Carr is the right choice to lead the Texans

Fans may still wish the Texans drafted Vince Young, but it's obvious that the right choice to lead this franchise is David Carr, writes John Clayton.

Originally Published: October 27, 2006
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

The Texans don't play the New Orleans Saints this season, so Houston fans won't go into total running back envy at the sight of Reggie Bush.

Instead, they look to Sunday's game against the Titans when the Texans face Vince Young. Houston fans still wish they had the Houston native at quarterback, and David Carr, the Texans' current quarterback, understands that. Young grew to legendary proportions as a native son of Houston during his championship days at Texas.

Plus, Young doesn't make it any easier by coming back to the city to make appearances during the bye week. His trips to Houston are innocent. It's home and he knows he's always welcome. He turns down more invitations than he can fulfill.

Still, the best decision the Texans made was keeping David Carr as quarterback. I still believe the team would have been better served to use the first pick in the 2006 draft on Reggie Bush. The reason that fell apart was pure emotion. Bush held to a high contract demand, and Texans owner Bob McNair started to feel uncomfortable hearing stories of Bush and his family involvement with condos and gifts while at USC.

So the Texans made an emotional decision and signed defensive end Mario Williams. It can be said Bush negotiated his way out of the first pick. It could also be said the Texans let too much emotion influence their decision on the eve of the draft. Regardless, they didn't use emotions when they decided to extend Carr's contract four years and keep him as the franchise quarterback.

David Carr
Karl Wright/US PresswireDavid Carr is completing over 70 percent of his passes this season and has 9 TDs to just 4 INTs.
Carr is quietly having a great season. He is completing 70.3 percent of his passes, best in the NFL. His quarterback rating is 97.9, fourth best in the league. He has the combination of mobility and arm strength that makes scouts drool. Though it's taken five years and 65 starts, Carr is starting to live up to his potential, even though the team is still trying to catch up at 2-4.

Where Sunday's Titans-Texans game is so fascinating is that Young is in the first year of turning around a team that's down. The plan wasn't to play Young in this season, but circumstances led to his starting. Tennessee wasn't going to go anywhere with Kerry Collins at QB. The opening schedule was too tough for coach Jeff Fisher's young roster, and the organization knew fans weren't going to be patient. More importantly, the owner wasn't going to be patient.

Titans owner Bud Adams is one of the nation's biggest Texas fans, thus making him one of Young's biggest supporters. It made life under Adams a little easier for him to see Young behind center, and, as it turned out, the Titans were competitive before the bye in games against the Colts and Redskins.

The AFC South is a division filled with quarterback envy. Titans fans eventually let go of their lust for Peyton Manning, thanks to the great Titans career of Steve McNair. Manning could still run for governor in Tennessee and probably win thanks to his personality and his success with the Volunteers. But the Titans developed into a regular playoff contender and one-time Super Bowl participant with McNair at the helm.

Now, the Texans have to grow and start winning with Carr. It appears he finally is heading in the right direction with Gary Kubiak as head coach.

Carr's story is so typical of others who never played with the right supporting cast. His statistics are a testament to his talent under the circumstances. He's a career 59 percent passer, but he's been completing better than 60 percent of his passes for the past three years. He has 57 touchdown passes and 57 interceptions. For those numbers to be even despite an 18-47 record is remarkable.

The stat that has held him back is sacks. He's been sacked 224 times in 65 games. The Texans haven't built a solid offensive line in front of him, so he's been running for his life for years. In his second year, the offense was structured for him to get rid of the ball quickly. That might have been the silliest system he operated. Instead of being a quarterback, he had to be a dump-off specialist.

That 2003 strategy dropped his sack numbers to 15, but he completed only 56.6 percent of his passes. He was rushing things too much. The ball came out before he could even figure out the right thing to do.

Now, Carr is headed in the right direction, thanks to Kubiak. Coming from the Mike Shanahan school of coaching, Kubiak knows the value of protection and running. In that regard, he's 1-for-2, but the running part of it should get better in time.

"Gary Kubiak has helped out a lot," Carr said. "He's taught me that I don't have to force things. He's taught me it's not up to me to win or lose games. In the past, I felt I had to do so much."

Kubiak learned from Shanahan to build an offense that takes pressure off quarterbacks. The running game is important. Shanahan, though a West Coast offense coach, understands the value of a zone-blocking running scheme. It takes time, though. You have to find the right offensive linemen because the scheme is simple, but it requires timing. After a while, as Shanahan found out, you can take first-round backs or sixth-round backs or undrafted backs and make them stars as long as they make one cut at the line of scrimmage and run.

In the short term, having Bush would have helped, but if Kubiak can copy the Shanahan plan, he should have the running game going in 2007 or 2008, once the line comes together. This year, he's trying out backs such as Wali Lundy and Ron Dayne.

Carr was asked to carry the Texans, and that's where he estranged his relationship with the fans. Fortunately, he's a good guy. Players like him because of his personality and toughness. The Lions lost fewer games under Joey Harrington, but they lost their respect for him.

The Texans have something special developing with Carr. First, Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers in the league. He is aided by the acquisition of Eric Moulds, who takes pressure off him on the other side.

"Eric's meant a lot to the offense," Carr said. "If everyone is looking at Andre and me, then Eric can take off and make a big play. Plus, he brings leadership to the huddle. He just caught his 700th pass. Andre has my confidence. In the past, he's shown flashes. Now, he's doing it day-to-day on a consistent basis."

Only victories will enable fans to completely buy into Carr, and that's a shame. The mistake would have been discarding Carr and going with another quarterback. Young should be great with the Titans. But it's going to take time for him, too.

As we've seen with Carr and other quarterbacks, it could take three to five years to find the right combinations of receivers, offensive linemen and backs to get the offense going. That's why, in many ways, it's an important game Sunday for Carr.

Carr needs to beat the Titans to show he and the Texans are ahead of them, to give fans some confidence the Texans are going in the right direction. Before long, Young and the Titans will start to catch up.

"I can understand the fans in Houston wanting Young with Vince being from Houston," Carr said. "I'm sure if there were an NFL team in Fresno or Bakersfield, California, I would be the popular choice going back home. It's going to be fine."

Carr's quarterback rating and completion percentage show that the Texans have the right guy.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer