It's good to be a Houston Texan.
And you don't even have to be Duane Brown, the priceless left tackle who is now signed to a pricey new contract extension (try $53.4 million over six years) with the team, one that will keep the 26-year-old in Houston for the prime of his career. Brown's deal is just the latest sign of how everything is rolling along for the franchise that's been perceived as the secondary NFL team in Texas for the length of its existence.
While the marketing machine Dallas Cowboys sputter about — looking absolutely inept while threatening to get Tony Romo killed in a 3-0 preseason win, dealing with a wide receiver arrested for allegedly beating up his own mother, waging a silly debate in the media (what else is new in Dallas?) between owner and coach about what the team's expectations should be this season — the Texans quietly get business done.
It's like the difference between Kim Kardashian and Warren Buffett.
One makes a lot of noise and lives for the headlines. The other actually accomplishes something.
Texans general manager Rick Smith is clearly getting things done this offseason. For all the panic in March — with Mario Williams, Eric Winston, DeMeco Ryans and Jason Allen all let go — Smith is efficiently following his plan, being ruthless when necessary.
It's like the difference between Kim Kardashian and Warren Buffett. One makes a lot of noise and lives for the headlines. The other actually accomplishes something.
Smith's now signed the Texans' two most important core players on offense — all-world tailback Arian Foster and now Brown — without losing a single irreplaceable player.
"What we’ve had to do is decide who our core group of players are and make sure we keep those guys under contract," Smith said this spring in describing his approach, "and realize and understand that we’re going to have to lose some good players."
Locking up 25-year-old linebacker Connor Barwin — who the Texans are also negotiating with — as well would be nice. But it's not absolutely essential the way this Duane Brown deal is. Rookie pass rusher Whitney Mercilus looks good. There are players who could step in for Barwin next season.
There is no one to replace Brown. An elite left tackle is one of the most prized commodities in football. You don't have to read Michael Lewis' The Blind Side to understand that.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub calls Brown "the best left tackle in football" and teammate bias aside, it's getting harder and harder to dispute that.
"It’s also an exciting day for our organization," Smith said Thursday as the Texans' finished training camp two-a-days with a contract extension bang. "We’ve laid the foundation for sustained success and this is an important step in building on that and toward a championship.”
It's the kind of efficient step the Cowboys too often miss. As Jerry Jones gets further and further away from the days of Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells and even Wade Phillips (the Texans' defensive savior did lead the Boys to the playoffs twice in four years, including a 13-3 No. 1 seed season, something Jason Garrett will never come close to), Dallas becomes more and more obsessed with splashy, spectacular headline moves at the expense of all else.
With their offensive line a mess, the Cowboys traded away a second-round pick (the type of pick Smith's used with great success to build the Texans) to move up eight spots in the first round to grab "star" cornerback Morris Claiborne. And Claiborne's promptly sat out the entire offseason and most of training camp with injuries.
All the while, quarterback Tony Romo is left to run for his life. Forget Romo's gag reflex in the clutch. Do you really think he's going to make it through the whole season and even get to the games that really count?
It's never looked so good to be a football fan in Houston.
The Good Life
Brown is the type of rock that solidifies an NFL franchise for years. He's not the most popular young Texan — on a team with Foster, the best tailback in football, and J.J. Watt, the game-changing defensive end who could start his own milk cult — that's a tough mantle to take. But he may be the most laid-back, low maintenance star in the league.
I'll never forget the sight of the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Brown stopping his car after the wild rally that greeted the Texans at Reliant Stadium on their return from Cincinnati last December, with the first playoff berth in franchise history in tow. As other players understandably hustled to get away and enjoy a celebration on their own, Brown parked his car in the middle of the road, popped open the sun roof and started signing autographs for a swarm of crowding-around fans.
With everyone going crazy around him, Brown seems to enjoy being the calm in the center of it all.
As usual, the big man did not seem stressed in the least.
With everyone going crazy around him, Brown seemed to enjoy being the calm in the center of it all. To say Brown shies away from the spotlight would be a misnomer.
He married MTV host Devi Dev and appeared with her on the TLC show Say Yes to the Dress, with the football player coming off as more particular about the wedding than the bride herself. Duane Brown clearly enjoys putting on a good show. He's clearly emerged as more of a leader during this training camp.
He just doesn't need it to be all high-risk drama like Jones and the teetering, flailing-this-way-and-that Cowboys. Even when he's getting $22 million guaranteed.
The more efficiently, winningly high profile the Texans become, the more it's sure to drive Jerry Jones crazy. Already the Texans are sixth overall in that new Pro 32 Power Rankings, while Dallas ranks 15th. The Texans are getting visits from Sports Illustrated and the New York Times, being bandied about as a Super Bowl favorite. The only thing Super in Jerry World are the prices.
Jones is coming off as more than a little annoyed that Garrett's expectations for this season don't seem as high as his own. This attention on Houston's team cannot help his mood.
Everything hasn't changed in Texas by any means. But some things are sure shifting.
How 'bout them Texans?