If I learned anything from the NFL Network's A Football Life: Houston '93 documentary about the 1993 Houston Oilers, it's that sometimes you need to look to the past to realize that our perspective of the present may be a tad warped.
All season long here in Houston, the narrative (which has gradually become more of a lament) has been that producers could use the Texans' 2013 season to script a full season of the old ESPN faux NFL made-for-TV drama Playmakers. From the Schaub Pick Six barrage to the rookies getting cut for smoking whatever it was they were smoking in Kansas City to Ed Reed to Gary Kubiak's stroke to DeAndre Hopkins' Instagram account to....you get my point.
We were dealing with a lot of shit! Or so it seemed.
And then I saw Houston '93. And I realized just how important perspective is.
For as much as we try and paint the Texans with a brush of dysfunction, whatever has transpired here in Houston this season doesn't hold a candle to Bud Adams' franchise in the year 1993. The key difference is that the Texans' dysfunction is largely stuff that would be discussed by ESPN talking heads on an NFL program, whereas the Oilers' dysfunction would probably consume a week's worth of Dr. Phil.
Daily fights in practice, coaches openly hating each other, a certifiably insane owner, and an arc to a season that at varying times was literally about life (David Williams' missing a game for the birth of his son) and death (Jeff Alm's tragic suicide).
Oh, and winning. That's the other difference. Those Oilers did do that, peeling out of their 1-4 nosedive to win 11 straight. The Texans? Well, they're working on a different type of "11 straight."
The first time I watched Houston '93 last night, I watched it merely as a football fan who was a young adult in that era (and who was nine months away from moving to Houston). The second time I watched it this morning over breakfast, I did so from the perspective of a Houston football fan in 2013, and thought to myself "What are the things in this documentary that, if they occurred today with the Houston Texans, would set the city on its ear?" Or, beyond that, "What things would have ZERO chance of happening in 2013 with the Houston Texans (or anywhere in the NFL, for that matter)?"
Here's what I came up with, in a quasi-Zapruder format (times are approximately where in the documentary the subject arises, commercials included):
4:15 -- Bud Adams issues a "win or else" ultimatum We heard about Bob McNair's making a rare appearance at a team meeting on the heels of Gary Kubiak's firing earlier this week. The players said they appreciated his personal touch, and they're excited to go out and win these final three games. It sounds like the exact opposite of Bud Adams' meeting that's referred to in this movie, where he basically told the team at the beginning of the 1993 season (keep in mind their last game had been the January 1993 playoff debacle in Buffalo) that if they didn't win, he'd have to break the team up.
(Of course, as we learned later, the team was so ill equipped to deal with the pending arrival of a salary cap when it came about the following season, it was probably headed for a breakup of some sort anyway, win or lose. But hey, whatever works, Bud.)
It was also at this point in the documentary that we were introduced to my favorite character in the whole show, Steve Underwood's Mustache (see above).
(Frankly, the mustaches in this film deserve their own post.)
I know I always say that things feel a little bit too comfortable over on Kirby with the Texans, but I think Bud may have amped up the discomfort (and triggered the dysfunction) a little too far. Maybe.
Historically, I guess if professional pressure were a thermostat, Houston football has been either set at 91 degrees (Oilers) or a comfy, cool 68 degrees (Texans). Why can't somebody come in and set it at like 77? Just cool enough to be able to live in it, but warm enough to where you want to do something about it.
5:45 -- Bud's hiring of Buddy Ryan The hiring of Wade Phillips always felt like a Bob McNair thing in 2011, like Gary Kubiak would have ridden Frank Bush to his ultimate coaching demise if he could have, but Bob stepped in for Gary's own good (As it turns out, Gary just took the long way to said demise, riding Joe Marciano instead). We don't really know because the Texans run their show more buttoned down and behind closed doors than the Oilers did. (I think strip clubs ran their show more buttoned down than the Oilers did.)
Buddy Ryan basically got hired in the middle of Jack Pardee's coaches show without Pardee's input! So there's that, not to mention that...well....Buddy Ryan....brash, bombastic, a lawn sprinkler of conflict....guessing he's "not Texans worthy." Yeah, this would have had a zero percent chance of ever happening with the Texans. (This primarily bums me out because I'm a big fan of Rex Ryan and think that his attitude is precisely what this group needs. He's outperformed the talent level of his team every year in New York. Don't blame the kid, Bob! Rex didn't pick his parents!)
13:10 -- Blitzing in practice, Buddy Ryan's running defenses not on the practice card First, forget about the fact that we were seeing a ton of hitting in practice on a regular basis (in shoulder pads that looked like aircraft carriers), but Buddy Ryan was basically turning the practices into de facto games. When you consider that the team admits they got along on and between both sides of the ball before Ryan got there, and that every practice and really the whole season turned into a WWE pay per view after Ryan got there, Buddy Ryan was either the greatest heel or the best unwitting wrestling promoter in league history.
20:30 -- Ernest Givins firing back at Ryan Almost the epilogue to the last bullet point, the hatred in practice eventually spilled over into the games, with Ryan's constantly calling Kevin Gilbride's run-and-shoot offense the "chuck and duck." Givins did not take kindly to it, moped on the sidelines, then lashed out on television (curse words included). It was at this point that I think my man Kevin Cooper (media relations guru with the Texans) would have started sniffing glue heavily if he were running P.R. for those Oilers. (I say "sniffing glue," but that was more of an 80's thing, right? What was the drug of choice in 1993? Cocaine still? Heroine? Free basing the stuffing inside Beanie Babies?)
23:00 -- Warren Moon's benching Credit Jack Pardee, unlike Gary Kubiak, as uncomfortable as it made him feel, as much as he didn't want to do it, he voluntarily shook up a 1-4 team by benching a Pro Bowl quarterback whose skills and resume dwarf anything Matt Schaub has done in his career. It didn't take a knee injury to make that change either, again unlike Kubiak's "decision" to go to Case Keenum. Granted, Moon was right back in the lineup in short order because of a Cody Carlson injury, but the players in the documentary (Spencer Tillman, specifically) say it was a different Warren Moon, a more forceful Warren Moon. In other words, benching Moon made him better. Credit Pardee, credit Moon.
23:50 -- THAT GUY Ummmm.....I mean......wow.....
I don't think we will ever see this guy again, ever. Moving along....
24:20 -- Mike Holovak about to cry I will admit, I never knew Mike Holovak, but this documentary was not a good look for him. The two times they showed him being interviewed after games, he looked like he was on the verge of tears after being asked simple questions about his head coach and the performance of his team. I can only imagine how he would have done being asked about David Carr or drafting Amobi Okoye. Hell, DeAndre Hopkins' Instagram account would have turned the poor guy into Dick Vermeil! As leaders go, Holovak makes Rick Smith seem like Norman Schwarzkopf.
25:40 -- Bearded Mark Berman!
I think for Halloween, Mark Berman should go as Bearded Mark Berman.
28:30 -- Warren Moon walking to his car
Hey, it's Bearded Mark Berman again!
Seriously, the scene with Moon walking to his car like he's doing some combination of a perp walk and a paparazzi dodge is classic. Can you imagine the media trying to follow Matt Schaub to his car in 2013? (Actually, the media would have to continually slow down to let Schaub catch up.)
31:40 -- Baby gate Somehow, there was a narrative injected into this documentary (I think Floyd Reese may have said something to this effect) that we've become a much more forgiving society and the NFL a much more accommodating league when it comes to players' wanting to be there for the birth of their child. I don't think that's entirely true. I seem to remember Joe Flacco being on the verge of such a decision last season before deciding to play, and fans being less than thrilled. I tend to think it depends on whom the player is as much as anything. Winning will always be the bottom line with fans.
(Also, to be clear, Williams' issue wasn't so much that he wanted to be at the birth, as much as it was he seemed to want to be at everything. Adams mentioned giving him practices and meetings off during the process as well.)
45:00 -- THE PUNCH This was the "Death Star blowing up" moment of the whole documentary....
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I'm fairly certain that there's a better chance of Wade Phillips handing Rick Dennison a fruit basket on the sidelines than there is of Wade delivering a right hook. If anything, the only fight I could see happening between coaches on the Texans' sideline would be for all the other coaches to collectively beat down Joe Marciano Kobra Kai-style (and then destroying his bike).
46:50 -- An NFL coordinator driving an old white Mazda truck In 1993, I was in my second full year out of college, just getting my fledgling sales career off the ground, paying back some college loans, living on my own for the first time with not much money at all....and I still drove a car that was a hundred times nicer than an NFL coordinator's!
Indeed, the financial growth of the league has been profound. I have to imagine that Rick Dennison's white Mazda truck is, at the very least, rust free.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.