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Battle Red Bag, Vol. 21: Now It's On

Chainsaw-pooping pterodactyl versus bear with machine guns for legs? Chainsaw-pooping pterodactyl versus bear with machine guns for legs. It's the Battle Red Bag.

Freedom. Horrible, horrible, freedom. That's what the ants say once the glass surrounding their farm is broken in "Deep Space Homer." That's also the kind of paradox that surrounds me right now.

Since the day my mother passed away, I've had a couple of clouds hanging over my head. Up until this August, I had been living at her old house, which is (was) owned by my grandfather. He wanted me out of there within a week of the death, but between my offer to pay rent and my offer to go back to school, I managed to hold on to the place for a while. I never really wanted to leave it. It's an old house. It was built on an uneven foundation, to the point where that long drought last year raised the house enough that I couldn't even lock the front door. When it actually did rain, the ceiling in the living room sprung a bunch of leaks. I have towels that still smell like rainwater. But, it was home. It was the only home I'd known for most of my life, and I wish it was the only home I'd ever had to have lived in. I know that leaving it was for the best, and I know that it is healthy to move on.

Up until this coming Saturday, I will be living with my ex. I wanted her out of there within a week of learning her intentions, but between the fact that she needed to save money to move because her savings were wiped out moving here and the fact that, as sad as I am about the situation, I don't want to see her living in a car ... well, I managed to put up with her living here awkwardly for a while. I never really wanted to leave her. I wanted to work things out, to see a therapist if we had to, to get to the root of all our problems and fix it. She made those decisions for me. She didn't want it to continue. She's the woman I went all-in for. She was what I wanted. I know that her leaving will be for the best for both of us, and I know that it is healthy to move on.

When those things conclude, I will have horrible, horrible, freedom. I say that because, for the longest time, I have been living my life around other people rather than just living it. This is a terrific opportunity to finally get to the root of me. To do the things that I want to do. And it scares the crap out of me.

I think the most important thing I could tell you about me is that I am a perfectionist at heart. One that is quickly learning how ill-equipped that approach is to the real world. I've come a long way, obviously, with taking criticism. If I hadn't, there is no way in hell that I'd be a writer. But the criticisms that dig at me are the ones where I made an honest mistake that I should have caught. Those are dwellers for me. I see them at night and I have to pick them out of my hair and toss them to the ground so I can get some sleep. Likewise, with my actual life, I have always been really hesitant to take chances that have even the slightest chance of blowing up in my face, because the last thing I need is a new highlight on my mental blooper reel next to the time I said "condom" instead of "condo" in middle school and the fact that I couldn't even say anything when I handed one of my first crushes a mix CD. Do kids still make those, or is it all just tapping phones together now?

And, well, now I can take those risks without anything holding me back. The only limit is my own personal shame.
Horrible, horrible, freedom. That we all hope for.

Benjamin writes;

Has there ever been greater proof that Pancakes McClain is a total kittening idiot than the following tweet: "Saw Alex Cross. Tyler Perry was good in a serious role. Matthew Fox in a totally different role. Lost lots of weight. Likes torture!"

This question brings me to three different points:

1) I don't think John McClain is an idiot. If you read his older columns, the stuff he did in his prime, I think he comes off very well. I think today's McClain is just lazy. That's not necessarily the worst thing in the world, but it leads to overuse of certain terms ("terrible"), tropes ("the Texans just aren't a real contender") and a lack of any actual reporting. I doubt John McClain reads Battle Red Blog, but well, if he does, I don't think this is a slam. There's a reason the Chron brought in Tania Ganguli, who will actually go out and interview people. McClain ain't a spring chicken anymore.

2) I don't know anyone who actually likes Tyler Perry. I don't pretend I know his target audience, but given everything I've seen from him (which is like ten minutes of Meet The Browns during a TBS rain delay ... okay, maybe more like 40), it just appeals to people who need something to speak for them and at them rather than a show that actually provokes thoughts. More importantly, your opening allows me to link to this.

3) 1+2. You do the math.

Cory writes:

1. Package J.J. Watt for a reasonable return on investment (i.e. if you're trading J.J. for Aaron Rodgers, you'd have to include Matt Schaub - don't need a QB controversy - and pick another player from the same team as Rodgers, say Clay Matthews) or some combination of players and draft picks. If you'd like to make it interesting you can do a multi-team swap, as long as everyone gets equal on the deal.

