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The real John McClain: A diehard scenario for Ravens is exactly what Texans have planned with Stroud


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Legendary Houston sportswriter John McClain tells Nestor what makes this new Texans squad dangerous for the nine-point favorite Ravens in this frozen AFC Divisional Playoff.


texans, astros, houston, game, ravens, franchise, team, coach, john mcclane, win, stroud, nestor, playoff game, season, football, fans, good, played, quarterback, oilers


Nestor Aparicio, John McClain

Nestor Aparicio  00:01

Back at W and St. Towson, Baltimore and Baltimore positive. We are getting up on the radio row week. We’re not going to the Super Bowl, we are having a promotion for crabcake row called a cup of soup or bowl and we’re doing it for the Maryland Food Bank, beginning of February 5 will broadcast live eight hours a day, five days a week, five different places including Costas where I’m wearing my Costas shirt that will be on Tuesday. At some point. We’ll get this guy. They’ll pull him out of Texas up here to Maryland. We’ll make him an official Marylander will get him a bumper sticker for his car, and we’ll get him some appropriate crabs and crab cakes. But for now, he’s down there with his Houston Astros and the Houston Texans that he covers and covered the Houston Ahlers for many, many many years at the Houston Chronicle. He’s our friend. He is the general of all of us who cover all of these football games welcome John McClane the other John McClane, how do you do at Christmas time when the other John McClane and yippee Kai A’s taken over Christmas, John McClane,


John McClain  01:06

I’ve been getting that Nestor since the movie came out in 1988. And so I’m used to it at one point. At one point I was, as you can imagine, every time I check into a hotel, or anything, anywhere they see my driver’s license. Now they go, John McClane, have you? I’ll say, yes. So you know what I’m going to ask as it is. And I get asked a lot. Is it a Christmas movie? I’d say of course, it’s a Christmas movie. Every old theme is Christmas. He’s going to a Christmas party gets even all the grief but to begin with? Well, it’s a fantastic film. You have made a life in the soil estate. First things first, we’ll get to the Texans. But you would warn me that the Euler thing was coming down the pike right? Everybody knows I was an oiler fan em I think I’m an Oilers fan. Boy then we’re in this put the clothing a couple times this year I thought it was in poor taste all the way around. But more than that, it’s made me less interested in wearing it because every time I put a Titans game on, everybody’s got some Derrick Henry jersey. That looks like Earl Campbell and it just John it’s weird me out and just a weird you out seriously. Here’s the way I look at it. Fans in Houston infuriated media and used and infuriated. I liked it. Because it’s the only place we’d ever see it again. Either they wear it in Tennessee, or it’s never worn it again. I told that cover their team for 20 years Dan Passerini loves it. Warren Moon loves it. Robert Mozelle, Billy White’s his Johnson, the only Euler player who doesn’t like it is Bruce Matthews. And Bruce Matthews, Columbia blue should always belong to Houston. But the problem is Texans can’t wear it. So if all those all Oilers like seeing it, I do and I gotta tell you, I didn’t pay much attention when they weren’t at the Atlanta home game. But when they did against the Texans, they had all Derrick at midfield, and the Oilers in the end zones brought back some great memories. So I’m not like most people in Houston. I don’t have a problem with it. Texans are going to have new uniforms next year. And they’re going to unveil them at the draft. And I think they may have a what they call a an Italian blue stripe on their uniforms. We’ll see if that’s actually gonna going to happen. Well, John, we got a football game here. And listen, I didn’t call you much mean, you know, we had I thought the Orioles would get together with the Astros and the Rangers had other ideas. You’re an astro follower all of your life. But you’ve chronicled football professionally, longer and better than just about anybody that’s breathing at this point in 50 years of doing this thing, this Texan story for teams you’ve covered and you covered running shoot you covered love your blue, you’re covered. Oh, Campbell, appel, all of these teams, the Shaub era when it came there, you still you have ties to the Titans and Mike rabl and everything had happened there. But this Texans team has been fascinating come from nowhere. We I had you on week one. We played the first week of the year. And I thought that’d be among the five worst teams in the NFL this year. I mean, I just thought that because they were last year and how good can you be with the rookie coach and the rookie quarterback? And they’re coming in this week and I know they’re you know, nine point dog or whatever it is. I’ve given them a punch because I’ve watched them play and I’ve watched him improve and when you have a quarterback you have everything. And you’ve seen a lot. Where are you on this? This is this is unique even to you, dude, they start up first. The Mako Ryan’s first season. Oh 202 lost at Baltimore. Then lost here at Indianapolis and since then they’re 11 and five it’s amazing because they lost and Atlanta on appeal go with no time left, lost at Carolina on a field goal with no time left and that’s when CJ Stroud told the media app the game. I would like to have more explosive plays. So you have not only a rookie quarterback and run A good coach. You have a rookie coordinator and play caller in Bobby’s slowing, so he had growing pains too. So from that point until Stroud suffered his concussion they were second in the NFL and plays at 25 or more yards to the 40. Niners and there are advanced amazing Nightblade for left tackles for left guards for centers one right guard and three right tackles and, and their lack of continuity up front in fact the most effective them a lot up until at least their backups who were playing were solidified. And so the offensive lines played better but strategist continues to improve. And the thing that he does best Gore’s he didn’t turn the ball over five interceptions, the best touchdown interception ratio in the NFL, which is amazing because he had dumped the ball off a lot he wants to throw it down the field. He lost tank Dale, his second best receiving threat to Nikko Collins six games ago other receivers Robert Woods Noah Brown. They’ve been in and out of the lineup with the injuries but tight ends have stepped up so he spreads ball around he likes to go down the field 8.4 yard average per tamp amazing for a rookie. So the fact they’re blank now counting a playoff game that they’re plus 12 and turnover differential for regular season they were plus 10 and course Browns had the most turnovers, most interceptions and blackouts and interception machine and it finally caught up to him in that divisional playoff game. But Baltimore’s favorite Baltimore should win no matter what happens. It’s still when people look back. We’ll think it’s a great season with a lot of positivity going into the offseason and I have not been able to say that Nestor since the offseason after 2018 Because in 2009 offseason, even though they beaten buffalo in the playoffs, and they lost to Kansas City after leading 20 poro Bill O’Brien traded DeAndre Hopkins and the negativity cranked up and just continued and so now people love to make Orion’s they love CJ Straub. And if they’re going to have to go super bowl for they would equal to love you blue Wallers but this team is on its way to being the second most popular in our city’s history.

Nestor Aparicio  07:23

You said something you covered football a long, long time and get a feel for these people in Detroit. You know my buddy shorts coach the team bulkiness been up there people I fans and friends of mine that never seen them win a playoff game or you hadn’t seen it since they were 12 years old or whatever. And I think a Cleveland has been sort of the same thing with Flacco did the last couple of weeks and having all that passion and all that energy at Texas, a football state. And you know, Dallas and I know it’s been a little while with Jerry and Jimmy and they did all that a couple of weeks ago trying to make nice but you guys have never won either. Right? I mean, Houston’s a little bit of a poverty city in regard to Superbowl riches and playing in games and having those kinds of football teams we’re on the cusp of maybe doing it for the third time since we got back into the league with a third group of people as the one seed here. Um, you know, Houston has been kind of long suffering right and sort of waiting for this and especially the second time around getting the franchise back just trying to make good on a January I mean, we were you we knocked them out a couple of times, right. I mean, Joe Flacco zero the red jerseys. The all of that that’s happened there. This feels like the best thing that’s ever happened to the Texans. The

John McClain  08:33

first playoff year in 2011 under Gary Kubiak was the best because JJ Watt and interception return for a touchdown a lock guard victory here over Cincinnati in this game that they want Sunday over the Browns was the best since that one because in 2012 they were 12 and four best strikers in franchise history better chance to cinch home field advantage and I blew it at the end even though they beat Cincinnati again and they lost a New England as they did Baltimore the year before Tobago rises last game as attacks was was in that game in Baltimore and and I’m doing a column today that if the Texans could upset the Ravens they Houston whatever team in the AFC Championship game for the first time since the love you blue dollars after the 79 season when they lost a second consecutive championship game to at Three Rivers Stadium. And so what people really be excited about is next season I got a lot of cat money fourth in the league. It’s so interesting as Nestor back when Nick Caserio pulled off his trade to move up to get the third overall pick to get Willie Anderson Jr who has been tremendous to solve their two biggest issues quarterback and an edge rusher. A lot of people kill him because he gave up his number one in 2024 because they said he could be given up one Top three picks. And most people predicted Arizona whatever topic Houston would have to Arizona would get Houston spec. They took Caleb Williams and Marvin Harrison Jr. and be set for a decade. Well, right now, it’s very ironic the Texans beating Cleveland means the Texans last first round pick for Deshaun. Watson will be higher, then the heat will be better than the pick the Arizona got in the will Anderson trade.

