"I don't watch the draft. When they draft someone it means somebody I played with for an entire year and sometimes longer, must go." -- Arian Foster on Twitter, 5/1/12
Arian Foster posted this tweet to his Twitter account late Tuesday afternoon, and despite the lack of any specific names mentioned and the seemingly random nature of the tweet, I'm fairly certain this tweet was a direct response to the Texans' Tuesday release of wide receiver Jacoby Jones, Foster's teammate of three-plus years.
If the tweet wasn't provoked by Jones's release, then it was an inadvertent yet accurate acknowledgment of the dynamic that finally made the soon-to-be sixth-year wide out and kick returner expendable -- basically, with the drafting of DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin this past weekend (not to mention the signing of undrafted free agents Dwight Jones and Jerrell Jackson), the Texans finally had enough competent bodies in the fold to say "so long" to one of the most maligned players in Texans history.
Oftentimes, players are maligned because they're either bad citizens or they grossly fail to live up to expectations. Jones was not an egregious offender on either of those fronts, but at the same time he wasn't squeaky clean either.
While he had his bouts with general immaturity and, on at least one occasion, the law (a DUI arrest back in March 2008), Jones was generally considered a good guy and a flaky but playful quote machine.
As for his productivity aligning with Jones's talent, it never really happened. Jones was drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft out of tiny Lane College. A late bloomer, when Jones arrived in camp in 2007 his pure physical gifts were quite evident immediately, but he was painfully rough around the edges. The media used to joke at practice that nobody broke off routes too soon with the suddenness and athleticism of Jacoby Jones.
It was the lure of his ability to run and jump and the occasional whiff that the complexities of football were finally slowing down for Jones that kept him on the team for five years. For every punt that he tried to field as if he were Rickey Henderson reaching up to snatch a fly ball (and subsequently muffing), there would be a field-position-changing return for 30 or 40 yards. For every Matt Schaub pass that bounced off his hands like they were balled up in fists, there was a catch and run that made you say, "Okay, maybe?"
The first four years were a whole lot of "Okay, maybe?" The Texans hoped that maybe, just maybe the light would come on for Jacoby Jones.
But the fuse for fans grew much shorter in 2011, when Jones was given a three-year, $10 million contract shortly after the lockout ended. The apparent urgency with which the Texans signed him, not to mention the dollar amount, made Texans fans rightfully expect more from Jacoby Jones.
They didn't get more.
In the end, Jones was done in by two games. The first one was the Oakland game a week after Andre Johnson went down (the first time) with a hamstring injury. As the only player with truly explosive downfield tools for the Texans in that game, Jones had maybe his worst day as a wide receiver, catching one ball for nine yards despite being targeted eleven times in the game. That Monday, I wrote this:
I've said it before and I am now one thousand percent certain -- Jacoby Jones is not an NFL wide receiver and will never be a capable NFL wide receiver. In a league where making 99 percent of the routine plays is barely acceptable, he makes like 80 percent of the routine plays (if that), which would be fine except he has never once made a single play offensively that's bailed out his quarterback. Not a single spectacular offensive play that makes you say "Wow, good thing we have Jacoby Jones on our team." Not one.
When you ask anyone who is pro-Jones what he brings to the table the answers are some variation of "He has great athletic ability" (Big deal, go do the decathlon) or "He's been in the system for five years" (It's football, not a tenured public schools teaching position). And that's just it -- he HAS been in the system five years now, and shows NO progress. Zero. None. He is who he is, a cardboard cutout of a wide receiver who still comes out of breaks and runs routes so carelessly that it looks like Matt Schaub drew the play up in the dirt. He was targeted eleven times yesterday and caught ONE pass for nine yards. If that doesn't reverberate with you then go look at box scores for games around the NFL and see what normal catch-to-target ratios are. To catch one ball and be targeted ELEVEN times, you almost have to be trying not to catch balls. Or you're Jacoby Jones. If you need one easy-to-find shred of evidence that he just doesn't get it, watch the final play. Basic, remedial wide receiver instinct tells you to peel off and run to space in the direction your quarterback is rolling to help your guy make a play. Once the play broke down, Jacoby was clueless and stayed glued to Michael Huff's hip. Bad throw by Schaub, worse improvisation by Jacoby.
The second game was really just one play (and truly the kill shot on the Jacoby Jones Era). It needs no description. Ravens playoff game, early momentum belongs to the Texans and then this....
There's no coming back from that. Not with the minimal equity that Jones had with the Texan fan base. At that exact moment, most Texan fans wanted him waived before he got back to the sideline.
Today, a little over three months later, they got their wish.
The Texans, in general, have long been considered a team that probably errs to the side of waiting too long to pull the trigger on personnel decisions. It's a culture that comes from the top down, with owner Bob McNair's decision (correct, in hindsight) to retain Gary Kubiak after a dismal fifth year being the most noteworthy example.
Strangely enough, if there's a player whose Texans career mirrors the coaching career of Kubiak, it's Jones -- some ups, lots of downs, big expectations after a contract extension post-Year 4, and then major disappointment in Year 5.
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However, unlike Kubiak, there will be no sixth year in Houston for Jacoby Jones. On Tuesday, the Texans finally stopped waiting for the light to come on.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.