The fact that Robaire Smith was picked up with a four year deal made me start thinking of former Texans players who got cut and have joined up with other teams. There are a few of them scattered out there. Last year during the play-offs it was interesting to watch Gaffney and even Billy Miller contribute key catches to their new teams. I even saw Joppru make a tackle on a kickoff in a play-off game for Seattle. Typically when a player leaves the Texans we on the board have a “good riddance” attitude. I know there are exceptions to this, but I think this is the prevailing attitude. We attribute that feeling to their cost, their poor performance, or something else associated with them. We quickly forget the euphoria of “what a great signing” or “that is a good draft pick” that accompany most players when they join the team. The new players are put high on a pedestal of expectations and then are panned when these lofty goals aren’t realized. I’m not sure this is always the right thing. I think there are several factors that make a player a success in this league, many of them out of that player’s control. First, the player must fit the system. I think there are a few players they’ve had in the past that never should have been added to the team. Some of this may be because in the early years of the franchise the system was very fluid and was never locked in as the coaches sought ways to win. For instance, Todd Wade never should have been added to a zone blocking team – that wasn’t his game, and we blame him for his inadequacies. The coaches targeted him and the front office added him with pretty disastrous results. Who knows though – if he had fit the scheme and contributed maybe he’d appear a bargain compared to what the free agent guards are making this off-season. He’s still in the league though. Second, most young players need development. I don’t think the Capers regime was successful in player development at all. I am hard pressed to name more than a very small number of players, draftees or free agents, who improved during their time with the Texans. Again, there are many reasons for this. I don’t think many of the coaches knew how to coach NFL level football skills and technique to the young players. They were left with what they learned in college and their own skills. I also think the previous staff placed too much emphasis on veteran players or the amount the players were making and not enough emphasis on on-field performance when determining playing time. A good example may be Gaffney – he might have blossomed here if he had gotten more time as the number two receiver, but the coaches could never get beyond Bradford as second behind Andre, despite his rather spotty performance. I think this is improving with the new staff, but I’m not sure yet. For instance, they seem to be high on Winston now as a starter, but I don’t know if that is spin to cover their o-line woes or if they truly think he’s part of the answer. The other tackles had to be put through a meat grinder last year before they let Winston on the field; given the performance of the line last year I don’t know why the coaches’ hands had to be forced to get him playing time. Third, they are playing for the Texans. The Texans are a losing team, which is expected for a new franchise but certainly not to the extent we’ve seen. We fans are disappointed and have seriously bad attitude issues; imagine what it is like for the players. The Texans have a losing mentality and that is extremely difficult to get over. They bring players in who swagger into the league after college success, and their spirit is usually ground down in short order. I can see the optimism on the board because the team won a couple of games at the end of last year, and crowned the season with a win against the Super Bowl Champion Colts. These have made us forget the lows of the rest of the season. I know that no matter how uplifting the big win against the Colts was for the players in the short term, they remember and feel the ineffectual performances and poor football played longer and more deeply. The win against the Raiders and first loss to the Titans are examples of the inept play that plagued the Texans last year and the players still worry about. Playing for the Texans has also meant a player might not be supported by the best talent around him. This will only improve as a result of the players and team being better. The signing of Steinbech surprisingly enough is an example of “but he plays for the Texans”. I was talking to person who’s NFL opinion I respect about the Steinbech signing. I suggested that Pitts may regret his signing of an extension rather than play his contract out and then hit the free agent market. I was told that Pitts is the better player, but he never would have commanded that kind of salary because he plays for the Texans. The Bengals went from rags to riches with Steinbech, and he reaped the reward. The Texans have gone from rags to rags with Pitts and he wouldn’t get the same respect. I don’t personally know if Pitts is a better player than Steinbech, but the point was well made. In the end I think we’ll see more ex-Texans surprising us around the league as they take advantage of their new scenery and opportunities. As Texans fans we can hope that some of the players we pick up from other teams benefit from that same change of scenery as they join the Texans. It is also important that the coaches clearly identify what they are looking for in players and that the front office start acquiring players that fit the systems. It is one of the prime jobs of the new coaching staff to identify and take advantage of their players’ skills and strengths. If they can do that, maybe the Texans can make lasting improvements to the team and stop making temporary patches.