Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

19 Sep 2005

Texans Fire Chris Palmer

Wow. The Houston Texans have fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer after only two games. Offensive line coach Joe Pendry (who himself was once fired as Dom Capers' offensive coordinator) moves up to take his place. When was the last time a team fired a coordinator only two weeks into the season?

It's stunning, really, how far Chris Palmer has fallen. I remember when he took over the Cleveland Browns and football commentators fell all over themselves to proclaim him the best offensive mind in the game. Now he's out of work. Will another team pick him up as some kind of special assistant? Brian Billick could use another coach on his staff right about now.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 19 Sep 2005

34 comments, Last at 02 Oct 2005, 3:32pm by R.A.H


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:49pm

Just for entertainment value, the Vikings should sign him.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:50pm

Offensive line coach Joe Pendry

What!? You mean the guy that's handling that powerhouse Texans offensive line (surrendering only 13 sacks so far this season!) is now going to handle the entire offense?

See, the Texans are making a serious run after the Vikings to take the "Best Offense in the NFL" crown.

This post brought to you from Backwards World.

by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:51pm

"Will another team pick him up as some kind of special assistant? Brian Billick could use another coach on his staff right about now."

Hmmmm. Houston has been noted for having one of the worst offensive lines in football. Against the Steelers, the running backs barely even bothered to fake blocking assignments.

In sum, Palmer is perfect for the Ravens! Rather than an answer to your woes, find the one guy who has pantomimed the very same experiment with another AFC team!

You only have to play the Steelers twice!

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 2:54pm

Hey, if the Vikings don't show signs of life by Oct. 2, I think Tice may be gone. On the other hand, since the two coordinators haven't shown anything, who'd replace him on an interim basis?

by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:13pm

Only two games?

Um, how about three seasons and two games. I was shocked they didn't let him go after last year. A good move made bad by promoting Pendry, however... Shades of firing Donatell (good move) and brining in Slwoik (horrible move).

by War N Peace (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:29pm

It doubt it's the offensive coordinators fault that their is no one outside of Andre Johnson to catch the damn ball. A friend of mine mentioned this morning... You can stop the Texans easily. 8 in the box, double Andre Johnson. Done.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:33pm

I was commenting on how poor Palmer was as a head coach in Cleveland a few weeks ago. Someone mentioned then that they always wondered if the coach's (Palmer and Reid) fortunes would have been reversed if Cleveland had taken McNabb and Philly Couch in 1999.

I think this is a pretty definitive answer.

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:43pm

I have been wondering why David Carr hadn't been taking any heat for his play. After 3 seasons, I'd say he is still just an average QB.

I was thinking this might be a break out year for Houston for no good reason.

Wrong again!

by Israel (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:51pm

Richie (#8) - Of course you had a good reason. It was their plan to be good in year 4, no? What more could you want for a reason?!

by Tim (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:20pm

Ok, so I watch the Texans every week, and I'm really excited about this. Well, at least optimistic. Almost all of the sacks on David Carr last week (I haven't watched this week closely - I'll get back to that later) were Domanick Davis's fault. But the Texans are committed to Davis after signing him to an extension in the offseason, so they have to design their offense not to expose him as a blocker, which Palmer obviously didn't do in slightly over 2 years. Plus, he's a great receiver out of the backfield, so it makes much more sense to block with TEs and send him out on patterns.

Basically my point is that the offensive line isn't really the problem. They've averaged 104 yards per game, and 4.3 per carry, which is pretty close to middle of the pack, which isn't bad considering they've had no threat of pass and been trailing for about 105 minutes of the season.

Joe Pendry would (probably) have been the offensive coordinator in Miami if the Texans' defensive line coach, Todd Grantham, hadn't been hired as the DC in Cleveland - Capers didn't want to replace both of his line coaches, whom he liked very much. So it's not as though he's some incompetent, best-of-a-bad-situation nobody.

This is nothing like Green Bay's firing Donatell and replacing him with Slowik, because firing Donatell was manifestly a bad decision in the first place, although it was borne out that Slowik was not an improvement (which disappointed me because he's the uncle of a guy that lived down the hall from me in college). The Texans don't have as much of a personnel deficiency on offense as Green Bay did on defense after 2003. They have one of the best young receivers in the game, a quality young quarterback (cf. Harrington, Ramsey) who will probably start playing better and with less frustration after his team has made a distinct effort to improve around him, and a solid young running back, whom KUBIAK loves. Their complementary receivers are nothing special, although I'll bet you see an increase in Derick Armstrong's role, and hte offensive line is, strictly speaking, a question mark, but the bottom line is I think this offense has the capacity to be good, even if it's not great.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:21pm

#8, I have quite a bit of faith in Reid, but you bring up an interesting point. IMHO, McNabb may or may not have developed into an ace QB, but I do think that the Eagles would have still dominated the NFC East. Remember that McNabb missed a lot of time with injury over the years, and his subs did great in his absense. Also, McNabb has only come into his own over the past season. Clearly, Reid hasn't won just because he has a fabulous QB. Rather, it has been mostly because of a strong offense system, and a superior defense.

As far as Couch, would he have been better if he had been allowed to blossom under a QB Coach who actually know what he was doing? Maybe, maybe not. I do think he would have had a better carreer that he ended up having. It's one of those facinating questions which makes football such an interesting sport.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:33pm

It’s stunning, really, how far Chris Palmer has fallen. I remember when he took over the Cleveland Browns and football commentators fell all over themselves to proclaim him the best offensive mind in the game.

well, no actually, the guy who was proclaimed as the offensive genius at that time was the guy the Browns REALLY wanted

(guy by the name of Billick)

the Browns had to (publicly) oversell Palmer's credentials to compensate for the fact that he wasn't their first choice

let's see, who are the current offensive genii?

and where will they be in 6 years?

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:34pm

Notre Dame?

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:52pm

and where will they be in 6 years?
Notre Dame?

are you predicting that Weis will have been fired by then or already retired with 5 National championships?

(to go along with Powlus' 3 Heismans)

by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:49pm

the Patriots are in the market for an offensive coordinator. Chris worked with Belichick on the 1996 PATS team

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:49pm

Supposedly there had been a major Capers/Pendry vs. Palmer ideological split in Texans offensive thinking for a while - Palmer wanted to open out the offense more and throw downfield a lot while Capers and Pendry favoured pounding the football with Davis and throwing a lot of short passes, which is presumably what will now happen

My observations on all this:

1. Throwing the deep ball is what David Carr is best at. Catching the deep ball is what Andre Johnson is best at. A vertical passing game therefore fits our two most gifted offensive players and would in an ideal world open up space underneath for Gaffney and 2004 DVOA leader Armstrong (please God not Corey Bradford).

2. This is not an ideal world. In particular, it is not an ideal world in that while the Houston offensive line may be more-or-less competent at run-blocking, it sucks beyond all human understanding at pass-blocking. The chances of Carr being upright long enough to hit his primary receiver (invariably AJ) down the field are limited. The chances of him having the chance to check one of the other guys when he sees the double coverage on Johnson are what enables snowballs in Hell to tell their children that there are folk in the world who'd think they were lucky to have what they do. In this world, a few more slants and quick outs would probably be a good idea.

3. Offensive line play, more than any other part of the game of football (even kick coverage) is mostly about coaching. If an offensive line coach has spent a significant amount of time with a group of players and that line still sucks, then either he can't coach or the players are really quite staggeringly talentless. Charley Casserly has done quite a bit to convince me that he's good at identifying talent. Joe Pendry has done absolutely nothing to convince me that he can coach. Why, oh why would we promote the guy?

4. Capers now has the O-con he's wanted for some time. Had Palmer stayed in place, then come the end of the season he'd have been the sacrificial lamb if we'd finished with a losing record. As it is, Dom is quite definitely next on the chopping block. Don't suppose that nice Mr Weis would like to come back to the NFL after only 1 year away, would he? Failing that, how about Trgovac? Or Jerry Gray? Maybe Jim Bates.

5. I don't think winning the D'Brickashaw D'erby was what many Texans fans had in mind as the best way of fixing our O-line problems. Fortunately, with the Browns, '9ers and Titans (twice) on the schedule, it probably won't happen.

6. If poor offensive displays against Buffalo and Pittsburgh were enough to get Palmer fired, what has Ozzie Newsome got in store for Jim Fassel and/or Billick? Crucifixion? Stoning? Suspension above a shark tank by means of a piano wire tied around the testicles?

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:49pm

I always find it a bit pretentious to use a Latin plural for a word that has long been assimilated into English. "Geniuses" is a perfectly cromulent word, so why not just use it? Also, doesn't the Latin word for "genius" mean something entirely different anyway?

by BillT (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 6:13pm

Why would anyone fire Palmer? He's an amazing drummer.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 6:22pm

No, I meant that Weiss would still be in Notre Dame. Is he no longer considered a current genius?

