Don’t Choke, Clutch City

Posted on February 19th, by Rob Scichili in All. No Comments

Houston has been here before.

Four times has a Houston professional team had the No. 1 pick in its respective draft over the last 30 years (I don’t count baseball since its draft is an inexact science), and the results have been a mixed bag.

Funny that the best pick of the four so far has been when they passed on Michael Jordan. I suggest Houston doesn’t do it again. We’ll get back to that in a minute though.

hakeem-olajuwonThe 1984 NBA Draft was a bonanza of talent among the top-10, with Hakeem Olajuwon being the no-brainer as the top prize. In fact, the Rockets are the reason the NBA Draft Lottery exists, as they clearly tanked their last 20-to-15 games to ensure they would have a shot at the No. 1 pick and the hometown Olajuwon.

Houston got this pick right, even when they could have had Michael Jordan. One could argue that the Rockets should have selected Jordan, but all the scrutiny lies with Portland, who took Sam Bowie with the second pick and was plagued by injuries, never panning out. I would argue that Olajuwon might be one of the most underrated players in NBA history, when you consider who comes to mind as the best-ever centers. He was a small forward in a center’s body and simply dominated, leading Houston to two titles.

Ralph Sampson was selected by the Rockets with the No. 1 pick just one year earlier. He was the right pick, but his knees deteriorated at such an accelerated pace that he only played at an all-star level for a few seasons and was shipped off to Golden State in 1987. I give this pick a push.

Yao Ming was the No. 1 pick in 2002, and had a decent career until injuries sidelined him as well. He played just over seven seasons and retired in 2011. Like Daniel Simpson Day – he gets an incomplete.

p1_carr_bieverThe Texans had the first pick in the 2002 NFL Draft and (supposedly) drafted a franchise quarterback in Fresno State’s David Carr. It seemed like a good pick at the time, but he was a tremendous disappointment. Carr only lasted five seasons in Houston, throwing 65 interceptions in the process.

In Houston’s defense, the 2002 Draft proved to be a dud, save maybe Julius Peppers with the second pick. Joey Harrington, Mike Williams, Quentin Jammer and Roy Williams were all top-10 picks. The best pick? Probably Ed Reed by Baltimore at No. 24. So while Carr never really panned out, no one else really did much either.

Back to 2014. The Texans need a quarterback. There are several good prospects they could select, including Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater. They could take a talent like Jadeveon Clowney.

Or they could go with Michael Jordan.

I’m talking about Johnny Manziel, who is the equivalent of Jordan when it comes to draft stock among all eligible players.

93c3c52e87ff4d5c989cd2bf64107b4aYes, I said that.

Manziel is a winner, plain and simple, and simply has the most upside of any quarterback drafted in the last decade. If you aren’t convinced yet, you either haven’t been paying attention or you’re letting your love of burnt orange cloud your judgement. Either way, you’ll soon understand.

Johnny Manziel will be the No. 1 pick in the draft, either by Houston or Cleveland, which has enough picks to put together a tempting deal to trade up and get him. It would be hard to blame Houston if they are offered a package that includes two (or more) No. 1 picks and several other round selections. Make no mistake about it – the Browns will make a run at the No. 1 pick so they can select Manziel.

Why? Because they get it.

YQAKYFLFBYJHDKO.20131013023835Players like Johnny Manziel don’t come around very often. Ask San Francisco when their best option (so they thought) was Alex Smith. Or Oakland when they took JaMarcus Russell. And Houston is looking in the mirror about Carr from 2002.

That’s why I think Houston should stick to their guns and take Manziel. One could argue that if they should jump at any chance to draft Bortles with the No. 4 pick and get significant value in other picks via a trade with Cleveland. I still say no.

Would you trade Tom Brady? Would you deal Aaron Rogers? How about Drew Brees? All are top-notch franchise quarterbacks. Again, if you don’t think Manziel is, you’re about to be proven wrong.

This is a quarterbacks league, and teams with the best ones win. A lot.

What’s that? Manziel’s too short? He’s the same size as Drew Brees and taller than Russell Wilson. You say Manziel’s style of play will get him killed in the NFL? Did you watch him this season? He stayed in the pocket most of the time and only took off for positive yardage when absolutely necessary.

And if you’re honestly still doubting his leadership ability and connection with his teammates, I suggest you go re-watch the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in which Manziel was the best player on the field and was even better on the sidelines as the heart and soul of the team. And I can’t wait to see what teams say about him after they get a chance to interview him. Manziel will blow them away with his knowledge and ability to connect with people.

Manziel is a tremendous player with a passion for winning. It’s honestly his best quality. Sound like someone who used to play for the Bulls back in the day?

ncf_a_johnnymanziel_ms_300x300I’m not saying that Johnny Manziel is going to become the all-time best player in NFL history and win six titles. But he has the ability to be one of those few players who can blaze a trail for his team and leave a lasting legacy (like Jordan).

I’ll say this – I wouldn’t bet against Manziel. So don’t blow it Houston. If you thought the riots in Cleveland were big when LeBron left, wait until you see what they do when they win their first Super Bowl with #2 under center.

But hey, you’ll always have Blake Bortles and some decent players along your O-line. And of course the memory of David Carr to keep you company.

Portland’s counting on it. After 30 years, they want someone else to be the butt of the jokes.

Rob Scichili

Rob Scichili (shick-lee) has worked in professional sports for over 24 years in PR and communications, including time with the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks,, Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks. A journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he is co-owner and editor at ScoreboardTx, principal at Shick Communications and VP at Franchise Sports & Entertainment while serving on the board of the Mike Modano Foundation.

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