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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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