The Pendergast 10: Houston's Most Soul-Crushing Sports Figures of This Decade
Matt Schaub was better than Brock Osweiler as a Texan, but his worst season defined "soul crushing."
If there is a metric for quantifying sports optimism in 2017, Houston might be at the top of whatever that ranking or statistic would be called. The Rockets, despite a pending change in ownership, have assembled at least two (and, ultimately, maybe three) future Hall of Famers. The Astros have a great core nucleus and by far the best record in the American League. And the Texans finally made a move to get that elusive franchise quarterback. Even the Dynamo have exceeded expectations and made their home games a virtual certainty that fans will be sent home happy.
Times are good right now in the Bayou City, but it wasn't always this way. Heck, less than four years ago, the city was wrapping up a calendar year in which we had the worst team in football, the worst team in baseball (and the worst iteration of that team in the history of this town) and a meek first-round exit in the NBA playoffs. Those times were not good.
So as we live in this age of perennial MVP contention — seriously, has any city been involved in more talk radio MVP debates than Houston? — and regular postseason participation, we can't forget from whence we came.
Each summer, Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle does an annual list he calls the "Houston 10," Houston's ten most influential and important sports figures. It's a purely subjective, made-for-debate list that highlights the on-field and off-field movers and shakers that shape, now and going forward, the fate of our sports fandom here in Houston.
However, we cannot forget who we are and how we got here. That's where I come in. We must remember the pain endured to arrive at this point of supreme hope, and that's where the "Pendergast 10" comes in. While Dale's "Houston 10" looks forward, the "Pendergast 10" looks back at the sports figures who crushed our souls to smithereens during the decade of the 2010s. (Thankfully, it's hard to find enough compelling failures to make this a list about just 2017.)
Consider this list my Festivus to Dale's Christmas — this is my airing of the grievances. I am going to tell you people all the ways you've disappointed me since 2010! Much like George Costanza and Festivus, failure is our heritage. Let's begin...
10. BRIAN HOYER, Texans quarterback (2015)
Honestly, if we thought hard enough, we might be able to do a "Pendergast 10" that consists entirely of former Texans quarterbacks. That said, the most important position in team sports is well represented on this list. We begin with Hoyer, who in 2015 had a regular season that looked better on paper than in actuality. His 4-3 starting record and 19/7 TD-to-INT ratio masked the more important facts that a) he was terrible against good teams and b) racked up a massive chunk of his stats in garbage time of blowout losses. The icing on the cake was Hoyer's five-turnover performance in the 30-0 playoff loss against the Chiefs, which spurred the Texans to release Hoyer and sign Brock Osweiler...yeah, I blame Hoyer, in part, for Osweiler.
9. CARLOS LEE, Astros OF/1B (2007-2012)
Another player who, on paper, wouldn't seem to belong on a list like this, when you see that in his first three seasons as an Astro (2007-2009), when the team was still trying to be competitive, he was basically a 30/100 guy. Then you see that his power numbers dropped in all six of his seasons here, and that he was fat, and that he was essentially the face of a deteriorating major league team, and that he took days off at spring training to herd his cattle to the rodeo, and that he fielded his position like a hippo...
The best sports coverage Houston has ever seen was seen by only about a third of the city.
8 (tie). Every decision maker involved in the CSN-Houston debacle
Remember that horrible summer of 2013 when a majority of the city couldn't watch any baseball games because the hot, new cable channel couldn't gain clearance? Actually, given how bad the Astros were that year, we were probably all better off. (Sidebar — can you imagine a CSN Houston debacle now, with THIS Astros team?) If you were lucky enough to watch the CSN Houston product, then you know how good it was. Its death in 2014 was a shame, but ultimately people got their games and we all moved on, as most Houstonians had no idea what they were missing.
7. RYAN MALLETT, Houston Texans quarterback (2014-2015)
The old song by Steve Winwood said, "While you see a chance, take it." Mallett, who had every opportunity to win the team's starting QB job in 2015, would probably rewrite the lyrics to read, "While you see a chance, oversleep in training camp and then miss flights to road trips in Week 7." What a loser.
6. ED EMMETT, Harris County judge
Emmett seems to be the Harris county luminary most hell-bent on propping up the corpse of the Astrodome and trying to make it some sort of semi-functional monstrosity. If you enjoy news stories about the "new big plan for the dome" and get psyched for perennial votes on budgeting for plans that seemingly never happen, then Emmett is your guy. If you feel like the Astrodome needs to be torn down piece by piece, then you agree with this ranking.
5. TRACY McGRADY, Houston Rockets guard (2004-2010)
The truth is that McGrady was, on the aggregate, a pretty good player for the Rockets in his time here. The team's postseason failures weren't really his fault, as he generally played well in the playoffs, as an individual. However, the end was ugly, with McGrady bowing out of the 2008-2009 season by going and getting microfracture surgery without telling the team. Donkey move.
4. ED REED, Houston Texans safety (2013)
Speaking of donkeys, remember the time that the Texans brought in future Hall of Famer Ed Reed for his "leadership," hoping that he would somehow be able to sprinkle leadership dust on a team sorely in need of some postseason guts, and then instead he waited until May to get hip surgery, missed all of training camp, came back to get 14 tackles in seven games, cashed $5 million in checks and was cut before November? Yeah, me too. You stink, Ed Reed.
Frank Bush was definitely not ready for the Texans' defensive coordinator's job in 2009 and 2010.
3. FRANK BUSH, Houston Texans defensive coordinator (2009-2010)
Let me say that I think Gary Kubiak is a really nice man and a fine human being. I just would never, in a million years, hire him for a position in my company where he is responsible for hiring people (and YES, I know he won a Super Bowl). He hires friends, he is afraid to fire friends, and the worst part for Texans fans — he hired friends LONG before they were ready for their jobs. Take Frank Bush, who was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2009, and then oversaw some of the most hideous defense this city has ever seen in the sport of professional football.
2. BROCK OSWEILER, Houston Texans quarterback (2016)
I've spent a million words on Osweiler. At this point, it's more important for me to go eat breakfast than list the reasons he sucks so badly. The only redeeming quality about Osweiler is that the team was able to unload him after one horrific season.
1. MATT SCHAUB, Houston Texans quarterback (2007-2013)
It's obvious that Schaub was a better Texans quarterback than anybody else on this list. However, I don't think there was a more soul-crushing phenomenon in recent Houston sports history than Schaub's slew of pick sixes that torpedoed a season in which the Texans had Super Bowl expectations. Schaub fell off a cliff in 2013 and took the entire city into the canyon with him.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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