CBS analyst Adam Archuleta talks Texans' opener, offseason moves – Houston Chronicle

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CBS analyst Adam Archuleta, who’ll work Sunday’s Texans-Jaguars telecast, has a deep connection with new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, his mentor as a rookie safety in St. Louis.
Entering his ninth season as a CBS NFL analyst, Adam Archuleta has seen various iterations of the Texans through the years.
Come Sunday at NRG Stadium, when he calls the season opener alongside play-by-play man Greg Gumbel, Archuleta says the sight of the team without Deshaun Watson on the field in the wake of his reported trade demand and subsequent legal issues will be jarring.
“Look, that’s one of the biggest stories in the NFL,” Archuleta said. “I think it’s going to be extremely (strange). You just don’t see this ever happen when you have a guy who’s that good, is one of the top quarterbacks, is young and you expect to be there for 10, 15 or maybe 20 years.
“If you went to a game last season, never in your wildest dreams did you think he wouldn’t be here at the start of this season. It’s going to be a very strange feeling because you expect him to be there. But nonetheless, the game is still going to be played. Texans fans are going to have to get used to a new era, I’m afraid.”
When it comes to the Texans’ massive roster overhaul, Archuleta didn’t necessarily see that as a bad thing.
“I think sometimes it’s good to refresh,” he said. “Sometimes the same players get used to being around, it gets kind of stale. I think that kind of happened with Houston and their coaching staff, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“As far as the rebuild goes, I think what they’re trying to do is find out who their core players are. The drafts have been pretty slim the last couple years. Everybody would admit in a perfect world, you want to build through the draft and develop your talent. The Texans don’t have that luxury.”
Archuleta said to expect a more methodical, conservative offense somewhat resembling Texans coach David Culley’s previous employer in Baltimore.
But where Archuleta, an NFL safety for seven seasons, provided greater insight was on the defensive side. He’s quite familiar with new Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, under whom Archuleta played in St. Louis during his first three seasons (2001-03) and then his final year in Chicago after Smith got his first head-coaching job.
When Archuleta was a Rams rookie, the team had a similar wholesale personnel change on defense like this year’s Texans. A common thread in both situations is Smith, whom Archuleta considers a father figure and “probably the most impactful person in my professional life.”
Smith’s unit forced 10 turnovers during the preseason — after the Texans had just nine in all of 2020 —and while Archuleta isn’t a believer in exhibitions portending regular-season results, he expected his old boss to put his imprint on a unit that was one of the NFL’s worst last season.
“The amount of football I learned under him was huge,” Archuleta said. “It formed my identity as a player. So I think the world of him. I think players think the world of him.”
“More importantly, I think what he does and what he understands more so than a huge number of coaches is how to get players seeing the game better and how to maximize your ability so you can go out there and make plays.”
While Archuleta has seen the Texans before, Sunday will mark his first look at Jacksonville’s new duo of coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Both enjoyed enormous college success but figure to endure hard knocks with a team that was 1-15 last season.
“The biggest adjustment they’re going to have to make is they were always (with) the most talented teams,” Archuleta said. “And this is my criticism of college football: their teams getting off the bus were just better than everybody else, by far,. talent-wise from top to bottom. When you have that advantage, then your margin of error (is bigger), right?
“So all signs point to (Lawrence) has got everything it takes to be a great quarterback but you never really know until you get up to this kind of competitive environment. That’s what I’m interested in watching. I think the same thing for Urban Meyer.”
Archuleta has a transition of his own this season. After a four-year run alongside close friend Spero Dedes, Archuleta has been moved up to the network’s No. 4 team with veteran play-by-play man Gumbel. They called the Aug. 29 Dolphins-Bengals preseason game in Cincinnati as a tune-up for the regular season.
“My number one thing is how do we play off each other, how do we make the game as conversational as we possibly can, how do we take the game seriously but not too seriously and not come across as an analyst like you know everything,” Archuleta said.
“I think our first preseason game went really, really well. Greg is super witty, he’s super sharp, he really listens to the analyst and so I came away really encouraged. I think we’re going to have a great season once we get back into the swing of things. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Some advanced stats courtesy of Chronicle sports writer emeritus David Barron: Sunday will mark the 27th Texans game Gumbel will call. They’re 8-18 in the first 26, including 0-4 last season. Archuleta, however, is a talisman of sorts, as the Texans are 5-2 in the seven games he’s called over the years.
Monday Night Football analyst Louis Riddick drew a comparison between the Texans’ offseason approach and what the Patriots did 20 years ago in building their dynasty.
Way back when — or last December — ESPN “Monday Night Football” analyst Louis Riddick was the first candidate to officially interview for the Texans’ general manager opening. The Texans instead opted to double down on being New England South, hiring longtime Patriots staffer Nick Caserio.
