Saturday, September 17, 2011

A go, no-go for Houston

Houston's pro football endeavors - both those in powder and steel blue - have seen success, but are mostly forgotten among relentless images of America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are glitz and glamour, typified by their starred helmets and tradition for the grandiose. This, of course, continues today in their state-of-the-art football theater. It sure is tough to stand out in the world of Texas football.

Houston football, however, was once about a dynamic quarterback named Moon and a horse-powered runner called Campbell. The club was flashy and exciting, and played in a then, space-aged Astrodome, on a martian-like surface. For more than 35 years the Oilers greased the wheel of football fortune, spending the majority of their time in the win column. Go on and count them: the Oilers were a force, in the early Sixties, in the late Seventies, in the late Eighties and early Nineties. Houston football - even without Super Bowl jewelry - has been, at times, astronomically good.

But of course, so much has changed lately. The sun has long set on the career of Warren Moon, Steve McNair is sadly gone, and Earl Campbell is a businessman in Austin, Texas. The Oilers played their last down in 1997, albeit in Tennessee, before transitioning to their Titanic identity of today. Sometimes change isn't for the best.

For fans back in Texas not enamored with the rodeo ride that is Jerry Jones's Cowboys, the Texans were thankfully born - a club loaded with talent and expectation but perennially short on success. Unlike the old Oilers, it certainly feels like the Texans are always mired in the mediocrity of 8 - 8 seasons. Last season was even worse at 6-10. The oil well, if you will, is bone dry. But true to form, the Texans are hyped as a winner again in 2011, hoping to finally conquer the AFC south, with the Indianapolis Colts suddenly lame.

These Texans are not afraid to run, harking back to the glorious trade plied by Earl Campbell. They have a new stable, led by offensive thoroughbreds Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, but also a worthy yearling  in Ben Tate, who last week ripped apart the hapless Colts for 116 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Then there's Matt Schaub who throws the ball more than most, and for large chunks. All combined, the modern Houston attack is high octane.

But to succeed, the steel blue version of this city's football outfit will need to do more than churn up yards and post copious amounts of points. The Colts are Manning-less, so last week's scoring parade could dangerously inflate Houston's ego going forward. The highly touted Schaub is indeed prolific, but he's also lumbering and not always accurate. When facing opponents with dedicated pass rushers like the energetic Dolphins, menacing Raiders and furious Ravens, he'll need to release the ball faster and certainly with more precision for this team to overcome its averages.

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