No, I have not gone crazy. Last year, the Texans missed Ahman Green more than a lot of us liked to admit. Seriously. Let's take stock of the Texans' offense last year. Solid QB play? Check. Strong receiving corps? Check. Tight end play? Got it. Offensive line? Well, good on pass protection, not so much on run blocking. Running game? Inconsistent, but better outside of short-yardage situations.
And that's where Green came in handy. Let's engage in a thought exercise for a moment. Let's pretend that we didn't pay up the wazoo for Green and that he didn't get hurt (and let's give credit to Rick Smith for restructuring his contract). After the emergence of Steve Slaton in 2008, Ahman Green was reduced to the short yardage role. And you know what? He was pretty good at it. In fact, in the blowout loss to Pittsburgh, he might have been, besides Mario, the only redeeming part of the game. It seems to get lost in the fact that he was overpaid and injury prone, and that he didn't have a great yards/carry average in 2008, but a lot of the shorter gains he made moved the chains.
Compare that to last year's short yardage back, he of the getting-stuffed-a-million-straight-times-on-the-goal-line or fumbling inside the one (and of the 0.0 QB rating - that's what you get when your only pass attempt is a pick), Mr Chris Brown. Brown actually had a higher yards per carry average, but as we all know, he was absolute dogmeat in short yardage situations.
There are many reasons the Texans didn't make the playoffs last year - Kris Brown's shaky leg, the odd pick thrown by Schaub at a bad moment and Frank Bush's scary-as-a-cute-puppy defense are all somewhat guilty. But our failure to convert third-and-short and -- more frustratingly -- to punch the ball in on the goal line in key situations is part of the equation as well.
Considering that, I think it might be worth it to re-evaluate Green's renegotiated salary in light of his value to the team in key situations. I think he might have been more useful than we realized, even taking into account his injury problems.
Having said this, it looks like Smithiak has learned from both the issues surrounding Green's free agency and last season's short-yardage problems. First off, Chris Brown is gone. Secondly, Ben Tate is here. From what I've seen, Tate has the ability to convert short yardage situations and I'd be willing to take good odds on Smithiak thinking the same thing. Plus, I heard he mentioned something about Kerns's "dreamy eyes" on Twitter.
I believe that, even if Tate doesn't rush for 1,000 yards this season, he will have earned his money if he can make the hard yards when the ball is close to the first down marker or, even more importantly, the goal line. Especially when you consider that we actually have a fair amount of depth at running back right now.