Richard Justice actually had a decent blog post the other day. In it, he attempted to evaluate which of Houston's big three sports franchises was the smartest -- sorry Dynamo fans, he didn't include them because he says the team hasn't been here long enough, and I won't include them because I consider MLS to be a minor league when it comes to soccer. And for the most part, I think he got it right, but I would switch the Astros and Texans around.
Without a doubt, the best run and smartest franchise in Houston is the Rockets. Les Alexander is the ideal sports owner. He lets his basketball people make the decisions, and he gives them the money and support they need to get the job done. If Alexander can be faulted for anything, it's putting too much trust in his people. Letting Rudy T. trade for Barkley, or planning a franchise around Stevie Franchise, or the whole T-Mac thing. But the guy cares. He wants the team to win, and he content with staying out of the spotlight while letting his people do their job. Daryl Morey and Rick Adelman don't have to worry about Alexander demanding they sign a local hero or only draft character guys.
Then there's one other very important factor. Unlike the Astros and Texans, the Rockets have actually won games when it counted. Sure, the Rockets haven't won a title since the mid-1990s, but when is the last time the Astros and Texans have ever won a world championship? Oh yeah, that's right. Never.
Now Justice thinks the Texans are the number-two franchise, but I disagree.
As much as I bitch about the Astros, I've got to put the Astros as the second-smartest franchise in the city. Now Drayton McLane is everything that Les Alexander is not. Drayton hogs the spotlight. He wants credit for everything. He interferes in baseball decisions. And he doesn't always make the best decisions when it comes to personnel. But he got it right with Gerry Hunsicker and Larry Dierker, and he trusted those two enough long enough for them to put the franchise in a position to make the World Series.
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He's done a lot wrong, like making Craig Biggio's quest for 3,000 hits more important than fielding a good team. Or letting Bud Selig pick his manager -- Cecil Cooper -- and dictate contracts for his draft choices (see Drew Stubbs). And let's not forget the disaster that was Tim Purpura. And much of the groundwork for the Astros team that became a playoff contender for over a decade was based on work begun by John McMullen hires Bill Wood and Bob Watson. And while I disagree with how he does it, the guy has found a way to put a somewhat competitive team out on the field every year.
That leaves the Houston Texans, and despite everything I read about Bob McNair being the right kind of owner who lets his football people make decisions and stays out of the running of the team, I'm just not convinced that he, or the team, knows what it's doing. It's one thing to stay out of the way and let the football people run the team, but I have yet to get any indication that any of the football people he has hired know what they're doing.
Charley Casserly. Dom Capers. Rick Smith. Gary Kubiak. Does anybody have any confidence in anything these guys have done? These guys have blown just about every high draft pick the team's ever had but for Andre Johnson, Dunta Robinson and Mario Williams. And as much as we bitch about David Carr, it's kind of hard to become a good quarterback when the coaches change the offensive system yearly. It's also hard to be a good QB when your offensive line sucks and you've got no good running backs because the team wasted good money on Domanick Davis Williams and Ahman Green. And don't get me started on busts like Anthony Weaver and Jacques Reeves.
Maybe things will be different with the Texans this year. But I'd like to see Gary Kubiak win a few replay challenges, actually get his team prepared to play the first quarter, and find a way to actually get them a winning record. If that happens, I might actually elevate them above the Astros as a smartly run franchise. Until that actually happens, the Texans are the Keystone Kops of Houston professional sports franchises.