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Poorly Argued Positions Exposed: A Jaguars Fan Is Fisked

There is a Catch-22 in fisking terrible pieces of sports writing: linking to the piece inevitably drives more traffic to it than it would otherwise have received, and, by extension, can make the author and post seem "popular" in a sense that neither actually is. Some posts, however, just need a good fisking. This post, by one Luke N. Sims, is one of those posts.

You see, it seems that Mr. Sims --- a fancier of, among other things, "intelligent discussion" --- has determined that the Houston Texans are screwed. And, let's face it, if someone who has time to both "bring[ ] fashion to the Big Sky State" and "look[ ] up football stats" says your team is screwed, the season is probably over before it even begins. Nevertheless, what say we fire up the Fiskinator 3000 and go through Mr. Sims' argument? It won't save the Texans' doomed season, but it just might make us feel a little better about our fate.

Take it away, Mr. Sims!

If you’re a Jaguars fan, the offseason is shaping up quite nicely.

You bet your ass, it is! I mean, how else can you describe expressing interest in Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, and Mario Williams, only to have all of them go elsewhere? Or having your new owner openly pine for Tim Tebow --- the one QB who might make Blaine Gabbert look something other than abysmal --- shortly after you signed Chad Henne, only to have Tebow choose the media circus of NYC over his hometown? Or hiring a head coach with a career 14-18 record? Or signing WR Laurent Robinson to a 5-year, $32.5M contract, an average salary on par with Greg Jennings despite Robinson never catching even 60 balls in a season? I mean, if that's not "shaping up quite nicely," I don't know what is!

The superb defense is coming back largely intact, Peyton Manning definitely won’t be in Indianapolis, Tennessee appears unsettled with their current quarterback situation, and the Houston Texans are getting weaker each day.

The "superb defense" was, all things considered, pretty good. Of course, it was also inconsistent (30th in VAR, according to Football Outsiders) and was better at the beginning of the season than near the end (12th in Weighted Defense, but 5th in DVOA). They also gave up an average of 23.1 points/game to playoff teams in 2011 (1-6 in those games), so it wasn't exactly something that was above reproach.

Manning? Well, no, he won't be in Indy in 2012; he wasn't really in Indy in 2011, though, so I'm not sure that matters for this argument, aside from making it slightly more likely that the Jags could sweep the Colts . . .

just as they did in 2011 . . .

when they finished 5-11.

As for the rest? Well, I don't care enough about the Titans to discuss the QB situation (other than to channel my inner-Nelson Muntz), and we'll get to the Texans-related stuff shortly. So read on!

Last time in AFC South Exposed, we explained why the Tennessee Titans are Screwed.

Because their sisters are no longer on birth control? Because the FDA has made it harder to procure the ingredients for meth?

While it was mostly speculative, we’re going to continue the trend here at B&T and tell you why Houston is Screwed in 2012. Originally this article wasn’t going to focus on why the Texans are not going to do well[;] I didn’t want to sound too negative about the whole AFC South competition[.] [B]ut, with the front office seriously damaging the roster, it’s tough not to make note of it.

So, the article that you've titled "The Houston Texans Are Screwed" was not going to focus on why the Texans would not do well? How does that even work?

By now the names of the lost players for Houston are becoming commonplace[:] Tight end Joel Dreesen [sic] (Denver), Mario Williams (Buffalo), offensive tackle Eric Winston (Cut and rapidly signed to Kansas City)…the list seems endless.

I'm not sure which part of this sentence bothers me more---the weird and incorrect use of "commonplace" or the fact that Mr. Sims somehow decided to begin that list with Joel Dreessen instead of Mario Williams or Eric Winston. That's like beginning a list of things that you cannot bring on an airplane with "uncaged proboscis monkeys" rather than "guns" or "knives;" while technically correct, it's still jarring and strange.

16 players were declared free agents on March 13th. Two players (QB Matt Leinart and Eric Winston) were cut the day before and fullback Lawrence Vickers was cut on the 13th. Of the 16 players declared free agents, only one has been resigned – Center Chris Meyers [sic].

Here's a tip: if you are going to make an argument based on the players that a team lost in free agency, it might be worthwhile (and more honest) to look at the actual players instead of lumping them into a pool of "16 players." This is especially helpful when the 16 players included such luminaries as Jake Delhomme, Jeff Garcia, Bryant Johnson, Kasey Studdard, Tim Bulman, and Matt Turk. In fact, of the players who became free agents on March 13, it's much more accurate to say that there were four players (Mario Williams, Chris Myers, Mike Brisiel, and Joel Dreessen) who were pieces that the Texans would likely have wished to keep.

Additionally, acting like Matt Leinart (or even Lawrence Vickers) is much of a loss is ignoring pesky little things like "reality."

One of 16. That’s barely over 6%.

One of 4 who actually mattered and were ever in the Texans' long-term plans. That's closer to 25% if my math is correct.

Chris Meyers [sic] is a very good zone-scheme center. He works superbly well in the Texans['] lineup and will probably play his best ball in the Houston scheme. Getting him back was crucial for the Texans. As was re-signing Arian Foster before free agency on March 5th. With those two pieces back[,] the Texans have a strong running game (Foster and Ben Tate are a powerful duo) and can guarantee inside[-]line solidity that can flex with the passing game when needed.

