EDITOR'S NOTE:Texans fan Alan J. Burge continues to write his "Voice of the Fan" column for HoustonTexans.com. His latest installment is below. Alan's views do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.*
Seize the Day
As if there haven't been enough wildfires in this neck of the woods lately.
Texans fans found themselves being sucked into the perfect NFL off-season storm on Saturday when ESPN reported the Texans would select Reggie Bush with the number one pick in the 2006 NFL draft, even if Vince Young also entered the draft. On Sunday, Young declared his intent to enter the draft and Bush will soon follow.
Wasn't it just last week that we were arguing about the ethics of losing to the 49ers so the Texans could select Bush with the first pick in the NFL Draft? Didn't life seem so much simpler then?
Then came the Rose Bowl.
But it's just one game, you say.
Well, no, it really wasn't.
Before the Rose Bowl, and even though he dominated at the NCAA Division I level for two seasons, Vince had yet to drive home the fact that he really was the best player in college football. He knew that he was the best. His teammates knew it. Some of his fans knew it. But on that Wednesday night in Pasadena, Vince made sure that millions more would know it. Chief Osceola couldn't have driven the point home any better.
Where were all the Vince supporters and all this debate before the Rose Bowl? Well, there really wasn't much debate because as recently as five days ago the widespread belief was that Vince was going to remain in the comfort of the 40 acres, like all good Longhorns, instead of forging ahead into the vast NFL wilderness.
National championships and signature games by great players on the big stage have a way of changing perspectives even among those who rarely if ever overreact.
So let the debates begin. Bush or Young? Young or Carr?
Bush is a great talent but Young is a great talent and even greater leader. In three months, the Texans will have an opportunity to select a quarterback who is a game changer, a rare athlete with outstanding leadership skills who will win at the next level. It's in his makeup. The fact that he's a local makes it even more intriguing - and more troublesome if we lose him, especially to a division rival. Especially that division rival.
The scenario painted in the ESPN reports had Bush going to the Texans, Leinart to the Saints, and Vince Young to the Titans. Hmmm.
Allow me to go on record and say that the nightmare scenario of losing Vince Young to Tennessee, or anyone else for that matter, could be the biggest sports blunder in the history of this city. Furthermore, fans would never forgive this franchise for letting such a great player - arguably the best football player ever to come out of Houston, and one of the two best to come out of the University of Texas – fall into the hands of Bud Adams.
If Vince ends up in Tennessee and does well - and there's no reason to believe he won't do very well - there will be more Titans fans in Houston (and Austin) than Texans fans in Houston. Why not just turn the city over to Cowboys and Titans fans while you're at it?
But it's all about winning, right? Who cares about where the player is from or where he went to school as long as the team wins?
It's true that winning will keep the fans happy more than a roster full of locals. It's also true that Vince Young is a winner.
This isn't about drafting the local kid who did well or appeasing the orange blood masses. This is about an opportunity to draft one of the greatest college football players in recent memory, and make him a member of the Houston Texans. The fact that Houston is his hometown is secondary but the fact that fans would be fighting over tickets is music to the ears of a stressed-out marketing department.
Bush has been showered with his own set of accolades by being mentioned in the same sentence with Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders. But despite the Bush allure, Vince has risen to the top of this debate by improving his quarterback skills by orders of magnitude over the last two years, and by demonstrating unquestioned leadership ability.
To pass on Vince in this draft would be a huge mistake - one that could set this franchise back another lifecycle. The chance that Young could come back to torment us twice a year for the next 10 years would be salt in the wound.
But wouldn't Bush in a Tennessee uniform have the same effect from a competition standpoint?
Maybe, but ask yourself this question: Would the Texans be better off with Reggie Bush touching the ball 15 times per game with David Carr at quarterback, or with Vince touching it 60 times a game – granted one-third of those would be handoffs to Domanick Davis – but with the added threat of run or pass to speedy wide receivers Andre Johnson and Jerome Mathis, or maybe even to a (gasp) tight end?
While a lineup of Carr, Johnson, Mathis, Bush and Davis on the field at the same time sounds intriguing, a lineup of Vince, Johnson, Mathis, Davis, and a new offensive lineman with the second pick in the draft also sounds very intriguing – along with some defensive help of course.
The difference maker is that Vince's superior vision and escapability from the pocket will totally change the way defenses attack the Texans quarterback. It will also take pressure off a much-maligned offensive line. No longer will pass rushers be able to simply squeeze to a point five yards deep in the pocket with their rush packages. The Texans' offensive line would have to become more agile with a quarterback like Young but that is certainly part of the blueprint already, regardless of who plays quarterback in the future.
Vince won't be able to run as much in the pros as he did in college but just the threat changes everything, just like it did for Steve McNair and Steve Young. I can see Vince on a very similar track as Steve McNair in the pros. In his early years, Young can take advantage of his running skills while he continues to develop his passing game.
Where will we be in three years with David Carr? No one knows, but we know where we've been for the last four. While Carr has a leg up on any rookie in terms of NFL experience, most of his experience is bad so he has a bit of a hole to climb out of himself before he becomes comfortable in the new Texans offense. Excuse me for feeling this way but if I have to wait any more than I already have for a quarterback to develop, then I'd rather watch Vince while I wait this time around.
Where does this leave Carr?
Early reports out of Reliant Park had the Texans giving Carr an $8 million option bonus to execute the final three years of his multi-million dollar contract. While it would be nice to see what Carr could do in a system designed by say, Gary Kubiak, it's also quite evident that many fans are losing patience with Carr, who would have to show marked improvement almost immediately in a new system to satisfy a restless fan base.
Fair or not, Texans fans won't have a lot of patience waiting for a quarterback in his fifth NFL season to finally reach his potential as he becomes acclimated to a new offense. While Carr has shown a few spurts and glimmers of good play here and there over the past four seasons, not all of the offensive woes can be blamed on poor coaching or lack of talent on the offensive line.
The best options for Carr may be to offer him the two-year option, which reduces the signing bonus to $5 million instead of the $8 million that the three-year option would require. A two-year deal would allow Vince to come in and understudy for a year and even though it would be uncomfortable for Carr, who has never had legitimate competition, it worked in San Diego with Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers.
The two-year deal could set up trade opportunities as would a one-year transition tag and contract which would pay Carr the average of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL (or 120 percent of his last year's salary, whichever is greater). Outright release is another option but that doesn't seem to be the best option from a business or football perspective.
If I was on the Texans head coaching interview team, I would start off the interview with this question:
Tell us about your offensive philosophy and what the playbook would look like with a) David Carr at quarterback and b) Vince Young at quarterback. The floor is yours, you have one hour.
Carpe diem, Mr. McNair.