2. Tell me how I can balance a new marriage (3 months in) with a 5-year old who looks at me as the cool kid (no longer plays by himself, and digs me, and thus won't leave me alone, because I understand Lego, Ninjago, Thundercats, Transformers, and let him play with me on the Xbox) with a job that is now requiring 50-60 hours a week because we're down a couple of staff.

3. Finally, do yourself a favor (and I can't speak for PS3), and hit up XBox Marketplace. Some of the games out there are linear, fantastic, and have some real throwback qualities that I miss from today's $60 titles that take time to complete that I just don't have anymore (see #2).

...also, cheer up, big guy. We're here for you.

1) This question is really awkward to me, because I think at this point it's safe to say that a) J.J. Watt is the best young pass rusher in the NFL aside from maybe Jason Pierre-Paul, and b) the Texans don't really have glaring holes to fill. I mean, yeah, they could use a better nose tackle or right tackle. They could use a third receiver. But as far as things that are actually really important for a team? They're fine.

So if you trade Watt, which is already ludicrous, but I'll follow along, you're looking to a) obtain a similar long-term prospect of note at a position of more importance, or b) make a trade that strengthens the team now. Both of those are actually extremely hard to do. What positions would you put ahead of pass rusher as far as long-term importance goes? Actual shutdown corner and quarterback are the two that jump out to me, and then, maybe, ace wide receiver.

OK, here are three trades I think are fair based on that reasoning:
1) J.J. Watt and noted non-zero Kareem Jackson to the Arizona Cardinals for Patrick Peterson and Calais Campbell.
2) J.J. Watt and Matt Schaub to the Carolina Panthers for Cam Newton, Charles Johnson, and a second-round pick.*
3) J.J. Watt and Kevin Walter to the Atlanta Falcons for Julio Jones and John Abraham.

*- I know this is going to be controversial to an extent because Newton hasn't had the best year, but I still think he's got a dynamite future. And the idea of a quarterback built like that rolling off boot-action with limited reads? Throwing deep to Andre Johnson? I'm ... a little intrigued.

2) Hmm. I'm going to say that by the way you asked that question that work actually is coming in last on your priorities list. Why don't you try hiring a personal assistant? They come cheap online if you're worried about costs. I'm not a huge fan of outsourcing what I feel are my priorities, but I've received some pretty decent results when I have. Even if all you get rid of are your menial tasks, that's still a big load off.

3) I actually don't own an XBox. I never have, and I probably never will. But look, did I go to the Wii Market and pick up FFIV: The After Years, Mega Man 9, and Mega Man 10 over the past year or so? You better believe I did.

And thanks for the personal concern. I will be fine. It's like Mr. Churchill said: "If you're going through hell, keep going."

Sharkridingbear writes:

Chainsaw pooping pterodactyl or bear with machine guns for feet. Who wins?

The pterodactyl, easily. The problem you've created here is that a bear with machine guns for feet is going to have a normal aiming radius that is incredibly low to the ground. If it angles up to try and actually hit a pterodactyl, it's going to have major problems because a) it's much harder to keep your balance when your feet are made of heavy machinery and b) if it angles up too far, it's probably going to fall over. Bears are not noted for their aim, either.

I think our dinosaur friend would have problems flying extremely high up in the air if it was carrying chainsaws in it's anal cavity, but that might be to its advantage against the bear as long as it didn't try to dive bomb it. It would create much harder angles for the machine gun to be pointed to. Also, if all it has to do is fly above the bear and poop chainsaws for a win, I don't see the bear having a good chance of getting the aim right before metal is embedded in its head.

Wait, are these chainsaws turned on when they are pooped out? If they're just falling on the bear, it could take longer. Still, I'm taking the pterodactyl.

Hao writes:

So where can I find my Liberty White Watt jersey? Seems that they aren't being produced ... someone please enlighten me on this situation! I'm trying to dress up as a MONSTER for Halloween this year and what other piece of clothing could express that sentiment so clearly!

Poorly timed question, my friend. Wrong place, for sure. Especially since I don't buy jerseys anymore.

I would say that as long as you are willing to put up with poor quality, you can get pretty much any jersey cheaply on eBay.

