One of the non-football related television shows I watch from time to time is a cooking competition show on Food Network called Chopped.
The basis of the competition is that four chefs have only seconds to plan and just 30 minutes to cook up to three courses using a basket of mystery ingredients given to them moments before the clock starts ticking.
Once their dish is completed, the chefs go to the chopping block where they have to present their creation to a panel of finicky judges. One by one, the chefs are sent home, or chopped, until there is only one standing. The winner gets $10,000.
Wade Phillips, welcome to Chopped, NFL style.
Gary Kubiak? He’s your kitchen assistant.
Rick Smith? Bought the groceries.
Bob McNair? Hopeful financier.
Texans fans? We can be the finicky judges – but only if you know something about cooking.
Chef Wade, open your basket of mystery ingredients:
- One player that has experience in a 3-4 (Antonio Smith)
- A bunch of players playing in a new scheme and new positions (everyone else)
- Three sprouts that are expected to add strong flavor (J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and Brandon Harris)
- Two starting LBs, slightly bruised (Barwin and Ryans)
- Seasoning (Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning)
Okay, the clock starts in 3, 2, 1 … Go! (start running around the kitchen and acting like your hair is on fire)
I kid, but there’s really an analogy here.
The Texans have given Wade Phillips nearly all the ingredients he needs to succeed:
- They started with a small nucleus of talent and supplemented it by drafting defense with six of the eight selections in this year’s draft.
- They signed two legit free agents to fortify the secondary.
- They signed six undrafted free agents on defense, and since the rise of Arian Foster I will never again generalize undrafted free agents as ‘camp foddder’ (yeah, I know Foster was an exception but…you never know.)
- They brought in two position coaches, Reggie Herring (LBs) and Vance Joseph (DBs) who are very familiar with Phillips’ 3-4 and are both good teachers.
But Phillips is faced with a serious challenge and that’s to take all these ingredients and whip them into a palatable course in very short order.
I say ‘nearly all the ingredients’ because nose tackle is still a question in my mind and there’s a lack of depth on the defensive line and at linebacker. Ty Warren would be a nice get if there’s any money left.
I hate to keep bringing up my Buddy Ryan’s ’93 Oilers theory, but I will until proven false. It took Ryan a full offseason plus training camp, plus preseason, plus five regular season games before they finally figured out how to run the 43 defense on that bumpy Astroturf next door.
It’s not going to be easy for the Texans with Indy, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and New Orleans on the first six weeks of the schedule.
Give the Texans an ‘A’ for effort so far, but the defense is nothing more than a bunch of tasty looking ingredients right now. Phillips has a major challenge in front of him and it’s time to get cooking. But he needs to whip it up fast and it needs to be good.
Let’s just hope at the end of this competition we don’t hear the words, ‘Chef Phillips, we’re sorry but you’ve been chopped.’