Nestor Aparicio  10:28


Well, you can’t predict any of these things. It’s certainly the beginning where At what point did you see the light was Stroud that this is going to be a good pick as opposed to a bad pick a quarterback and I will say David Carr was bad. But But you’ve had these franchise guys come in at various points to say this guy can be a difference maker. We’re gonna be talking about him in the middle of January as being an elite quarterback capable of winning you a Super Bowl quarterback. I

John McClain  10:57

didn’t see it in the first game at Baltimore, even though it was seventh sixth and third quarter before the Ravens broke it open and Stroud took him to a couple of long drives against the Ravens but they ended up and Phil goals but the next game where they got beat here by 11. Bye. Indianapolis eatery for 384 yards because he’s playing catch up in the second half. He turned 490 in the fourth quarter, when college knew he was going to be throwing the ball. That’s the first time I started to think, well, maybe those guys going to be worth a second pick. And then the next two weeks, you know, they were Oh into I’d picked them to win six and I’m like, Why did I pick them so high? So the next two, they win by 20 and Jacksonville and they beat Pittsburgh here but 24 to be two and two and all of a sudden I’m like, aha, that’s why they’ve been so hounding in one offseason program. It wasn’t OTAs one preseason. They didn’t just give him the the starting job. Nico Ryan’s waited too late, even though we all knew he was going to be the starter, but they want him to prove himself and some of the things that people like about Stroud, Nestor this. Remember story, the off season, they had a team party, they had it over at their facility, and I was told that when Stroud got there during the two or three hours of the party, he worked his way around to every table to talk to a player and his wife and the kids to sponsors and everything. And I thought, wow, okay, that’s, I asked him I said, Yeah, right, another rookie do that. No. And then another thing endurance training camp, that defensive coordinator, Matt Burke said every time he’d walk off the field, Straub come up to him and walk with Him and start asking a bunch of questions about this coverage. That coverage, this blitz that Bill has in Jalen Petri, their second year of safety said he’d been out several times, was Stroud to dinner or out of town and all Stroud want to do was talk about football. He want to talk about music and talk more about women. He don’t want to talk to you about the usual things. guys talk about sports. All you want to do was pick Petris brain about ball. And so his decision making and his accuracy are the two things that have been the most impressive about him his unflappability. He’s reminds me of Warren Moon, in his coolness. How Cooley is in a pocket off field interviews, everything.

Nestor Aparicio  13:25

It takes time when a franchise is wounded, right like John I, the Ray Rice thing here and the Wembley knee politically here. I had a guy the other day say I don’t watch the Ravens anymore. Wembley knee. I’m like six years later, seven years later, I guess you’re not watching football anymore in Houston when your quarterback is a sexual predator and gets dealt off. And I’ve had Browns fans battle with Deshaun Watson. And just and I know you’re close with McNair and the family there and everything that went on, and that Steve McNair and Bob McNair from the Houston Texans, that they had some brand issues and brand awareness issues as well. But nothing makes your brand worse than when you’re running back punches your his wife and in a glass elevator and they try to hide it. It takes takes a while and then they’re burning the jerseys. Now they’re honoring and he was the player of the game. He they honored Ray Rice two weeks ago here 10 years changes a lot. But in your case it used to when I saw the fans or the other day I’m thinking, you know, they were all pretty pissed off and a lot of ways and to your point every time I talk to you, it’s easy to be an Astros fan, right they when you go you guy and get into the cheating thing later, I know where you are on now to Vegas and all that. But there are other options, right and the Texans never felt like option number one ever there and the Astros really come on the last decade to be this thing. And the Texans have done some shameful things and to get it all sort of back under into the Civic fold that people want to come out and be supportive. That the kid that the kid being supernatural in that way really helps, right? I mean, he knows everything about it not

