With the amount of expectations this season for the Texans, I can’t be too surprised that people are ready to jump the gun on a variety of players on this football team. Through two weeks of preseason, I’ve heard everything from Brian Cushing being a failure to the need for Rick Smith to cut Kareem Jackson.
Past those, we’ve heard calls on the station this week about Mario Williams already being a failure as a 3-4 outside linebacker. On my Tuesday show, I spent 45 minutes explaining why this team shouldn’t even think about trading Mario for the likes of Asante Samuel.
While I’m emotional as a sports fan, sometimes I like to view sports through a slightly different prism. I’m a big fan of the way Malcom Gladwell writes about sports, even if his logic is sometimes a bit too anecdotal in nature. One of my favorite books is Moneyball, because it takes player development through a different lens.
The reason I reference those is that people need to keep value in mind when they discuss a player like Mario Williams. I’m a big fan of the concept of buying low and selling high. If you trade Mario, you’re selling low. He’s coming off an 8.5 sack season where he was banged up and missed a few games at the end of the year.
Even though people always get frustrated with him, keep in mind that Mario has been a productive defensive end over time. In his last 4 seasons, he’s never had less than 8.5 sacks, with two of those years being double-digit sack years. That’s a hard thing to find in the NFL.
From a timing standpoint, you simply need to be patient with Mario. Unless you believe Gary Kubiak is lying, he’s been adamant that Williams played pretty well against the Saints in the second preseason game. From my vantage point, he was able to put some pressure on the QB, and actually looked fairly comfortable dropping back in coverage.
In addition, it’s always very hard to recoup what you trade in the NFL. Draft picks are almost over-valued in the trade market, and Mario is going to be a free agent after this season. How many times do we see NBA trades where teams cobble together 3 solid players for one elite one? Caron Butler and Lamar Odom are pretty good players, but you don’t add them up to equal Shaquille O’Neal.
Now, Mario Williams is not the equivalent in the NFL of a Shaq (I realize this), but you can always find steady, quality players. They’re available every year through free agency and the draft. Finding impact players is the toughest thing to do in this league.
Trade Mario Williams and watch him rack up 14 sacks, and that would be a huge regret for the Houston Texans.