, Port Arthur, Texas

October 19, 2013

West column: Wade Phillips lauds Charles as NFL's "most explosive"

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Jamaal Charles couldn’t possibly have a bigger admirer among rival NFL coaches than Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Phillips, whose defense has allowed the fewest yards of any NFL team, says the Texans’ focus today in Kansas City will be heavily on the man who is second in the NFL in combined rushing and receiving yards.  “Jamaal is the most explosive back in the NFL,” he said. “Adrian Peterson is the most powerful, but Jamaal is such a special and unique player with his combination of speed, moves and strength. You just don’t find many backs like him. Using him the way they do in the  passing game puts a lot of pressure on a defense. One other thing I’ll say about Jamaal, he’s a terrific person. I’ve been aware of him for a long time because of his Southeast Texas background and I really appreciate his class and character.”  . . . Phillips, incidentally, is in the unique position of being able to compare Port Arthur’s two greatest running backs — Joe Washington and Charles. His defenses went up against Little Joe in both college (Oklahoma St, Kansas) and in the NFL (Houston Oilers). “I have to give an edge to Jamaal because he’s got some of the same moves that Joe had, but he’s bigger and faster,” Phillips said. “Jamaal has been better at every level because of his great speed. But I give Joe an edge for his ability to make people miss. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy who could do that as well as Joe. It was so hard to tackle him. His quickness and ability to cut on a dime was incredible. If he hadn’t had so many knee injuries, no telling what he’d have accomplished.” . . . Charles, by the way, after breaking Washington’s Port Arthur schoolboy rushing record, has now surpassed his NFL rushing total. Little Joe finished with 4,839 yards. Jamaal is at 5,011 and counting. Don’t be surprised if you hear Jim Nantz mention that on CBS’ telecast of the Texans-Chiefs game.

    It’s hard to envision Nolan Ryan not turning up in some capacity with the Houston Astros, after being more or less shoved out the door as the Texas Rangers chief executive. Ryan, a victim of Ranger GM John Daniels’ power grab, will probably want a little time to recharge his batteries, but it’s going to be difficult for him to stay away from baseball for too long. Houston, with his son Reid as the team president, and his past ties to the Astros, is  an almost too-perfect fit for a return. Astros owner Jim Crane, who needs any kind of public relations boost he can get, would be foolish not to bring him on board in some capacity. It wouldn’t be just a PR ploy, either. Ryan proved with the Rangers what a shrewd baseball man he is . . . There was good news and bad news for Dallas Cowboys fans in a recent Harris poll to determine the NFL’s most popular team. The good news was that the Cowboys retained their spot as No. 1, a position they’ve held through thick and thin — mostly thin — since the first poll in 2007. The bad news is that owner Jerry Jones will take the vote as an endorsement for what he’s doing as an owner and continue to make Jethro-minded decisions that keep the Cowboys locked in mediocrity . . . Here’s some more good news for the Cowboys. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hinted last week at the possibility the NFL playoff field could be expanded to 14 teams as early as 2015. It’s a terrible idea because it opens the door for 8-8, maybe even 7-9 teams to make the playoffs. Like I said, good news for the Cowboys.

    Don’t write the Texans cause off as hopeless today in Kansas City, just because rookie Case Keenum is making his first start at quarterback, and the 6-0 Chiefs have the NFL’s least QB friendly defense. KC is probably the least feared 6-0 team ever because it’s been so limited offensively. For the most part, it’s Jamaal Charles or bust for the Chiefs and opposing defenses are ganging up on the Memorial ex more and more. If Keenum can avoid turnovers, and Arian Foster has some success running the ball, the Texans will have a chance . . . When Keenum takes his first snap, he’ll become the 10th quarterback from a Texas high school to start an NFL game this season. I haven’t seen anything on whether that’s some sort of record, but you have to think it is and probably was at about five or six. Two interesting sidebars to the Lone Star QB numbers are that six of the 10 left the state to play college football and none of them played for the University of Texas. Keenum set passing records for the University of Houston, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill was an Aggie, Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton came from TCU and Washington’s Robert Griffin won the Heisman at Baylor . . . It’s never too early for an NFL mock draft and the one put out by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke recently is top heavy with Texas A&M players. He  has offensive lineman Jake Matthews going No. 6 to the St. Louis Rams, QB Johnny Manziel at No. 10 to Philadelphia and wide receiver Mike Evans No. 17 to the Cleveland Browns. The only real surprise is Manziel going as high as No. 10, but Eagle coach Chip Kelly’s offense would seem to be perfect for him.

    Congratulations to Nederland and Port Neches-Groves for delivering a 90th edition of Mid-County Madness Friday night that will go down as one of the more memorable games in a lengthy series that hasn’t always lived up to the hype. Nederland needed an incredible break — PN-G being offside on a Bulldog punt late in the game — to win, but I give the Larry Neumann’s outfit credit for an impressive drive after the penalty. It was an awfully tough loss for a PN-G team that played a masterful second half until the penalty-aided final drive. Just a reminder, the game can be seen at noon today on the Time Warner Sports Channel. The video is already posted on  . . . The Southland Conference, as part of its 50th anniversary celebration, is letting fans participate in the voting to select its All Time Football Team. Latest round of the voting is focused on wide receivers, and three former area schoolboy stars are among the finalists. Included are Lincoln ex Patrick Palmer, who was the SLC Offensive Player of the Year in for Northwestern State in 1996; Hamshire-Fannett’s Flip Johnson, the 1986 receiving and all-purpose yardage leader for McNeese State; and South Park’s Johnny Fuller, who was a first team All-SLC selection at Lamar in 1966 and 1967 and was taken in the fourth round of the ‘68 draft by the 49ers. South Park, for you latecomers, was a school in Beaumont that closed in the mid 1970s . . . . The University of Missouri has $41 million reasons to no longer harbor harsh feelings toward the University of Texas for its arrogance and heavy-handed tactics that led to the school joining Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M in leaving the Big 12. Research by graduate students in the school’s College of Business  revealed the total economic impact from athletic events in Missouri’s first year in the Southeastern Conference was an increase of $41 million over the final year in the Big 12. On behalf of my friends in Missouri, thank you Deloss Dodds. You are back on the Christmas card list.

    Along those lines, one of the funniest stories coming out of the buildup to last week’s Texas-Oklahoma game was a Dallas Morning News piece about how UT decision makers are increasingly preoccupied with Texas A&M’s success since moving to the Southeastern Conference. What the Aggies have accomplished on the football field, with record fund raising and through massive media exposure, at a time when the Longhorns are struggling, has reportedly caused a bit of paranoia. “What they are concerned about is that we’re going to lose this kind-of war to A&M,” a UT source told the Morning News . . . One of the interesting numbers coming out of Texas’ upset of Oklahoma last weekend was a comparison of how the Longhorns have fared against ranked teams during different parts of the Mack Brown era. From 2004-2009, UT was a dominant 20-3 against ranked opponents. Saturday’s victory over the Sooners lifted the Longhorns to a pitiful 4-13 in 17 meetings with ranked foes since 2009 . . . Texas A&M isn’t missing out on any opportunities to cash in on its recent good fortunes in football. With plans to resurface Kyle Field after the 2014 season, the school announced it will sell chunks of the current playing field. A 450 square foot pallet will go for $400, while a limited number of single, small squares of the grass tromped on by Johnny Manziel and company can be purchased for $20.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at