Houston (CBS Houston) – No professional sports league is as concerned with public relations as the National Football League. Capable backups find themselves on the street rather than employed because backups aren’t permitted to cause distraction. A major network pulls a fictional show about off field life of NFL players featuring prostitutes and drug use after the league expresses disdain for the production. And teams’ personnel plans are kept under such lock and key status, one would think they’ve attained the highest level of military confidentiality.
Thus, we may never become privy to what the Texans’ free agent plan WAS. No team wants to admit they swung and missed at an acquisition, or that their ideas went up in smoke. Yet, when considering Houston lost and didn’t replace three defensive starters, failed to bring back cornerback AJ Bouye, surrendered a 2nd round draft pick to unload former starter Brock Osweiler’s contract, refused to bring to town even one prospective free agent for a visit, AND ultimately didn’t secure a commitment from now retired former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, isn’t it patently obvious that whatever the plan was failed miserably?
So here we are – a Super Bowl caliber defense in tow, one that returns JJ Watt and replaces AJ Bouye with young stud cornerback Kevin Johnson, and still no answer at the quarterback position. Is there any truth to the rumors Groundhog Day 2 will star Bob McNair and Rick Smith attempting to locate the first franchise signal caller in team history each year since inception? If only there was an answer, a gift falling from the sky like Dak Prescott to the Cowboys which would cure what ails the Texans faithful. Ahh, but there is.
I firmly believe Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is the Texans’ long term answer at the quarterback position. To me, his NFL comparison is Randall Cunningham. Outstanding mobility, an incredible collegiate record, monster games against the best defenses, and elite leadership. Led by Watson, the 1,061 yards of offense in back to back national championship games against the nation’s #1 overall defense both seasons (Alabama) is otherworldly.
Despite all of Deshaun’s accolades, the one I value the most can’t be measured and that drives us nuts. You see, we’ve entered an era in society where if something can’t be quantified, if we can’t attach a number to it, we don’t value it – no matter what “it” is. I maintain greater than 50% of the won loss equation is intangible based. Do the players genuinely like one another? Do they hang out together? Do they have one another’s backs on and off the field? Do the team’s leaders hold everyone on the roster accountable? How many on the team truly love the game vs. what it provides for them?
I used to sell management development training programs. In so doing, we were able to shine a light on perhaps the #1 mistake companies make when hiring. They look for skills over will. To prove the point, we gave employees in the classes faux promotions. They were, in theory, moving up, and were tasked with hiring their replacement. Each put in writing all of the skills and attributes they needed to find in someone else to come close to replacing their own production. The results astounded. Greater than 85% of their listed requirements to replace their own positions were ATTITUDE based, not skills.
We make the same mistake when evaluating quarterbacks. We want the prototype, the 6’5 stud with the cliched “laser rocket arm.” We want a signal caller who can “make all the throws.” Well, as of today, Jay Cutler can make all the throws for a CFL team because despite being a prototype drooled over for years in the NFL, teams have caught on to the fact he’s devoid of anything resembling leadership ability. His teams always lose. Why support Einstein’s definition of insanity by continuing to employ him? Philip Rivers can make all the throws, but word is it’s not just the opposition that loathes him. Not surprisingly, San Diego (now LA) has never taken the next step under his watch.
I believe quarterbacks with great leadership can galvanize their team and increase the caliber of play by every unit on the team. I believe it’s fair to have wins as a measure of judgment for college and NFL quarterbacks.
Which college quarterback in this year’s draft class is most conducive to winning? It’s not close. If, like me, you’re of the belief having the right leader under center can dramatically improve and ignite a team in its entirety, the following stat means something to you.
Record as starter – FBS
Deshaun Watson – 30-2
Mitchell Trubisky – 8-5
Deshone Kizer – 11-10
Pat Mahomes – 13-15
Finally, a number linking to the intangibles of the quarterback position can be measured. To this author, that’s the truth, should you choose to accept it. Deshaun Watson didn’t win because he was on a great team. Rather, his team became great as a direct result of his leadership and play. He could and would accomplish great things in Houston, and the Texans should stop at nothing to trade up in this month’s draft to make that a reality. No price is too high. No excuse will be accepted.
The morale of your fan base and team depends on it.