Game Time: The Horrible Turn Of The Texans' Owen Daniels

(I want you all to watch in amazement while I introduce you to the literary technique known as the "shplegue". This stands for "shameless plug that turns into a segue." Watch and learn...)

I'm not sure how many of you have seen the web-based tragicomedy Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, but this coming Monday at the River Oaks Theater is the world premiere of the unofficial prequel Horrible Turn, starring yours truly as Police Commissioner Tommy O'Chimina (and by "starring", I mean I'm in the movie for a solid 12 seconds, rocking a sick bobby hat no less).

A lot of people worked really hard to put this movie together; it will be interesting to watch it blow up virally (is that a word?) when it's released on the internet.

(Okay, now for the segue part of the shplegue ... )

(Wait for it .... )

(Wait for it .... )

Speaking of horrible turns (THERE IT IS!), the turn could have not have been more horrible for Texans tight end Owen Daniels on Sunday when his season ended in Buffalo with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Owen's been down this road, having suffered torn ACL's before, most notably his senior year in high school, so the rehabilitation and instinctually how he feels he's progressing along the way won't feel foreign to him.

As I watched him sitting on the trainer's table on the sidelines on Sunday, ice pack on knee, and that "I don't even need the diagnosis from the trainer, I know what it is" look on his face, my first thought was about the off season and his sometimes bitter contract dispute with the team -- a dispute that ended with Daniels signing a one-year tender offer for $2.7M and hoping to prove to the team that he is indeed one of the top two or three tight ends in football and, in turn, get paid as such. Reportedly, the team had made him a long-term offer which would have put him in the upper echelon of tight ends in the NFL; they thought it was fair, he didn't. That's how it goes. It's easy to say now that he should have taken it.

Now unfortunately, Owen may learn the business side of the NFL the hard way, because when it comes to positions in the NFL, tight end is not exactly one where teams see the need to get crazy with their spending, Kellen Winslow's ridiculous deal with Tampa Bay notwithstanding. Honestly, Winslow's deal is a big part of the problem. Tampa Bay gave the former Miami Hurricane star six years, $36 million ($20 million guaranteed), and as best I can tell his body of work consists of (1) a few decent seasons, (2) calling himself a soldier while our country is at war, (3) being a shitty moped driver, and (4) contracting staph infection while he was a member of the Browns, although to be fair nearly everyone on the Browns has contracted staph infection the last few years.

But Winslow's deal is the exception for tight ends. If tight end spending decision-making were comparable to something in the "real world", it would be something like lawn mowers. Most teams are fine spending a few hundred bucks on the push mower that gets the grass cut, but you do have a handful of teams that are willing to go full-boat on a nice riding mower so their neighbors can be jealous. Owen Daniels is a riding mower. So are Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark and Jason Witten ... you get my point.

Ironically, Owen Daniels used to be a quarterback, waaaay back in the day, until Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez realized his Badgers (and Owen himself) would be better served by utilizing Daniels' athletic abilities at tight end. I say it's ironic because if tight end shopping is lawn mower shopping, then NFL general managers' quarterback shopping might as well be the equivalent of the champagne room at the Spearmint Rhino, where questionable, inebriated "buying" decisions are made in about 14 seconds with reckless disregard for any fiscal responsibility. I can only imagine the vomit that gets induced when Owen Daniels (and frankly, NFL non-QB's everywhere) see deals like these:

JAY CUTLER, Chicago Bears: Five games into his tenure as the Bears' starting quarterback and with exactly zero playoff appearances in his career, Cutler was rewarded by the Bears with a two year, $30 million extension ($20 million guaranteed) through the year 2013. He celebrated the extension by going out and getting thumped 45-10 by the Bengals a few days later.

JAKE DELHOMME, Carolina Panthers: Delhomme had been on his last legs long before he strolled into a home playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals last January and lit up the Charlotte sky with five INT's (to go along with a lost fumble). Knowing that future years would not be nearly as exciting if they acquired a quarterback that actually threw to dudes in Panther jerseys, the Panthers promptly re-upped with Delhomme to the tune of five years, $42.5 million ($20M guaranteed). He was last seen completing seven passes against that same Arizona secondary this weekend (albeit in a win, mostly made possible by Kurt Warner apparently going as Delhomme for Halloween with 5 INT's and a fumble of his own).

MATT CASSEL, Kansas City Chiefs: The book on Cassel has always been that "he hasn't started a game since like Pop Warner or something" until last year, when he actually led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in relief of Tom Brady. Apparently, for the Chiefs, that body of work was good enough to give Cassel six years, $63 million ($28 million guaranteed). Unfortunately for all involved, Cassel is finding out the Chiefs ain't the Pats, and the Chiefs are finding out Cassel ain't Brady. Have fun with all that, KC!

TONY ROMO, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys cast their lot with Romo a couple years ago by signing him to a six year deal worth $67.5 million ($30 million guaranteed). For their money the Cowboys have gotten Jessica Simpson for a season, lots of winking at the camera, and a bunch of stupid looking hats. Playoff wins? ZERO.

DAVID GARRARD, Jacksonville Jaguars: Garrard basically got a six year, $60 million ($18 million guaranteed) for sucking way less than Byron Leftwich and beating the Steelers in a playoff game. Solid work if you can find it.

ROOKIE QB'S: JaMarcus Russell guaranteed $29 million, Mark Sanchez guaranteed $27 million, Matt Stafford guaranteed $41 million. All before ever playing a snap in the league.

And if you need a local example to bring home the "tight end=lawn mower; quarterback=champagne room" analogy, just remember that the Texans gave Matt Schaub six years, $48 million ($7 million guaranteed, and a $10 million roster bonus coming up this off-season) based on one NFL start, no NFL wins, and a completion percentage barely over 50 percent with Atlanta. It seems to finally be working out, but not without some bumps in the road.

Back to Owen Daniels ... Texans defensive end Tim Bulman told us yesterday on our show that the team's nickname for Owen Daniels is "Awesome", basically because he's one of the stars of film study every week, a virtual highlight film. What the nickname lacks in creativity it makes up for in truth. Owen Daniels was having an awesome year. Moreover, he was quietly doing what needed to be done to get paid what he felt he deserved ... as opposed to (ahem) others on the team. No salvos in the media, no custom made "PAY ME RICK" shoes, just production. But for the 2009 season, the Texans now have to move on. They'll deal with the Owen Daniels situation in the offseason. That's the reality of the business.

(If you want to hear a very candid, very funny NFL player, Tim Bulman's conversation with us yesterday can be found on podcast at www.1560thegame.com. In fact, to make it easy, here is the link to Segment 1, Segment 2, and Segment 3 with Bulman. He has some hilarious stories about Halloween costumes, Buffalo fans making fun of him for his rib pads, and David Anderson singing on the flight home.)

Catch Sean Pendergast on the Sean & John Show each weekday from 3-7 p.m. on 1560 The Game.

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