This is the first in a series of entries where we’ll discuss areas that the Texans need to address… and by “need to address,” I mean need to fix. Now. (Yeah, it might be a loooong series.) Some of them are fundamental changes, and some that shouldn’t be such a big deal and just need certain people to get over their stubbornness. Possibly people whose names rhyme with Shmary Shmoobiak and Shmick Shmiff.
FIX IT – Approach to Free Agency
The Texans have always believed in building through the draft, and filling in gaps with free agency. If you asked all 32 NFL GMs their thoughts on team-building, 32 of them would repeat that mantra. While I generally agree 100% with that philosophy, the “Texans version” of it hasn’t worked. That’s not because it’s a flawed philosophy, it’s because the team has been very bad at implementing it.
Obviously I’m not saying the Texans need to throw big money at big free agents, but there’s no reason the team shouldn’t be in play for a big name here and there. But this isn’t so much about that as it is the fact that the Texans seem terrified to use free agency as anything but a way to plug holes in the dam.
Part of that hesitation is because of the team’s own ineptitude (in some cases) with free agent signings. We all remember the disaster that was Ahman Green (who could have seen that coming), and countless other examples. Of course, not all of the free agent signings over the years have been bad. There have been a handful of good street FA signings that panned out well, even if only for a short time. I personally am a fan of the Antonio Smith signing. Sure, the Texans overpaid him, but you have to overpay to get significant pieces in free agency. Smith isn’t a game-changer by any stretch, but he certainly has played an integral role on the defensive line and one could argue he’s been the Texans’ most consistent D-linemen since he came to town.
Bob McNair decided to retain General Manager Rick Smith, so I expect nothing to change, but Smith, who had no experience as a GM prior to joining the Texans, could benefit from turning his process upside down, shaking it, and
burning it to the ground looking at things a little differently.
The Texans shouldn’t treat free agency as a big, scary bad thing that can ruin a football team. That danger is certainly there, but just because you gamble doesn’t make you reckless, or an idiot. Signing Albert Haynesworth to a big FA contract? Reckless AND idiotic. Giving Javon Walker top money after all his injuries and declining pay? Reckless AND idiotic (or maybe the Raiders should get their own personalized descriptor).
Last year, this team idiotically and recklessly gambled on a young secondary to get the job done, and how did that turn out? That is not hindsight, by the way. It was far and away my number one concern heading into 2010… as I’m sure it was the top concern of many others.
In football, as in life, not everything is black and white. You’d never know it if you listen to three seconds of sports talk radio, but the whole world is colored with shades of grey. Free agency doesn’t have to be limited to being used merely as a supplement. You can make serious headway rebuilding a broken team around a free agent pickup.
I’m not calling for the Texans to go out and sign Nnamdi Asomugha, Champ Bailey, LaMarr Woodley, Steve Smith, etc. I’m just calling for them to get in the game. Be in the mix. Make some noise. Get on the NFL radar and BE AGGRESSIVE without being reckless, like, say, the Redskins. It’s what teams in the NFL do. You don’t have to be the genius architect of a whole new model of team-building… you just need to build a team, or in the Texans’ case – rebuild a broken defense. It can happen, but not if the decision-makers don’t look in the mirror and see that the problems start with them.