller was lost for the season after suffering a season-ending injury when he was drilled at the line of scrimmage after a weak blocking effort left him fully exposed for the Dallas defense. Bill O'Brien and his staff allowed his best players to take the field with some of his reserve linemen and paid a very high price. Thankfully it wasn't worse, as Watson was able to escape serious injury and trade his helmet for a headset as he turned the signal calling over to Joe Webb for the rest of the night. As fans were left to ponder who the team might be able to trade for or bring in as a possible replacement for Miller, the bigger question in my mind was what does it matter who they bring in if they are just going to get beat up running behind by a bad O-line?

Seriously folks, before you start worrying about acquiring Jay Ajayi, Adrian Peterson, Melvin Gordon, Carlos Hyde, T.J. Yeldon or anyone else, you need to worry about who will be trusted with opening up holes for them while protecting the quarterback. The most important offseason need for this franchise was not addressed properly, after drafting two tackles that look more like guards and signing another batch of journeymen veterans who seem to have little left in the tank.

The returning linemen from last season have shown little progress and some have even regressed to the point of being in jeopardy of being released before the season even starts. Whoever is charged with being the GM of the hour between now and the start of the season needs to work all lines of communication with every other team in the league to find out what linemen might be available and at what price? Tackles and guards don't grow on trees or just pop up on the waiver wire waiting to be a starter in the trenches for the Texans, so the job is easier said than done. Teams groom their line by drafting and developing them over several years. Once a team finds a good one, they hang on to them for a long time. Running backs are a dime a dozen while quality blockers are a hot commodity that are hard to find and even harder to sign. O'Brien and his staff need to leave no stone unturned as they work the phone lines and find out what it would take to find some serviceable upgrades for the first line of offense and do it before another season is lost in transactions and failed experiments. The time for taking chances and flyers are over, there needs to be a sense of urgency and a focus on making substantial upgrades on the line and not just minor adjustments or staying status quo.

If you can't find a way to protect Deshaun Watson and open up the passing game, then how are you going to open up holes for whoever is running the football? That's why it really doesn't matter who the team brings in to replace Lamar Miller until they figure out who is capable of blocking for them. You can't blame Brian Gaine anymore or hide behind his firing, the GM by committee is under the microscope and B.O.B. needs to take the time to make some good things happen and fast.

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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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