Rivers already touched on this one for SB Nation Houston this morning, yet I feel compelled to add a few thoughts. Jump with me, won't you?
Here's the interview that started all the fuss. Some of the quotes from Mr. McNair, and a bit o' commentary in response to 'em:
"I'd say I had a belief all along that you have to build through the draft," he said. "But one of the things I have learned is that what you have to determine with the players is, beyond their athletic ability, beyond whether they're of good character or not, what's their level of passion? In this game, everybody is so good that just going out and doing what's required isn't enough. You have to do more than what's required.
"Everybody I've talked to — strength coaches, assistant coaches, what have you — say Brian Cushing is the hardest-working athlete they've ever worked with, that his workouts are so strenuous that no one could compare."
Yes, passion is important. If a player doesn't really care, it follows that he probably won't be as successful as he could be. And yes, I imagine Brian Cushing is a hard worker. Unfortunately, the strenuousness of Cushing's workouts and the subsequent inability of others to handle same cannot be looked upon as purely a testament to Cushing's passion. He's suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Let's not pretend that Cushing is somehow beyond reproach, no matter how great his work ethic is.
"Maybe in the case of David Carr, that was probably the one thing we overlooked," he said. "I think David enjoyed the game, but I don't think he has that real burning desire, that passion, that not only do I want to play, but I want to be the very best at this position. And I'll do whatever it takes to do it."
Word. But he has GREAT hair. And your barbs can't take that way from him, sir. Back to Cushing, and intensity, and oh-this-isn't-a-good-idea:
"There's not anybody on that field more intense than Brian, and the players know that," McNair said. "When he's off the field, he's sort of mild-mannered and very nice. He steps on that field, and he's a different person. He's a tiger. Even when he comes off the field sometimes, other players will try to joke with him, and he's about to ready to attack them. He cares that much about it.
"He pays the price. He works hard. That's the kind of intensity I think is good. Pollard brings that kind of intensity, too. You have to have it on defense. Defense is emotional. I'm hoping it'll rub off on Mario (Williams). If Mario could develop that kind of intensity with his athletic ability, oh my goodness.
"And you've got Amobi (Okoye), who is just an outstanding person, but he doesn't have that tiger in him yet. But he's young, and as he matures, I think he will become a little more intense."
Does anyone really think that Super Mario's lack of intensity is an issue? Take it away, SBNH's own Rivers:
Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad, and he also had to touch on Mario Williams' intensity. Look Mr. McNair, we're all really appreciative of you for bringing football back to Houston. Williams played all of last year with a bum shoulder and other injuries. He didn't have his best season rushing the passer, but he improved his run defense and was amongst the most dominant defensive ends in the game. He's also got a new contract coming up pretty soon, one which could easily make him one of the highest paid players in football. Can we refrain from saying things that might make him question whether he wants to stay here? Thanks.
With regard to Amobi, I didn't give the "He's So Young!" argument much credence last year, and I give it even less credence this year. Besides, if age begets intensity, Amobi should be shadowing Jeff Zgonina everywhere he goes and soaking in the rampant intensity that must emanate from every Zpore of Zgonina's being. Then again, if Amobi's lack of production is simply a case of Amobi needing a planetoid defensive tackle to line up next to him in order to thrive, or if said lack of production is a case of Amobi not being what your Houston Texans thought he was when they took him with the tenth overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, well...a few extra birthday candles on Amobi's proverbial cake aren't going to amount to a hill of beans.