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 7:16pm

Actually (and I could well be wrong - A level Latin was a long time ago) I think that Latin "genius" means the same as English "genius" in the sense of 'Gruden's genius lies in his ability to create mismatches in the passing game', but that the Romans never used it in the sense of 'Mike Tice is a genius' (and not only because they lacked a sense of irony and had never heard of Mike Tice, or for that matter, football).

by Nolan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 7:28pm

Geniuses might be a perfectly cromulent word, but it embiggens all of us when people use Latin.

by Melish (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 7:32pm

My dictionary lists genius as "gaurdian spirit (of person, place, or thing); personification of all natural appetites, natural inclination; talent."
That last one seems to cover Shush's use. For "genius" in the more common contemporary sense, they list "ingeniosus."

by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 8:02pm

I've long wondered why when teams come into the league or when teams are so bad they have to blow the damn thing up and start over they always start with a QB or a Wide Reciever.


David Carr hasn't had a chance in Houston. The Texans have only taken 5 offensive lineman in the draft.......ever. And they've only taken 2 in the past three years, and both of those guys were Centers.

How is Carr supposed to do anything? How is anyone supposed to do anything with Chester Pitts and Victor Riley? Just ain't gonna work.

Cleveland did the same thing when they came back. Tim Couch, Kevin Johnson, Dennis Northcutt, Travis Prentice, Jujuan Dawson, Quincy Morgan.....but no lineman.

Maybe i'm just dumb though......

Has anyone seen that commercial where the guy is picking his fantasy football team with Bill Walsh, and the guy can't figure out who to pick and he says "AH MAN, I'M BUTCHING IT."

I almost plotzed.

by Palmer, C (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 8:27pm

It embiggens me to cromulent aloud about the fungibility of ...... what the Tice, I've learnt a bit more about the Texans thanks to Tim and Mr Shush an' that's what it's all about.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 10:11am

Re: 23

I thought he said 'butchering it'??? Did I miss a Butch Davis slam??

Re: 15

That would be interesting. If Palmer could submarine Tom Brady his career would be truly complete.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 12:17pm

Cleveland did the same thing when they came back. Tim Couch, Kevin Johnson, Dennis Northcutt, Travis Prentice, Jujuan Dawson, Quincy Morgan…..but no lineman.
Maybe i’m just dumb though……

well actually, the Browns version II picked several O-linemen the the expansion draft & free agency--Lomas Brown, Orlando Brown, Jim Pyne, etc --unfortunately they all sucked (or were hit in the eye by a flag). The Browns thought that the O line was going to be a strength of the team, and were selected specifically to provide protection for Couch

by MikeB (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 1:13pm

The Texans situation so closely mirrors Palmer's time in Cleveland it is scary. Except it is worse, in a way, because the Texans came closer, sooner to respectability, thus prolonging the damage Palmer has done. David Carr is horrible. Really, he makes Tim Couch look very good. A-John is tough but an above average receiver on a poor team just can't be effective. DomDavis is a nice runner and catcher, but he's not an offensive force and can't block for crap. And there isn't another offensive player worth mentioning. Palmer favors dropping the QB back in the pocket for a long time and throwing downfield. And you just can't do that in the NFL anymore, not as the focal point anyway. Firing Palmer is the beginning of a new beginning in Houston. Next is David Carr.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 4:12pm

"I’ll get back to that later) were Domanick Davis’s fault."

Actually, he has a point. It was the role of Davis to pick up the blitzing safety, and he couldn't, or wouldn't, do it.

That said, the fact that the team can rush block doesn't really mean the O-Line can pass block. They are very different sorts of assignments, often involving different players in the mix.

The Texans are horrible at pass blocking, with many blown assignments and a demonstrated lack of strength and speed against two admittedly elite blitzing teams.

Carr is a good QB. But he's not a scrambling QB. Aaron Brooks, to a certain extent, can compensate for a bad New Orleans line. Garcia, who was brought into Cleveland last year with the same mandate, did his best, but he couldn't work miracles for a bad Browns O-Line.

For the Texans, life in their division isn't going to get any better. The Colts can blitz in Dungy's cover-two as well as anyone, and Jacksonville is very, very strong upfront, and unrelenting.

They have a bye week, and the Bengals aren't as good defensively as they are offensively. Still, Houston is playing on the road.

Right now, I'm not sure Houston will win until Week 8, at home against Cleveland. They might not win another until the last week of the season.

by Greg (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2005 - 5:34am

Everyones talking about the firing of the offensive coordinator. How about that pathetic, laid back HEAD COACH. What the Texans need is swift kick in their butt, not a sweet, gentle librarian like Don Capers!! Don Capers is way to conservitive and the poor sole thinks his running game is worth a flip!! FIRE ALL THE COACHES!! Slap David Carr around and rehire JERRY GLANVILLE!!!!

by ammek (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2005 - 7:22am

How many weeks did Dana Bible last in Ray Rhodes' final season with the Eagles? Maybe not as few as two, but it wasn't many more.

