Monday, May 01, 2006

At least wait until September to Judge

The majority says the Texans made a ghastly error. “How can you pass on Barry Sanders?” questions the sports media mob. Reggie Bush is exciting, the Sanders comparison might not be a stretch and he should be a star. For all of that, he’s still just a running back. That is apparently what the Texans saw, and many football writers and talking heads fail to notice.

While selling tickets and boasting an exciting roster is great for revenue and fan interest. On the field it is another story. Winning in the NFL is about substance over style. Name the last Hall of Fame (or future HOF) running back to win a Super Bowl. Aside from Marshall Faulk and Emmitt Smith with the Cowboys, a star running back is not needed to win. What are the ’85 Bears known for? One of the greatest defenses ever first, Walter Payton second. Payton played for some terrible Bears teams for years before Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan built the defense.

A dynamic running game is a nice luxury, but a strong defense is a requirement for a playoff team. Mario Williams fills the larger need for the Texans. Domanick Davis is a 1,000 yard rusher, and the Texans defense needs a playmaker on defense. Williams has the chance to get 10-15 sacks a year for the next 8-10 years. Bush may be the better pure football player, but Williams is a better pick, and has a pretty good chance of being a Pro Bowler himself. It's not like the Texans passed on Bush in favor of Mathias Kiwanuka or Deuce Latui.

Every team that fancies itself a Super Bowl contender has an elite pass rusher. Great teams usually have two defensive playmakers. Since 1995, every Super Bowl Champion, except the 2001 Patriots, has had at least two defensive Pro Bowlers.

Houston is also taking heat for apparently taking the cheaper alternative. This seems wise to me. Sean Alexander, the reigning MVP couldn’t get $9million, so why would Houston be smart to pay a rookie with 15-carry potential that much? The Texans deserve credit for not blindly overpaying Bush, seeing the larger picture and ignoring popular opinion.

Other Thoughts:
-A plea to all the draft “experts”: Enough with draft day report cards. The cards are based on what teams agreed with the mock drafts, usually ignoring teams that traditionally draft well or not. Further, a draft can’t fully be evaluated for two to three years anyway. Example: Many people gave the Jaguars high marks last year for drafting TE/WR Matt Jones. This year they draft another TE Marcedes Lewis. The Jags get high marks again for finally filling the tight end spot. Huh? Remember 2003 when the Vikings missed their pick and fell to 9? They got poor marks for missing their pick. Of course, they still got it right by taking Kevin Williams

-If Reggie Bush is the greatest running back since Barry Sanders, why didn’t any teams want to trade up to number 2? The same reason last year no teams traded for Shaun Alexander or Edgerrin James. Running backs take a pounding, are replaceable, and are rarely worth high dollars or draft picks.

-The Cardinals got instant praise for picking Matt Leinart. Basically they are getting credit for picking a player the media thinks is a good pick. Dennis Green’s offense is a vertical passing game. Not a very good fit for a weak-armed quarterback.

-One more thing about Leinart. It is not fair to compare him to Tom Brady. Brady is an anomaly; no one predicted anything from him. Leinart won in college because he was a very good quarterback surrounded by ridiculous talent. That doesn’t always translate to the pros. Otherwise Jay Barker, Casey Weldon and Tommy Frazier would be starters in the NFL.