Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 6/28/12

Yesterday, Texans 101 looked at the organizational structures of both the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys, showing how Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wears too many hats to the detriment of his franchise. In contrast, the Texans have a standard chain of command and have worked together to form an effective front office. Now it’s time to take a look at how that translates to the on-field product. Both organizations have demonstrated they have a blueprint for constructing their rosters, yet each has a very different philosophy.

 

As pointed out in yesterday’s article, Jerry Jones loves flashy players at flashy positions. Jones has a history of getting fixated on players with tremendous athletic ability that carry some off the field issues. This probably stems from his early days with Dallas when Jimmy Johnson was the coach and the team won three Super Bowls in four years. The team was loaded with troublesome talent, but just as he did at the University of Miami, Johnson was able to keep his players in line and win football games. Jerry Jones has seemingly tried to duplicate that design by signing players like Terrell Owens and Pacman Jones while drafting problem players such as Quincy Carter and Dez Bryant. 

Jerry Jones is also enamored with skill positions, frequently overlooking the impact his offensive and defensive lines can have on a football game. When he was letting Jimmy Johnson run the show, Johnson assembled one of the greatest offensive lines ever, propelling that offense and in particular played a huge role in Emmitt Smith’s climb to the top of the all-time NFL rushing yards list. Up until the 2011 draft, Jerry Jones had never used a first round draft selection on an offensive lineman. That’s 22 years he choose not to address his offensive line with an elite first round talent. 

In recent years, the lack of talent on both the offensive and defensive sides of the line has become more and more noticeable. Offensively, the Cowboys have struggled to consistently run the football and when it comes to the pass game, one almost feels bad for Tony Romo, who is forced to run for his life every time he takes a snap in an obvious passing situation. To throw Romo a bone, he might be the most mobile quarterback in the pocket, because otherwise he would get crushed. Defensively speaking, the lack of defensive line and pass rushing help is glaring. By spending several draft picks on the secondary (mostly busts), Jerry Jones ignored the most obvious way to stop the opponent’s passing attack, rushing the quarterback. Yes, they have Demarcus Ware, who could very well be the best pass rusher in the game, but past him they have very little and frequently give the opposing QB plenty of time to dissect their porous secondary. Truth is, they probably could win that what they had in the secondary in past seasons if they followed the blueprint of their division rival New York Giants. The Giants also have an underwhelming secondary, but have won two Super Bowls in four seasons because their pass rush is second to none.

Jerry Jones would rather build a team from the outside in, loading up first round picks on guys like Dez Bryant, Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins to name a few of the more recent guys. Since 2000, Jones has used exactly one first round draft pick on a defensive lineman and one on an offensive lineman. 

Now to the Texans. They clearly do not have the same kind of history as Jerry Jones does, Jones has been the owner of the Cowboys for 23 years, the Texans are entering their tenth season as a franchise. What the Texans do have however is a recent history under the Rick Smith/Gary Kubiak regime of building a team in the opposite direction, from the inside out. Since their first draft together in 2006, Smith and Kubiak have used 18 of their 54 picks on either the offensive or defensive lines, many of which were high round selections. 

The offensive line is where Smith and Kubiak have clearly left their imprint. Arguably the best unit in the NFL, the Texans rushing attack has been among the top five in the league the past two seasons. RB Arian Foster is the NFL’s leading rushing over the past two season. The Texans’ brass understands that offensively everything starts up front for them. They have a clearly defined offensive strategy, run the football effectively and utilize play action passing when the defense gets caught up trying to stop the run. For a team to successfully run this type of offense they need linemen that can both run and pass block, guys that control the line of scrimmage and dominate their assignment on every play. The Texans have done an excellent job of finding these linemen and continue to replenish the group and add depth when needed. 

A lot of the defensive line credit could be given to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, entering his second year with the Texans. When Phillips joined the coaching staff, he brought with him his 3-4 defense and the clearly defined prototypes at each position. The past two drafts have seen the Texans load up on the front seven, most notably DE J.J. Watt who burst onto the scene last season as a rookie. Moving incumbent D-linemen Antonio Smith to a 3-4 DE and Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell to true NTs has paid off for the simple, blitz happy Phillips defense which puts the linebackers in the limelight. The play of the three D-linemen upfront allows the linebackers to run free and make plays, as is the design of the defensive scheme. Like the Cowboys, the secondary isn’t spectacular, but like the Giants the Texan pass rush often masks their deficiencies. 

Aside from being built inside out, the Texans never seem to have any locker room issues reported, a far contrast to their Texas counterparts. The Texans employ high character players who make playing football their priority. There are no reality shows, no media drama, just hard work and a dedication to Texans football and each other. 

So there you have it. On the one hand, you have the Jerry Jones Cowboys, flashy players on a team that is build around playmakers and not at its core. They don’t control the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, you have the Texans, a group effort to assembling a team that is centered on solid line play and high quality men. The Texans have built the foundation of their team to guarantee success for years to come the old fashioned way, by dominating the opposition at the point of attack. There of course is merit to building a team on the outside in a league that is increasingly pass oriented, but controlling game on the line, if done properly, will always lead a team to victory. 

For now, the Texans remain superior to the Cowboys. Jerry Jones has recently had an apparent shift in philosophy, finally addressing his offensive line woes. But for now they’re still rebuilding in that dynamic of their team. The Texans will continue to follow their own formula as successes continue to pour in. 

Tomorrow will be an analysis of two very different coaches that have ties to both the Texans and Cowboys. They would be a comparison between defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and head coach Wade Phillips. Just a quick spoiler, but the Texans employ the better coach. 

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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