Every team needs a whipping boy. You know, the guy who drives the hometown fans and talk shows hosts absolutelyinsane
. For last year’s Rockets, Rafer Alston bore the brunt of the blame. Over in Astros’ land, it’s Brad Lidge. Or maybe Adam Everett. Or Woody. Or… oh, never mind. Everyone not named Lee, Pence or Oswalt has taken his fair share of heat this season. As John Royal has delightedly pointed out so many times, the Astros are simply overflowing with whipping boys these days.
But none of that matters anymore. The JV sports season was an amusing distraction for awhile, but it’s almost over now. Thankfully, and not a moment too soon, football is about to begin.
So with that in mind, the search begins for the Texans’ player most likely to become public enemy number one. Former titleholder, David Carr, was given the boot earlier this year, meaning Houston is officially on the lookout for fresh blood.
Truth be told, there are only two true candidates for this ignominious honor. One might be inclined to believe new quarterback, Matt Schaub, is the front runner. After all, Texans fans are already accustomed to booing anyone in a #8 jersey. But Schaub isn’t likely to follow in Carr’s footsteps just yet. He’ll probably receive a one-year grace period as the new kid in town and he already has built-in excuses such as, “The offensive line still sucks,” “He only has one starting-caliber wide receiver to whom he can throw,” and the always popular “It’s his first year in a brand new offensive system!” at his disposal should he need them. However, I don’t think he will. As a Matt Schaub supporter for nearly three years now, I actually believe he’s going to play reasonably well this season.
So if Schaub isn’t the heir apparent, who is? Step right up, Mario Williams. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know you’re sick of the storyline. Guess what? So am I. But it doesn’t change the truth. No Texan is under more pressure to perform this season than not-so-super Mario. Yes, he’s still just a kid (Williams won’t turn 23 until January). And, no, it’s not his fault he’s not named Vince or Reggie. But none of that will stem the tide of anger and outrage if Mario doesn’t improve upon his lackluster rookie year. And should Young and Bush run wild in their respective visits to Reliant this season, Williams might even want to pick up a few exit-strategy tips from Carr.
Bottom line: Mario’s got to bring it every play this year. Last season he too often found himself neutralized by a single, solitary blocker. And let’s face it, when you’re a freakish 6’7’’, 291 pound athlete, that should never happen.
So welcome to the white hot spotlight, Mario. I hope it motivates you to great success. But if not, look on the bright side: There’s no way you could suck worse than the Astros. – Jason Friedman
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