After meeting with the media yesterday to discuss his recovery from cancer, Bob McNair appears to have spent some time talking to ESPN's Tania Ganguli about football-related matters. Not coincidentally, when it comes to talking football, if you're looking to fire Texans fans up, perhaps no two topics fit the bill as well as (1) Houston passing on Johnny Manziel in the 2014 NFL Draft and (2) J.J. Watt's next contract.
Guess what Ganguli and McNair discussed?
Ganguli has written two articles about what what McNair had to say, and I recommend you give 'em a read here and here. To whet your appetite and generate a bit of discussion on this Friday afternoon, I've culled a few excerpts for your reaction below.
"Long term, we had questions as to how well he'd fit in our system doing what we wanted to do," McNair said. "At the end of the day, you've gotta do what you think is best for the team. If you do what's best for the team and the team succeeds as a result of it, the fans are going to forget those other things."
"Ultimately all [the fans] want to do is win," he said. "Once you win, at that point they don't care what those decisions were; at that point, they're happy because you're winning. If you picked some of those other guys and you didn't win, their response would be, 'Why'd you listen to us? You're losing. We're unhappy because you're losing.'
"We respect our fans and we listen to our fans, but they don't study the film that we study. They don't have the information and knowledge that we have. We're in the best position to make those decisions."
Putting aside the fans who, eight years later, still lament that the Texans didn't draft Vince Young in 2006, I concur with everything McNair said. Fans will get over not having Manziel if the Texans win, and the team does have resources available to it that no fan, regardless of how many YouTube clips he watches, has.
At some point, you just have to trust that the people making the decisions are making them after taking all the information into account. It also doesn't hurt to wish upon a star and hope that past results do not portend future performance.
"You've got guys in the Hall of Fame that have been franchised in back-to-back years," McNair told ESPN.com. "The franchise tag is worth something to the team, and you can't be afraid to use it."
McNair noted that Watt is under contract for at least 2014 and 2015. Earlier this summer, the Texans picked up the optional fifth season on his contract. The sides had some preliminary discussions before the team took that action.
The franchise tag is a way for a team to restrict the free-agency movement of players. If the Texans tagged Watt after the 2015 season, they would have to pay him based on the five-year average of the cap percentage of defensive end tags. Players who aren't quarterbacks cannot be tagged more than twice. At most positions, it's a system that works better for teams than players, as it gives no long-term security to players.
"It's going to be a big contract," McNair said. "If we can do something with him that makes sense for the team to do it early, we'll certainly do it.
"It has to make sense for us. The team comes first. We want to keep all of our players. We want to take care of all or our players, but the team comes first."
I don't expect much of it to leak to the public, and I don't expect it to necessarily resemble the script suggested in National Football Post's mock negotiation, but the machinations of J.J. Watt and the Texans working on an extension are fascinating. As beloved as Watt is by the community and fan base, the Texans hold all the cards.
Watt will be paying for relative peanuts this year and next as he completes his rookie deal. Then, if the team wants to, they can franchise him for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Aside from a desire to do right by J.J. Watt and engendering goodwill among Texans fans (e.g., Arian Foster's extension back in March of 2012), the Texans don't have much of a reason, at least at first glance, to sign Watt to an extension anytime soon.
What may behoove the Texans to get something worked out with Watt earlier rather than later, however, is the ability to manipulate the cap hits of Watt's inevitable monster extension in the team's favor.
Take a look at Spotrac's rendering of the Texans' cap hits this year. Scroll down and you'll see the dead money the team is eating this season, due in overwhelming part to the forced departures of Matt Schaub, Ed Reed, Owen Daniels, and Danieal Manning.
Now look at Houston's projected cap allocations for 2015 and, more importantly, 2016. Keep in mind neither of those calculations accounts for possible savings via veteran cuts after this season or next. From a cap perspective, the Texans could take advantage of the ample room in 2016 to front-load an extension for Watt.
Then again, they could play hardball with Watt all the way through the 2017 season and then let another team pay the soon-to-turn-29-years-old J.J. Watt a fortune. That course of action would be a public relations nightmare for the team, but like McNair said, fans will deal with it if the team's winning.
I still don't think the Texans ever allow J.J. Watt to play for anyone else, but McNair's public proclamation of "team first" is something to keep in mind as we continue to speculate about the dollars and timing of Watt's next contract.
Your reaction to McNair's statements on Manziel and/or Watt?