I was with you right up until, "the Texans . . . can guarantee inside[-]line solidity that can flex with the passing game when needed." That's just an awful sentence, honestly. The inside-line solidity can "flex with the passing game"? What does that even mean? That the interior of the offensive line is equally adept at blocking in the running and passing games? Also, you realize that Mike Brisiel was part of that "inside-line solidity," right? In fact, bringing back "Meyers" means that the left side of the line, including the center, has the same "solidity" as last year; it doesn't mean near as much vis-a-vis the "inside line."

But the Texans have let too many pieces walk this year.

I don't know about the rest of you, but his grasp of the Texans' roster and scheme has certainly convinced me. There's no way that the Texans can overcome losing, say, Bryant Johnson. It. Can't. Be. Done.

Of their championship[-]level defense from last year, they’ve now traded linebacker DeMeco Ryans away for a fourth[-]round pick. It’s tough to return to form, even with your starting quarterback coming back, when you lose so much cohesion from the year before.

DeMeco Ryans, of course, played less than 60% of the Texans' defensive snaps in 2011. He was, for all practical purposes, a two-down linebacker who (sadly) was nowhere near the player that he was prior to being injured in 2010. While he was the defensive captain, he was certainly not the glue that held that unit together, nor was his performance such that he cannot be adequately replaced by Darryl Sharpton in 2012. The important, every-down pieces of the "championship-level defense" (Brian Cushing, J.J. Watt, Connor Barwin, Johnathan Joseph, Antonio Smith, Glover Quin, Danieal Manning) are all back, as are the starters (for better or worse) at CB2 and NT and the late-season starter at OLB. That's 10 of 11 positions returning a player that started in that position for all or part of the season.

Other than that, your comment about losing cohesion makes perfect sense!

Wade Phillips was great at orchestrating the team to a powerful defensive showing last year. But it wasn’t just him. The front office had been bringing in high[-]level talent through the draft for years. That talent was finally beginning to gel [sic]. And the team was starting to see the dividends.

This is wrong on so many levels.

A) The "talent" wasn't "beginning to gel [sic]" until Wade got there and overhauled the whole thing; the 2010 Houston Texans defense was historically terrible.

B) Of the starters who played most or all of the season in 2011, only Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin, Glover Quin, DeMeco Ryans, and Kareem Jackson were drafted by the front office prior to the arrival of Wade Phillips.

C) Of the players listed in (B), only Cushing, Barwin, and Quin played at something approaching "high-level talent" in 2011, and, for two of them, this was after Wade Phillips put them in a new position.

D) Addressing Mr. Sims' "for years" contention about the Texans' drafts, here are all of the defensive picks made under Rick Smith (plus the 2006 draft), not including the 2011 draft (because that had Wade's imprint): Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Amobi Okoye, Fred Bennett, Brandon Harrison, Zac Diles, Antwaun Molden, Xavier Adibi, Frank Okam, Dominique Barber, Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin, Glover Quin, Brice McCain, Troy Nolan, Kareem Jackson, Earl Mitchell, Darryl Sharpton, and Sherrick McManis.

E) Of the 19 players listed in (D), only Williams, Ryans, and Cushing had ever produced pre-Wade to an extent that would lead someone to say that the were "high[-]level talent" that the front office had brought in. Of those, only Cushing was truly integral to the Texans' defensive successes in 2011. Under Wade, you could extend that list to include Barwin and Quin, but that gives more credit to Wade, undercutting Sims' general argument.

F) Again, pre-Wade, the team was not "starting to see dividends" from any of this talent on the defensive side of the ball, at least not to the extent that "dividends" means "defense that doesn't cost the team games week after week."

Replacing that cohesion is harder to do than it appears. I don’t care what Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips do in 2012.

Texans' starting defense on December 11, 2011, when they clinched a playoff berth:

DL: J.J. Watt, Shaun Cody, Antonio Smith
LB: Connor Barwin, Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans, Brooks Reed
CB: Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson
S: Danieal Manning, Glover Quin

Texans' likely starting defense in Week 1 of 2012:

DL: J.J. Watt, Shaun Cody, Antonio Smith
LB: Connor Barwin, Brian Cushing, Darryl Sharpton, Brooks Reed
CB: Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson
S: Danieal Manning, Glover Quin

That word, "cohesion." You keep using it. I do not think it means what you think it means. The Texans are (likely) replacing DeMeco Ryans with a player who is already on the team, already contributed in the new scheme, and arguably played better in 2011 than did Ryans. The rest of the defense will be the same in terms of starters, unless a rookie manages to work his way into the mix.

Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson will still put up big numbers, but I can’t see the Texans taking a step forward (but probably a few back) this next year.

So, to recap, despite the fact that you've grossly overstated the extent of the Texans' personnel losses and despite the fact that you've conceded that the Texans' running game is still very good AND despite the fact that you've now added that the Texans' QB and WR1 will put up big numbers (suggesting a successful passing offense overall), your contention is that the Texans will regress. Have you ever heard the term "non sequitur"?

Expect the other AFC South teams to creep closer to the division leader this year.

Including the AFC South team that you've already described as "screwed" due to being "unsettled with their current quarterback situation"? And the team that lost Peyton Manning, which (according to you) is enough to make life easier for the Jags? You're saying that both of those teams are less screwed than the Texans, to the extent that both will make up ground on the Texans in 2012? Seriously . . . that's what you're saying? Because, if so, you now have me wondering if I've somehow been meta-trolled.

Well played, I guess.