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Bob McNair Is A Distraction

With free agency approaching, Texans fans may be about to find out how much of a distraction their owner really is.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

“Sometimes, in order to be successful, a business must reset,” a famous businessman once said.

The Houston Texans as an organization have done an admirable job given the circumstances of the last five months. Their PR team has not fanned the flames. They have been able to keep most of the grumblings and grousing internal. Which is as it should be.

But ever since last October’s rendition of Inmatesgate, the Texans have reeled off quite the string of non-apology apologies and related fallout. DeAndre Hopkins and D’Onta Foreman walked out of practice. Jadeveon Clowney wore a prison outfit for Halloween. Two star Texans players of the early 2010s had a podcast and related multiple instances of McNair saying things that were incredibly awkward, especially with regards to the election of Barack Obama. And, finally, Jerome Solomon claimed multiple agents (two, to be specific) said (“...word is...”) the Texans were not interested in signing anybody who knelt for the anthem.

Now, these are incredibly polarized political phrases in these idiotic times, and the commenters have surely already scrolled down to start firebombing the section with whatever their beliefs were before they started reading this article. Please keep it respectful. (I am giving them the credit that they at least got that far, which is generous.)

Cool, so let’s get into the nuance for the ten of you still reading this.

Texans’ PR released this response to Solomon’s column.

I appreciate that PR people have a job to do. Their job is to tell you the story of their employers. The employers, in this case, would like you to believe that they will sign the best players they can. When, in reality, we all watched Tom Savage and T.J. Yates close out a meaningless season while a quarterback who is much better than both of them was on the street, ready to play. With all due respect, I will believe that the Texans are signing Richard Sherman and/or Eric Reid only the very instant that the ink on the contract is dry. That sentiment is common amongst a plurality of fans.

McNair is the classic owner who is being dragged into the social media era. He doesn’t realize the importance of his own words, having grown up mostly in circles where it was okay to shoot off the hip about inmates running the asylum. Even when he’s just talking about football, he’s said some categorically idiotic things in public over the past few years. Who can forget his classic claim that Brock Osweiler played as well as Aaron Rodgers? On countless occasions, McNair has claimed the Texans were competitors if they were healthy, which is a great sentiment, relying on the idea that any NFL team can ever be healthy. Every time McNair hits the public is a chance for him to say the wrong things. I’m not going to drag him for his beliefs, both because this isn’t a political blog and because I think he does a pretty good job dragging himself. It’s simply clear he has no interest in bettering himself as a public speaker at this point in his life.

But just as players protesting is dubbed a distraction, you have to look at what McNair is doing as a distraction. The New York Daily News ran an article about how McNair and Stephen Ross “embody everything that’s wrong with the league.” In a football sense, the Texans have no picks in the first or second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The only way they are improving the team short of a 10% stab in the dark for the short-term is free agency. Free agency in a league where a majority of the players are black, and perceptions matter as much as the truth. Just as NCAA coaches while recruiting come with a prepared list of things that could hold a player back at other schools, nothing is going to stop other teams from telling would-be Texans about representing an owner who doesn’t have their backs. The past five months might lead the Texans to overpaying players if all things are equal or, worse, players deciding they simply don’t want to ply their talents in Houston. This isn’t to say that McNair hasn’t always been this way, but by amplifying his beliefs into the atmosphere, players are more aware of what he stands for.

I’m quite grateful that McNair brought the NFL back to Houston. Without that, I probably would have pursued a different sport to write about and care about. But time has worn on Bob McNair. He’s undergone numerous surgeries, including a battle with cancer. He no longer represents the organization in an inclusive way, and his statements have become an issue for his own public relations team. I’ve had multiple fans tell me in the past few days that they wouldn’t be surprised if one of the team’s stars demanded a trade. While I don’t think that’s going to happen, I had to admit that I couldn’t blame a player for asking out.

I write all this not expecting much to change. People in power tend to stay in power however long they want to stay in power. I am, however, lowering my expectations for the organization. The three most important people in an NFL room are the owner, the head coach, and the quarterback. The Texans appear to be set with Deshaun Watson, and O’Brien’s contract extension means he’s not going anywhere for awhile. This is the first time you could say that the Texans have those two boxes checked at the same time since 2012.

But a meddlesome owner can sabotage a lot, and right now McNair is clearly doing the Texans more harm than good.

Back to that famous businessman I quoted at the top: I think the Texans should look into the depth of what he’s saying.

That famous businessman was Bob McNair.