Bad money

The 5 worst contracts in Houston sports history

Bad contracts can burn money. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Sometimes, the conversations start innocently enough. Eventually, the debate starts. From there, the talk can turn into a full-fledged argument and maybe even a fight. Sports opinions can do this to us, especially when we are passionate. We often forget fan is short for “fanatic.”

Typically when there’s a free agent or player to be re-signed, there will be errors made and money wasted. There isn’t a formula or exact science to it. Here’s my "Fab Five Flubs" in Houston sports history:

5. Carlos Lee

At six years/$100 million, Carlos Lee was money wasted by a team who tried to bandage gaping wounds with toilet paper. The 2006 version of the Astros finished 1.5 games behind the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in the division. Jeff Bagwell retired after the team didn’t pick up his team option. Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite both left via free agency. Over his six years in Houston, Lee averaged 22 home runs, 88 RBIs, and a .286 batting average. Hardly worth the $100 million spent on him.

4. Kelvin Cato

Here’s a guy who inspired the famous line by ESG: “Tell Kelvin Cato we want our money back!” On October 15, 1999, he recorded a preseason triple double (20 points, 13 rebounds, 12 blocks in 31 minutes) vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers. October 28, 1999, the Rockets signed him to a six-year, $42 million-dollar deal. At 6’11, 275 pounds, the Rockets never got more than 8 points, seven rebounds and a block per game from Cato. He was later packaged with Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, and others for Tracy McGrady.

3. Brock Osweiller

Here’s what $37 million dollars guaranteed, and several high lost draft picks look like when you invest as much in the quarterback position and it goes wrong. Not only was the guaranteed money wasted on a guy who completed 59 percent of his passes (15 touchdowns, 16 picks), but also the draft picks given up to get out of his deal and draft Deshaun Watson to potentially replace him. Osweiller lasted one miserable 9-7 season for the Texans, but his “legacy” could take years to overcome.

2. Matt Maloney

Matt Maloney was yet another Houston athlete that benefitted from Band-Aid team building. Carlos Lee wasn’t the first. Maloney got a seven-year deal off the strength of: Brent Price being out for the season. Charles Barkley thinking he could come in and play the point guard position, and hitting about 40 percent from three point land while Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon were in the twilight of their careers. Maloney ended up making almost 90 perecent of his career $17-plus million off the foolish deal the Rockets gave him in 1998.

1. Ahman Green

Signing a 30-year-old running back in the NFL is the equivalent to signing a 40-plus power pitcher in baseball. Yes, they were once great. Yes, they still have the knowledge. But the game has passed them by, and they can’t clock upper mid-90s with that fastball anymore. At four years, $23 million, the Texans could have brought in Jamal Lewis for the three years, $17 million the Browns spent on him in the same free agency class. Lewis was two years younger and had success in Cleveland. Green never amounted to anything for the Texans.

Honorable mention

  • Matt Schaub’s extension was unwarranted, undeserved, and never panned out.
  • James Harden may prove to be the most enigmatic albatross an NBA franchise has ever had.

To err on the side of caution is always best. The Houston sports scene is seeing a sort of renaissance right now, and the Texans can be promising if Watson pans out.

The Rockets got Chris Paul to pair with Harden (like giving the Cowardly Lion a heart). And the Astros are young and very dangerous. Here’s hoping the stupidity that once plagued those front offices has been eradicated.

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It's easy to blame Bill O'Brien for the Texans woes. He is a lousy GM, a below average play caller and his offense is boring, predictable and ineffective. Not once has he had a top 10 offense in the league. So he does not get a pass here.

But Deshaun Watson shouldn't, either.

Last year, Watson was in the MVP conversation entering the game in Baltimore. Four of the nine games he played before that, Watson had an ESPN Total QBR over 85, which is playing at an elite level.

Since that 41-7 debacle (where his QBR was 13.6), Watson has played 10 games. He has topped 85 just once (and barely - 85.6) in the win over the Patriots. While QBR is not the be all end all, it shows a trend. And before you blame the talent around him or the ridiculously stupid DeAndre Hopkins trade, eight of those games were with Hopkins in the lineup.

Over his last 10 games, Patrick Mahomes has done it five times (and just missed last week at 84.7). Lamar Jackson has done it six times in his last 10. Russell Wilson is six for his last 10. Dak Prescott? Three. Aaron Rodgers? Three. Ryan Tannehill? Three. Josh Allen? Two. Lamar Jackson led the league last year with an 83 for the season. Watson was sixth at 71.3. To be a top 10 quarterback, you had to average 64.1. In two games this season, Watson sits 20th, about where he was over the last six regular season games and two playoff games last year.

In essence, Deshaun Watson - who often gets compared to those players - is not on their level. Yes, O'Brien has a lot to do with it, but it's also time to start looking at Watson's performance and regression as an NFL quarterback.

In 2018, Watson had four such games. In 2017, four in six starts. And now ONE since that Baltimore game. In fact, he has topped 80 just once in that stretch, and 60 just three times.

What it tells us is Watson has been an average quarterback over his last 10 starts. The Texans invested heavily in an offensive line to protect him. They have added depth at WR but a net loss without Hopkins. Elite quarterbacks turn in performances like that roughly half the time. Getting more consistent has always been an issue for Watson. But since that Baltimore game, he has not been close. And he is being paid to be elite.

In the end, O'Brien is still the main culprit. He has hand picked all the players around Watson, he designed the offense, and he controls everything.

But it's time to quit giving Watson a pass. Right now, he is part of the problem.

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