Sometime in the middle of the Houston’s route of the Bucs last week, sports writers everywhere high fived themselves as they started to formulate a plan to declare the Texans the new trendy pick to win the AFC. Matt Schaub was looking dependable even without Andre Johnson, they were running for a gazillion (estimate) yards per game, and the defense was considered one of the league’s best.
Then on Monday came the grim news that Matt Schaub was done for the year. Analysts have been scrambling ever since to debate whether or not Matt Leinart will be able to have success in this offense. Today the former USC QB is charged with six counts of “probably gonna ruin this awesome season, dude”. The DA also tried to convict him of “having soft hair, like girl” but it was thrown out. The prosecution is headed up by Ben Van Iten, and Nathan Raby has the defense. The attorney’s closing statements have been recorded by our court reporter, and are displayed below.
Ben stands up from his chair, and slowly walks towards the juror’s box. He spends a few moments individually winking at every single juror. A woman in the front row clutches the spot in her pocket where she normally keeps her pepper spray.
Ben: Good morning members of the jury. I’m going to tell you a story. As a young man I worked at an insurance company, where I processed policies. One day I called in sick, and some of my workload had to go to a lesser experienced member of the team. He was put in a position to succeed. He had my kickass notes, months of training, and a support group around him. But alas he still managed to screw up several policies. Years later I think he committed vehicular manslaughter, hit a family or something.
The jury gasps.
That’s not related.
Ben begins to pace back and forth.
I know what Nate is planning on saying: Matt Leinart doesn’t have to do that much. He just has to hand the ball off to Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Throw some dump off passes. Occasionally throw up a jump ball to Andre Johnson. It sounds easy enough, yeah? Well I’m afraid it’s not. I don’t care how good your running game is, if you are a one dimensional football team defensive coordinators are able to take that away. Certainly Foster will get his yards, but Matt is going to get stuck in several situations every game where everyone knows that he has to throw. He’s going to have to step up in the pocket with the pass rush coming, and deliver a strike with the defense in his face and I don’t think he can do it.
If he couldn’t do it in Arizona with Fitz and Bolden, what has changed? The experts want to tell you about how three hours before each game that he and the assistants work on his foot work. They want to show clips of him making a few throws in the pre-season. WELL AS SURE AS MY NAME IS NOT BENJAMIN BUMPERNICKEL THIS ISN’T THE PRE-SEASON, SON!
Ben stomps his foot for effect. One juror begins to sob.
Matt Leinart is one of those guys who is going to get several shots during the course of his career because he seems like a proto-typical QB. But he just doesn’t have “it”. I don’t think he can read an NFL defense. Now I’m not saying that the Texans aren’t going to make the playoffs. They might even win their crappy division with 9 wins. But on the road against Pittsburgh in January, when it’s third and ten and the offense can’t even hear themselves think, you going to place your money on an inconsistent golden boy “game manager” from California?
I don’t think so. Say goodbye to your Super Bowl aspirations, Texans. And for the love of god someone make Matt Leinart apologize to that poor guy with the tattoo. The prosecution rests.
Nate brushes past Ben and gives him an intentional bump with his shoulder. The jury gasps as Nate smiles at them and shuffles the papers he is holding.
Nate: So Nate is going to tell you that he doesn’t have to do much, right? Damn, I keep forgetting to lock my office so Ben doesn’t sneak in and steal my notes. Fine. We’ll do this one off the top of my head.
Nate throws the papers in the air. Two pages land on the Judge’s desk. One of these papers reads, “BEN VAN ITEN SUCKS.” The other is a take-out menu for China Star II.
Football is a team sport, respectable jurors. And while the quarterback is the most important position, there are countless examples of teams doing well even without a star quarterback. I could say Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, but I’m sure you would just laugh at me.
So instead I’ll offer a more recent example. May I direct your attention to the career of Mark Sanchez. Another former USC quarterback with more modeling talent than football talent. And yet for the past two years, the Jets were in the AFC Title game. They were at one point leading by 11 points against the Colts for the right to go to the Super Bowl and lose to the Saints! Now if you look at the Jets’ performance this year, you will see that their record is paltry and their chances of making the playoffs are not great. Last night they lost to the Denver Broncos, bringing them down to .500. However, and it may sound hard to believe, Sanchez’s stats are just as good, if not better, than they ever have been. He’s completing a higher percentage of passes, and he has four more touchdowns than interceptions.
So what changed?
The team changed. The defense changed. Whereas the Jets were 1st in points allowed in 2009 and 6th in 2010, they are currently 16th. Their running game, which had been top of the league in 2009 and top 5 in 2010, is currently 24th. So with a top running game and a top defense, Mark Sanchez’s many flaws were hidden, and the Jets prospered.
Stats are fun! Want to look at more?
The jurors nod.
Matt Leinart’s longest tenure of quarterbacking was in 2006, when he started 11 games for the Cardinals. His record was 4-7. But let’s look at the team, shall we? Arizona was 29th in points allowed and 30th in rushing. Before he got injured the next year, he was playing for a team that would end up ranking 27th and 29th in those same categories. So while his play was not spectacular, the play around him wasn’t that good either.
But this is a different story in Houston. Houston is 2nd in points allowed and 3rd in total rushing yards. They have the personnel to keep opposing offenses off the field and opposing defenses on it. And while Matt Schaub is undoubtedly a better quarterback than Leinart, he isn’t one of the elite players. But he has still led this team – this pretty good team – to a division lead and, until his unfortunate injury, one of the best records in the AFC.
Even if all of those pretty stats weren’t true, there’s one thing different about Leinart now and Leinart in Arizona: he has sat. He has been humbled. He has been told that he isn’t good enough. So now, after seeing how Matt Schaub ran this offense the right way, he is given another chance. And because it’s on a good team, he is going to succeed. What is success? Well, for a team like Houston, who’s never had it, success is a playoff win. Success is not being blown out at home. I don’t know if they’ll make the Super Bowl, but I don’t think their chances are gone. What helps you win football games? Defense. Running. And the occasional throw to Andre Johnson. No matter the arm throwing that ball, the Texans have a team that can win. Defense rests.
The jurors can deliberate in the comments section.