Houston (CBS Houston)– Following Sunday afternoon’s loss in Arizona, Ed Reed spoke candidly to the media.
“We played really well outside certain situations. Certain situations we just got outplayed, ……….and outcoached.” Outcoached was a word he let drag out slowly. The effect he intended it to have exaggerated even more by its slow delivery.
Reed is generally a guy who keeps the in-house issues on the team in-house, so the fact that he gave an insight to his mind was clearly no accident.
Reed is without a doubt a future Hall of Famer, possibly the greatest ball-hawking safety to ever play the game. The Texans signed him to what is essentially a one year, six million dollar contract for very specific reasons: leadership, toughness, knowledge, and of course, to help them win a Super Bowl.
While the team’s Super Bowl aspirations have clearly been dashed, and there are plenty of culprits in that drama, the other aspects that Reed brings are still there.
Reed is a 9x Pro Bowler, including last season, 8x All Pro, an NCAA National Champion, and a Super Bowl champion. He knows what it takes to win. If he said the team was outcoached, the team would be wise to listen.
This is a season that has been marked – or perhaps marred – by an inability to make adjustments. I could go through a season’s worth of this but for the sake of my keyboard and my sanity, let’s just start with the game against Seattle.
The Seahawks made second half adjustments defensively to take away the middle of the field from Matt Schaub and the Texans offense. The Texans were utilizing their tight ends well, so Seattle changed their look to put one safety high over the middle and go man on the outside, the purpose to force Schaub to throw to the outside, where the Seahawks felt they were at least 50/50 if not at an advantageous position. Result? Disaster for Houston. I won’t make you relive the gory details of a stalled out offense, a defense that wilted, and another “Schaub Special” to Richard Sherman late in the game to help snatch defeat from the ironclad jaws of victory.
Lets fast forward to Kansas City. The games with Case Keenum starting really underscore the lack of adjustment issue.
In the second half, the Texans did not score vs. the Chiefs. Keenum was under pressure the entire second half. He faced virtually the same blitz the entire half, and neither he, his line, nor his coaching staff could come up with a way to keep him upright long enough to make plays. It seemed, in fact, that the team wanted to do the opposite of keeping Keenum upright, frequently going empty backfield sets against a heavy rush the line had demonstrated no ability to handle. Result? Lost a game they had several chances to win. Lost a game that could have helped turn their season around. Lost a game the team could have used as a launching point considering its defense played well, and they found out Keenum was a legitimate NFL quarterback.
Then there’s the collapse against Indianapolis. This one was the final nail in the coffin, per se. A victory against Andrew Luck and company would at least keep the team with an outside shot of a playoff spot if it could handle business in the division.
With the exception of another awful game from the young kicker the team refuses to part with, the Texans promptly blew a 24-6 second half lead when the offensive line, yet again, couldn’t protect Case Keenum long enough to make plays, and the defense fell apart late and forgot to cover T.Y. Hilton several times.
It was another example of the team not being able to keep up with adjustments other teams made against them, as the Texans made plenty of plays in the first half, both offensively and defensively. The Texans could do no wrong in the first half. Keenum to Andre, touchdown. Repeat. Repeat again. In the second half, nada.
Keenum did his best to move around in the pocket, and out of the pocket, to avoid sacks. However the pressure was still there late in the game, the Colts were charging, the Texans were folding, and once again the coaching staff had no answers.
I understand that the team lost Gary Kubiak at halftime. I understand that was a big emotional blow to the team and staff, and that the operational flow of the team changed as a result. Blowing a 24-6 lead at home with under 20 mins to play is inexcusable for all involved.
After the Colts game, I spoke with Ed Reed in the locker room. He said the team “didn’t make adjustments”. In fact he said it twice. When I pressed him to elaborate, he altered his statement to being that the Colts executed plays in the second half and the Texans did not. He backtracked. He realized where he was going to wind up and chose to reverse course. It was a moment of candid conversation, but it was also a prelude of things to come.
That leads us to Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. Another game where the Texans have no idea how to handle pressure from Arizona. Keenum routinely running for his life. Rookie RB Dennis Johnson was not sure who to pick up in pass protection because multiple defenders were coming free at once. Texans lose another game they could have won. Story of the season.
I don’t know how many times the offensive line has to fail before changes are made in full. Case Keenum was pressured on 25 of 48 dropbacks. Derek Newton may have a ton of potential, but he’s been an absolute turnstile at right tackle this year. Ryan Harris has clearly outplayed him yet doesn’t have the starting job. Wade Smith was a Pro Bowler last season. He has not returned to that form this year. Outside of Chris Myers and Duane Brown, this O-line has been terribly inconsistent and frequently weak when it is needed to come up strong.
The defense has been especially weak against the run this season. They have given up yards in bunches. They have committed bad penalties at inopportune times, especially pass interference and personal fouls. They have given up big plays.
The Texans have been outplayed. Particularly in crunch time situations. Especially in the trenches where their offensive line is concerned.
More concerning, however, is that this team has been outcoached. The inability to make adjustments has been mind boggling. Reed has now let the bag out 2x about the team not making adjustments. Case Keenum mentioned a failure to make adjustments after the game as well. That’s a disturbing trend. It also falls on the coaches.
It also falls on the coaches that there seems to be a lack of accountability on the team. Players who have underperformed have continually been given comfortable seats in their jobs. Matt Schaub needed an injury to put him on the bench. The offensive line starters are still the same despite abhorrent protection (9 sacks allowed last 3 games with the mobile Keenum under center), and a placekicker who leads the league in missed FG’s, with a miss for every game played (thats 9 missed Fg’s for those of you counting at home).
The mere fact that Keenum endured the second half of the Chiefs game despite the coaching staff’s outright refusal to help him stay upright it block letter testament to an inability, or even defiance, to make adjustments.
It is easy to point to Ed Reed and say he’s disgruntled and spouting off. He came to Houston to win a Super Bowl, not to see his season end before the calendar turned to November. His playing time has diminshed from starter to 32 snaps week 9 to only 12 snaps week 10 vs Arizona.
Maybe his frustration is boiling over, but you can’t make plays from the bench. I don’t think GM Rick Smith gave Reed $6M to have him not play.
Has Reed been at his best this year? No. Is he still better than Shiloh Keo? Yes.
If the argument is Reed isn’t a great tackler and that’s why he’s on the bench, perhaps the team should review film of all of Keo’s whiffed tackles as well. In fact, Whitney Mercilus when on an 8 yard ride after one of Keo’s ole’s. If the argument is the team is out of contention, so they want to play the young guys, I could understand that. However, I would still rather see D.J. Swearinger mentored playing alongside Reed than Keo. If the plan is to try to win, Reed should be playing.
So whether or not you believe Reed is griping because he wants to take a shot at the coach who benched him, and maybe he is, that doesn’t make his words hollow.
This team has been outplayed. It’s been outcoached. It’s going to take a lot more changes than just a new PK and letting Ed Reed go at the end of the year to change that.
Leadership, toughness, experience, winning pedigree, knowledge – these are all reasons why Ed Reed was brought to Houston. Maybe its time Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith listen to what he has to say.
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