I never rated Chris Palmer, not even with New England; he seemed to distrust Bledsoe, never produced a decent RB, and saved his horriblest games for the biggest occasions (Denver in 96, Jacksonville and Green Bay in the postseason). I can't imagine the Texans will be worse off without him.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 2:07pm

Carl, for the sake of my own sanity, I have to continue believing (for now at least) that reports of the Texans' demise are somewhat exagerated. None of last year's offensive starters (or rotation players, with the exception of passing-down TE Billy Miller) have left, nor are any so old as to make age-related decline a likely reason for a drop in performance - many, on the contrary, are young enough for improvement to have been anticipated. The unit where significant change took place was the D - and neither Buchanon nor the man he replaced, Aaron Glenn, seem to have covered themselves in glory at the weekend, but it's on offense where the most serious problems have arisen, and for now I think I'm going to continue to put at least some of that down to the elite standards of the two defenses faced to date.

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2005 - 8:27pm

I confess that I've only seen the Texans play once this year, Shush. And it was against a very, very good defense.

But it was ugly early and never improved. The line is horrible. And I don't know what Davis was doing out there. It sure wasn't picking up the safety blitz.

The penetration got so bad that Carr decided to scramble left for the sidelines rather than even square up for a pass on third downs.

Just ugly.

The problem for the Texans is that they have some serious line issues and life isn't going to get any better in their division. Jacksonville had a great defense (albeit against fairly weak teams) last year, and it looks pretty good now, too.

That secondary is just plain mean, and they tend to put up a very good four-man rush, letting the opposing QB dare to throw over the middle and beat them. Great zone work, with lots of nice stunts.

The problem is that they've only scored twice this year. I don't think they can out-score the Bengals or Seattle on the road. Tennessee already demonstrated what they can do against a crappy line when they played the Ravens.

Then they get Indianapolis at home. Maybe Cleveland. But Cleveland put up a pretty good rush against the Packers, and they eat up a lot of time on the ground that Carr and this offense will need to try to put up some points.

Then they've got Indianapolis and Jacksonville on the road. If Carr is still alive after being introduced to the carpet of the RCA Dome, then his defense has to contend with the Rams and Kansas City.

They get to play Baltimore on the road, which might showcase the two worst offensive lines in the NFL in one fun Sunday package.

I'm looking at four wins at this point, which is too bad. I think Carr isn't the horrible QB people make him out to be. And the Texans have some decent defenders and a really special WR.

I've never been a big Davis fan, and his inability (or refusal) to block blitzers is a real handicap for a team with no line.

If I were the coach, I'd bench him for Wells. At least he will pick up a blitz.

Bruener isn't the same TE he used to be, but Murphy and Rivers aren't the answer. He's just not the same ploughing TE he was with the Steelers.

McKinney was better with the Colts, too, and he's not getting any younger.

The irony is that the team has a lot of high draft picks, but they're from OTHER TEAMS. You really want to see a team with homegrown talent, learning their trade for a long period of time, not a bunch of free agent fill-ins.

I think this you can lay on the front office.

If you're going to face a 5-11 season, and you've fired your OC, maybe it's time to consider playing, as a team, guys like Wand, Weary, Hodgdon and Brown (Wilford, by the way, is one of the genuinely nicest guys in the NFL, and very, very bright).

The free agent acquisition obviously haven't panned out. So build now. The only problem is that you fear for Carr's life.

To which, I say, why hasn't Ragone become better?

Banks can come in and scramble. Maybe that's all the Texans have to look forward to.

by MDS (not verified) :: Fri, 09/23/2005 - 11:27am

I'm not going to defend the Texans' line or Davis's blitz pickups, but I think everyone is way too quick to absolve David Carr of any blame for all the sacks he takes. Good quarterbacks are supposed to be able to see when the rush is coming and get rid of the ball. Carr has been in the league four years and he still hasn't learned that. He holds on and stays in the pocket too long. He's a pretty good runner, but he often just stands there and takes a pounding.

by R.A.H (not verified) :: Sun, 10/02/2005 - 3:32pm

They need to get rid of the coach, the Texans have too much young talent to play a conservative offense. Conservative defenses are not going to work either. Carr won't be a Brady but I think because of the coach, he has not been able to use his skills to their fullest. Andre Johnson is not going to be able to be fully utilized either with this coach. Pass protection has continued to be awful and this is the fourth season.......Capers needs to go. Capers is not the right kind of coach for this type of group. Carr looks like he does even want to be there and I don't blame him.