AFC South: Geoff Kaplan
My two favorites: Seth Wickersham on the construction and adaptation of a game plan and Ryan McGee on the life of a trainer.
Wickersham’s interviews subjects included defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and quarterback coach Greg Knapp, who talked about what they look for and how they piece together a plan.
“After Phillips has a bead on an opponent's tendencies, he seeks tendencies within tendencies. Prior to this game, he finds a doozy: Pittsburgh has called passes 28 of the 30 times it has used "11" personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers) from the shotgun. As tells go, that's huge. He can use that.
“Of course, pressing (Ben) Roethlisberger is one thing; bringing him down is another. The QB has made a career of fleeing the pocket, lumbering about and firing to receivers from a windup so slow it's as if he's holding a dumbbell. Phillips learns from video that Steelers receivers have a standard reaction to Big Ben's scrambles: Those running short routes turn upfield; those running long routes circle back to Roethlisberger. The Texans' answer will be their "Plaster" defense. As soon as Big Ben runs, Houston's secondary will shove the nearest receiver to the ground, and if the wideout is near the sideline push him out of bounds -- both legal tactics, as long as the quarterback is outside of the tackles. It's a revealing tenet to this week's game plan: The Texans, used to being pushed around, believe they can manhandle the Steelers.
You know the Texans won the game with a physical effort, but read the piece for how they fared on the specifics they talked about heading into the game.
McGee had access to Geoff Kaplan, starting off with a great description of how the Texans' head trainer watches a game.
“As happens on every play, the snap of the ball had launched his eyes into a scan of the field. They never follow the ball. Rarely do they look above the players' belt lines. When everyone else is turned to track a run or a reception, Kaplan remains focused on the line of scrimmage, making sure all of the timbered linemen get up off the ground. He watches knees and ankles. He looks for drooped shoulders, unusually heavy breathing -- any sign of injury. On this play, Kaplan's eyes had whipped toward (Andre) Johnson just as the 6'3", 226-pounder crumpled without being hit.”
And McGee got to follow the Johnson story beyond game day, offering more detail about the injury Johnson’s due back from when the Texans resume play Nov. 27 than I’ve seen anywhere else.
“The MRI (two days later) identified a hamstring strain, and as Foster was nearly two months earlier, Johnson is ordered to begin platelet-rich plasma therapy. PRP is an injection of blood plasma that contains huge amounts of bioactive proteins, created by using a small amount of Johnson's own blood. It won't directly repair the injury, but it will prevent excessive scar tissue from building up around the injury as it heals.”
I forgot "The Price is Right."
In writing a lot about Steve McNair this week, I never did a good job of hitting on how fun and funny he was. And so on a day when I will join a large crowd at his memorial and post several somber entries from it, I thought a lighthearted post would be a good way to start the day.
|AP Photo/Wade Payne|
|Steve McNair had a front-row seat to Kevin Dyson's trip down the sideline during the Jan. 8, 2000 "Music City Miracle."|
McNair's incredible affection for the game show was one of the funniest, most bizarre things about him. He built his day around "The Price is Right" when he could, and told us of how the TV he was allowed to watch as a kid was limited, but the game show made the cut.
He loved Bob Barker. I'm not sure how he felt about Drew Carey. I am sure I wouldn't want to go against McNair guessing showcase prices.
As Jeff Fisher spoke about McNair at a press conference Monday, he made reference to the stark contrast between McNair's intense competitiveness and his affection for "Gunsmoke," "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Walker, Texas Ranger."
McNair loved to joke around.
With equipment men like Paul Noska and Joey Barranco, with trainers like Brad Brown, Don Moseley and Geoff Kaplan, with public relations people like Robbie Bohren, William Bryant and Dwight Spradlin, with community relations personnel like Bob Hyde and with security staff like Steve Berk, McNair was always playfully difficult.
They'd all get grief from him, he'd pretend to be reluctant to help them out, but in the end he'd grin and do just what they requested of him. Still, the next time, he'd convincingly sell himself as difficult again, they'd buy it again, and the cycle continued. He found it thoroughly entertaining.
The picture with him in the background, on the sideline as Kevin Dyson ran by for the Music City Miracle is considered a Nashville classic. McNair's look of wonder is pretty funny, and it's easy to think in the next frame, his eyes could have popped out of his head.
He was also a big presence in a game that was rampant among players back in the late 1990s.
In "Morra" players threw fingers of one hand at each other, as if they were "shooting it out." As they did so, each declared, in Italian, what the total of the two hands would show (between two and 10), and scored a point for correct predictions. First to four won the game.
I wrote about Morra for The Tennessean in 1997 -- a story that's nowhere to be found online. In a home-office cabinet, I have five boxes of clips and I knew it was in one of them. Sure enough it was -- in the bottom of the fifth box.
Here are two paragraphs from that story done during training camp that I've always remembered:
"Whenever [McNair] throws a four, the next number he throws is a five," [receiver Malcolm] Floyd said.
"See," said McNair, "I'm so good they're scouting me. They have people in the dorms taking pictures of me playing."
Later, after a win streak against Eddie George, George returned to play McNair claiming he was utilizing a new strategy: "Shaolin."
"Ninja stuff," McNair said. "He needs it."
The Texans have filled their head trainer spot by hiring Geoff Kaplan away from the Tennessee Titans, John McClain is reporting.
Kaplan has worked as an assistant to Brad Brown for the Titans for 14 seasons, which takes him back to their time as the Houston Oilers.
He's drawn raves for his rehab work from big names like Steve McNair during his time in Tennessee.
Kaplan replaces Kevin Bastin, whose contract was not renewed.