To save this from being an empty question, BRB, please discuss the most ridiculous jersey that you own or have ever owned. I had a Jason Phillips Mets jersey. It's true.

Erick writes:

With Arian Foster cemented as Houston's starter going forward for the next several seasons, what is Ben Tate's future with the Texans? He is obviously starter material stuck behind one of the best backs in the league. With Houston re-signing Jonathan Grimes to their practice squad and seeing how well he did in the preseason, could Houston be positioning themselves to trade Ben Tate in the off season, being that next year is his final year of his contract? It would be nice to keep him forever, that seems unrealistic. What should Houston do and what sort of market could there be for him if Houston decides to shop him?

Houston should have traded him last offseason, is what it should have done. I think Houston did the "right" thing in rewarding Foster for his efforts the last two years, when he was under minimum contracts, but it was a poor decision for their salary cap. Even despite that, the Texans may have been able to extract a second-rounder for Tate last offseason. Now that he's been banged up this year, and will only have a year left on his rookie deal, he will have significantly less trade value this year. I'm guessing that Houston would be looking at a third or fourth for him this time around, and that's assuming the team that trades for him is willing to give him a new deal. They can't really hand Tate a big contract and keep the rest of the players they should be trying to hold on to.

There hasn't been a lot to criticize Rick Smith for lately, but the running back situation has been handled awkwardly. Especially considering the fact that Foster is on pace to break 370 carries now, which would be an utter disaster.

FreedomRide writes:

Part 1) Of all the teams most likely to clean house after this season, which one has the ST coordinator we should go after? Philadelphia?

(This assumes that Uncle Bob will finally lose his legendary patience and ORDER Smithiak to replace Marciano.)

Part 2) How much better would the Texans be with top-10 STs instead of having to overcome being among the worst? (OK, that's rhetorical, but let's dream!)

You know, the funny thing is that Bobby April's units had been consistently good BEFORE he went to Philadelphia. Since then, they've really gone downhill. I'm wondering if maybe there aren't just some coaches who are having problems adjusting to all the new rules changes. The kickoffs, the elimination of wedges, and so on. It would make anecdotal sense to me that some of them would have problems due to that.

Anyway, I'd love to tell you that I have an updated list of special teams coordinators that the Texans should pounce all over, but that is the oft-ignored portion of football. I really don't know. I just know that change is necessary.

As for how much better the Texans would be with a good special teams unit, let's use DVOA. Right now (as of Week 8) the Texans have a -9.6% special teams DVOA, which is the second-worst performance of any team in the past five years. If you instead say the Texans are holding at about 4.0% DVOA on special teams, and that performance makes up about 1/8th of the total pie, then they'd be about two total DVOA points better. And that's just getting the unit above-average, not making them a top-10 unit.

Barryfromtexas writes:

This question is kind of inspired by your last Freddy Letter article:

Is there a site/place where one can find the success/ failure of players after 3 years in the league by draft pick? (hopefully at least rounds 1-3) I know I can go through every single draft -say for the last 5-10 years and see if said players are at least starting on teams, but has someone already done this so I don't have to reinvent the wheel? I ask this, because well, I am too lazy and have other things to do, and I was wondering just how well the front office has done in drafting players for the Texans. My "eye test" seems to show they are well above average in success.

The best I can recommend is going to pro-football-reference and sorting these guys by AV, which is a guess at how valuable a player is based on his playing time and basic statistics. But no, there is no site that actually details these things. I think the big sticking point is that it's hard to really grade a player appropriately once he's actually starting if he's not a skill player or someone who is putting up eye-popping numbers.

For instance, take my favorite whipping boy, Kareem Jackson. His AV in 2010 was five, and in 2011, it was six. There's no way the two seasons are even close on the field, even if we do take credit away from KJ for having a safety stapled to his hip all season. He improved from horrendous abomination to merely a below-average cornerback. Probably the hardest place to judge would be on the offensive line though -- zero stats, all you have are starts. Is Antoine Caldwell a successful pick? I don't think so. But he's started quite a few games. Is, say, Eugene Monroe a successful pick for the Jaguars? People keep saying he has elite tools, but I haven't seen him play that well when I've watched him. It's such a subjective process to do something like this that I fear it will never happen successfully. Maybe the all-22 will change things to some extent, but until we know the full story (every coaches play calls), we'll never know for sure.