Riddick, participating in a teleconference with media this week, said Caserio’s high-volume number of veteran free-agent signings was reminiscent of what his old boss Bill Belichick did in New England early in his tenure.
In the 2001 offseason, Belichick signed an impactful class of under-the-radar signees including linebackers Bryan Cox, Mike Vrabel, Roman Phifer and Larry Izzo, receiver David Patten and running back Antowain Smith, who all played key roles in New England’s stunning Super Bowl win that season (coincidentally against Adam Archuleta’s and Lovie Smith’s Rams).
Of course, those Patriots had an untested backup QB named Tom Brady who’d emerge that season while the Texans’ best quarterback figures to be a weekly healthy scratch this season. But still, the comparison Riddick made in approaches then and now is intriguing.
“You remember back in 2001, these are kind of the some of the things they did there to build up their roster as well,” Riddick said. “Which was getting value-priced free agents, bringing them in and kind of letting them sort themselves out because they were trying to establish a new culture. They wanted to see what guys were willing to sell out and play for the love of the game, guys who could be foundational players in that middle tier of players.
“This is kind of one of those years that kind of falls into the lap of a guy like Nick Caserio with familiarity because New England were value shoppers in the early part of the 2000s when Bill first got started there and Nick kind of knows what that’s like. He’s kind of learned that way of team building. I think that’s something that’s not foreign to him and shouldn’t shock very much that he’s taken that kind of approach.”
Robert Griffin III made his ESPN color commentator debut for last weekend’s Houston-Texas Tech football game at NRG Stadium. His name may not be a catalyst for kind words from some Cougars fans after a biting remark late in the broadcast.
With the Red Raiders putting the finishing touches on a 31-point second half and victory, the camera panned to a forlorn UH fan in the stands. Griffin then said “That fan looked like when I decided to decommit from Houston and go to Baylor. He looked a little disappointed.”
ESPN analyst and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III during Saturday night’s game: “That fan looked like when I decided to decommit from Houston and go to Baylor. He looked a little disappointed.” @dfbarron pic.twitter.com/dQGjzK6H1r
Griffin, then a quarterback from Copperas Cove in Central Texas, followed former UH coach Art Briles to Baylor. He starred in Waco and won the Heisman Trophy in 2011 before being the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. That was his high-water mark before his pro career was derailed by injuries and ineffectiveness.
The Cougars didn’t make out so bad after Griffin’s snub, as Case Keenum set 17 NCAA records while on Cullen Boulevard en route to having his number retired by the school.
ESPN on Tuesday and Wednesday will premiere “Once Upon a Time in Queens,” a new four-part documentary about the 1986 Mets. That might be of interest to Houston fans, as the Astros figure to play a role in the film given their epic National League Championship Series that season against the Mets.
New York won that memorable series in six games, including a 16-inning clincher in Game 6 at the Astrodome that spared the Mets from having to face the virtually unhittable Mike Scott in Game 7. Here’s hoping the Amazins’ infamous dust-up that season with Houston police at Cooter’s is chronicled in the film.
These T-shirts were sold after four Mets players got into an altercation with a pair of Houston police officers at Cooter’s in July 1986.
Announcer teams for this weekend’s college football games of regional interest: Dave Ryan and Aaron Murray will call Houston-Rice on CBS Sports Network; Joe Davis and Brock Huard will call Texas A&M-Colorado on Fox; Joe Tessitore, Greg McElroy and Katie George will call Texas-Arkansas on ESPN, Shawn Kenney and Ryan Leaf will call Texas Southern-Baylor on ESPN+; Mark Neely and Brandon Jacobs will call Stephen F. Austin-Texas Tech on ESPN+, Kevin Brown and Hutson Mason will call California-TCU on ESPNU; Ted Emrich and Stanford Routt will call North Texas-SMU on ESPN+; Mike Morgan, Charles Arbuckle and Taylor Davis will call McNeese-LSU on ESPN+/SEC Network+; Alex Faust and Petros Papadakis will call UTEP-Boise State on FS1 (on Friday). …
Starting with Thursday afternoon’s “NFL Gameday Kickoff,” the NFL Network will broadcast from its new studios located at NFL Los Angeles, which is at Hollywood Park adjacent to Sofi Stadium, the home of the Rams and Cardinals and site of this season’s Super Bowl. The new digs include 74,922 square feet of studio and studio support space for the NFL’s television and digital media ventures.
Greg Rajan is the senior editor for Texas Sports Nation, the Houston Chronicle’s sports website, and also curates the daily TXSN newsletter and writes about sports media. He joined the Chronicle in January 2015 as the online sports editor. He previously worked as the sports editor at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. He led that sports section to three Associated Press Sports Editors top-10 national awards and his work has been honored by APSE and the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors. He also has worked at the Austin American-Statesman and Temple Daily Telegram.
He is a graduate of Southwest Texas State University and Bowie High School in Austin.

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