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A Closer Look at Bottom Teams

November 27, 2005|From the Associated Press

The best thing going for the NFL's weakest teams are Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.

Forget that they probably could help USC hold its own against the Texans, Jets, Saints or Packers. Just the fact that next year's draft is likely to include two players who have "perennial Pro Bowler" stamped on their foreheads gives the NFL's worst teams something to hope for if they continue to struggle.

So watch something else besides the Colts' quest for an unbeaten season and the endless foibles of T.O.

Watch the bad teams.

32. Houston (1-9): For the first three seasons of this franchise's existence, it seemed to be doing things right, drafting David Carr and Andre Johnson; filling in with veterans in supporting roles; and going from 4-12 to 5-11 to 7-9.

This was supposed to be the year the Texans challenged for a playoff spot. Or at least got to .500. Instead, they lead the Leinart/Bush race and are odds-on to win it.

But what does that mean for Carr's future with Leinart there for the plucking?

In his fourth season, is he already shellshocked from being sacked 187 times? Is he wasted by being asked only to drop back three steps and fling the ball quickly to the flat? Are the Texans ready to dump him, and if they are what could they get?

Beyond that, who knows who will be making the decisions? Dom Capers has proven he's a decent coach, but it's almost a given that he's gone -- coaches who finish 3-13 (at best), 2-14 or 1-15 rarely get invited back.

So do you blame Charley Casserly, the GM whose biggest gamble turned into his biggest mistake: taking Tony Boselli in the expansion draft to anchor the offensive line. Boselli's shoulder didn't hold up, he was forced to retire and the OL has been a disaster since.

That means without help, Leinart or Bush will have the same problem as Carr and Domanick Davis.

So maybe the Texans should keep Carr and Davis, trade down to No. 3 and take D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the Virginia OT.

31. New York Jets (2-8): Even in a weak division, the Jets could finish 2-14 with Brooks Bollinger, Vinny Testaverde or Kliff Kingsbury at QB. Then it's a no-brainer if they get No. 1: Leinart, because there's no guarantee that Chad Pennington's shoulder will be strong again.

This is a better team than its record. It has 10 players on IR, including two key offensive linemen, Kevin Mawae and Jason Fabini. And the defense is reasonably solid.

Herm Edwards will be back -- he got the Jets to the playoffs in three of his first four years. Unless he goes to Kansas City if Dick Vermeil retires, a persistent rumor that Edwards hasn't quite denied.

Curtis Martin is 32. So if Leinart is gone, the Jets grab Bush and look elsewhere for a QB. Carr? Philip Rivers, who will continue to sit in San Diego as long as Drew Brees thrives? The problem: trading for them will require the first-round pick they'd use for Bush.

OK, how about Matt Schaub, Michael Vick's backup in Atlanta. The Falcons say they don't want to give him up, but he'll be a free agent at some point and it's better to get something for him than nothing.

30. Green Bay (2-8): The Packers never thought they'd be this bad when they got Aaron Rodgers with the 24th pick last April as Brett Favre's eventual successor. Rodgers probably isn't Leinart. But he's likely good enough to make Bush the better pick. If Favre stays and they draft Leinart, the three QBs would probably take up 60 percent of their cap room. And, yes, Bush is better than Samkon Gado.

Injuries at running back are only one reason the Packers are bad.

As Minnesota showed Monday night, their pass-rushing DEs can be run at, they need better linebacking and a serious upgrade in the middle of the offensive line.

It will probably happen without Mike Sherman. Two names to consider: Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress, who runs the same system, and Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, a former Packers cornerback.

29. New Orleans (2-8): First priority is to find a place to play. Second, find a quarterback.

Aaron Brooks has outstayed his welcome and word is that Vick, Brooks' longtime friend, has invited him to Atlanta. That might free up Schaub for a trade.

But that's speculative.

Way before Katrina turned the Saints into nomads, this was a team looking for direction. As with any sports franchise, it starts at the top with owner Tom Benson, whose inept management has been apparent for years, but only became general knowledge when he so bungled the problems caused by the hurricane.

Jim Haslett may get a pass because of circumstances, but since his first year, when he steered the team to the only playoff win in its history, the only consistent thing about the Saints is inconsistency.

Overall? The Saints must hope Deuce McAllister's knee is solid by next season and hope to find a quarterback (assume Leinart won't be there). Or try again to get Brooks on track.

28. Tennessee (2-8): Self-inflicted wounds caused by the salary cap have dropped them.

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