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Red Zone Play: Tale Of Two Fallacies

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Examining why the Texans continue to ask Lamar Miller to do things that don’t play to his strengths.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Whether you’re managing employees, coaching players, or performing any other duty that requires having others help you accomplish a goal, there are a set of principles that always apply.

One is “the toolbox effect”: Making sure the right person is performing the right job. Just as a plumber wouldn’t use a sledgehammer to loosen a section of PVC pipe under the sink, a coach must know what player to use in what situation.

Make sense?

With that in mind, here’s Fallacy No. 1:

Signing a running back who excels in open space and then using them to solely slam full speed into the A gap.

What happens when you do this? First, you waste precious cap space. If you want to hammer the heart of the defensive line, sign a running back skilled in doing just that.

Secondly, you risk breaking things. Just like the hammer analogy above, using the wrong tool for the job often ends up in something you’ve invested in breaking, or at least becoming far less effective while it nurses nagging injuries later in the year.

Third, this approach falls far short of accomplishing the goal. Using the wrong player for the job is never as effective at gaining yards, putting points on the board, or ultimately winning the game as it would be if you used a player better suited for it.

Fallacy No. 2:

Failing to change your approach to take advantage of the tools at hand.

Anyone who has the ability to analyze past performance should be able to know when Fallacy Numero Uno is in full effect. At that point, the best managers, coaches, and leaders will alter their approach to get better success with the resources they have available.

Anyone not wise enough to do this will either wallow in mediocrity or simply fail and fall to the way side.

Or...

They can just keep performing the same task repeatedly while hoping for different results (see: definition of “insanity”).

By now, many of you probably have visions of Lamar Miller repeatedly slamming into the heart of the New England defensive line last Saturday night, over and over and over again.

When George Godsey was running the Houston offense and this was happening on a regular basis last season, it led to countless stalled drives, a decreasingly effective Miller, and ultimately Godsey on the unemployment line.

When Godsey was terminated, a lot of folks declared that this was Bill O’Brien’s offense and Godsey was merely carrying out BOB’s orders.

After watching two weeks of the (admittedly vanilla preseason) offense, there’s not much evidence to dispute that declaration.

If it’s truly a case of the two fallacies, coalescing into a shameful waste of a potentially great running back, what’s a Texans fan to think?

Rick Smith brought in D’Onta Foreman, who appears to be the right tool for the A-Gap job, via the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Meanwhile, Bill O’Brien appears unwilling or incapable of using Lamar Miller in a manner that showcases his abilities. Houston needs draft picks next season, and there are a lot of teams that could make better use of Miller.

Is the best move at this point to trade Lamar to another team for a high round pick? Would any other team be willing to part with a second rounder or even a first? If it does happen, is that an indicator that Bill O’Brien isn’t remotely close to the offensive guru he was touted to be when Bob McNair brought him to H-Town? Is it proof positive that O’Brien doesn’t know how to use the tools in his toolbox?

Sure, Houston has managed to secure four AFC South Division titles in the last six years, but most of those are solely the work of the lights-out defense. You know, the unit initially assembled by Rick Smith and Wade Phillips, and then run for the last four years by Romeo Crennel. Good luck giving the head coach full credit for that.

Bill O’Brien is the kind of guy you want to root for no matter the odds. He inspires players, fans, and supporters to rally behind the Texans banner. He’s a good father, husband, and member of our community. But all that doesn’t mean squat if he can’t figure out how to properly use the players at his disposal. If the only qualification to win a Super Bowl is to be a good guy, Gary Kubiak and Bum Phillips would have rooms full of Lombardi Trophies.

Sadly, the fallacies can’t even be blamed on the scheme, especially after watching New England burn our defense with plays that Lamar Miller would have executed as well or better than the Patriots’ backfield did. It’s poor pla- calling and player/resource management, period.

Hopefully, O’Brien is orchestrating a smart game of poker, hiding his cards and playing opossum to lure in the opponent, waiting to drop his aces on the table when the time is right. However, after four years of holding our breath, his supporters are going to start passing out if he doesn’t lay ‘em down soon.