John McClain  15:04

no one knew Texans or did shameful things. It was Shaun Watson. And the fact he will never get honored here like Ray Rice has been by the Ravens it will never happen here. And one of the reasons people are so bitter for him, they finally had a franchise quarterback. He was great in 2020. And every way the team wasn’t, but he was and then for right after the season, say wanted to be traded, then those lawsuits started piling up. It was just an incredible controversy. Then you have Bill O’Brien Bill was so disliked here when they won four division titles to playoff games. fans don’t like him Bill went out of his way not not to be liked and not to care. He didn’t embrace anything, but I thought Bill was a good coach. He shouldn’t have been General Manager and and said then the Jackie’s to be shenanigans. So when it McNair’s finally got rid of they had fired O’Brien they got rid of Easter B and then they fired Lovie Smith and love he should have been fired because he had an offense coordinator pep Hamilton at worst offensive scene in Houston. And so then when they interviewed a bunch of really impressive coaches around the league, Shane Steichen, they they Ben Johnson, but when it Callum Hannah McNair, they wanted to make Oh, but they don’t make the general manager do things. And when they had their resume with him initially and Caserio, they all finish the interview and the Zoom cut off and Caserio turned to them and said we gotta get to make our air and we can’t let him leave and a millionaire’s win because they weren’t going to make him dig in but it’s all worked out so well like Nick Caserio has done a fabulous job of rebuilding his franchise tore it down that passed the studs to the foundation and built back up and then to make nares they put their there was decision is believing in people and listen people like Bill O’Brien and and Caserio was one of the people recommended Jackie’s to be to O’Brien because they’d all been he’d been to New England with him, but right now, because stereos done a great job to be a candidate for executive of the year to make a probably going to lose to Stefanski coach of the year but he’s deserving Stroud of course for offensive rookie of the year but people hear so excited about this franchise, and Astros haven’t done much in the offseason. They haven’t made any hires. They about what they just announced today. Kendall Graveman was relievers. They were planning on just had shoulder surgery, nothing and why are you getting shoulder surgery now done for the season? Contracts expired? Hector Neris Phil Maytime Ryan Stanek, all those guys played a big role in winning a World Series Two years ago and going to the championship game, the ACLS ALCS again, and narrow as they they they had this budget, Jim crane won’t overpay but their bullpen is going to be earning. And while I’ll see everything that’s going on with the Orioles when Michael is doing exactly what happened here to rebuild that franchise. It’s it’s gonna be so much fun to watch them but right now at this moment. We used to be a football town forever and the Astros took it back over right now. Everybody’s talking about the Texans they’re not talking about the Astros because there’s been no reason to talk about the Astros for months and as Crozer you know, pitchers and catchers report across the league next month, but people here are all football so we’re not gonna get the Texans taken over as a football town again anytime soon. Because the Astros have been so consistent, but first time Nestor in a long time, I can feel the landscape changing a little bit. Well,


Nestor Aparicio  18:55

how do they win? I mean, you know, they’re, they’re gonna be a 10 point dog by the time the whole thing gets going here. You know, I talk to everybody about the ravens and it’s been a long time I’ve been doing this 32 years, man, I haven’t we’ve never been here like this where we’re expected to win the Super Bowl the hunted the MVP, the best players the horrible shine of the national championship in the cheaters in Michigan and he’ll have a job by the end of the week. And hardball is about to really have is Billick used to say to me bringing a U haul to the back of my office and hauling all the coaches out because it feels like it’s a now or never with the Ravens they’ve been so good this year contracts where they are mad a BK Patrick Queen all these guys are gonna wind up not being able to afford Odell Beckham had a lot of free agents, but they’re gonna lose coaches soon and hey, you know this better than anybody why distractions when you’re interviewing for five or six jobs in a week even on Zoom? If you’re Mike McDonald this week,

John McClain  19:53

Bobby slow is doing the same thing or offensive coordinator. I guess he is you can and he’s had four teams reached out to him so far. Talking about Lamar Jackson, he gonna be MVP for the second time he needs to win another playoff game. Now that’s a very important if you want to be considered among the elite of all times you gotta start winning playoff games and something I’m curious about is who the Texans allow spying on him? And can they even do a reasonable job of doing that? But Texans defense has been good. The Ravens should win his game I predicted they’ll win his game. But the tags as long as they don’t get blown out and the Texans are not saying that. I’m saying there’s a somebody governing the team. And I’m speaking I know for the for the media and the fans. They’ll be disappointed if the Ravens win, but about a week, they’ll look back on his season and where they should have been rejected bait. And it will be one of the most exciting seasons in the history of Houston spores, like the Astros and 15 came out of nowhere, beat the Yankees in a wildcard game for the loss. That’s kind of the situation it reminds everyone of

Nestor Aparicio  21:05

remember meeting Tamika? Ryan’s, you know, I sort of remember every time I met a raven player for the first time after a draft or Hi, how are you what that is, I mean, to think that he would be a real shaping guy for this franchise all these years later, you remember was a puppy I’m sure

John McClain  21:23


met him the day after he was drafted. Whereas lager was situated in the locker room, and he was always there. He didn’t run and I and I remember about three years and I told him, I said, you know, you’re sounding more and more like a coach, he might want to think about coaching when your career is over. Like I told Eric Winston, I see you as like a broadcaster in Indy glue. You sound like a broadcaster and some guys that have done that. But in to make those gates he just sounded like a leader, a coach the way he broke things down. And I’ll tell you an interesting story. Two years ago, Texans ended up they played late in the season in Santa Clara and I call him did a column on him where he was people are just starting to talk about a buzz and being a head coach. And he did an interview and then came back said I need another years coordinator. That’s what they’re hoping Bobby slow could do here. Nate believe I got to get a second year as a coordinator. But anyway, so last year the Texans opened. The first game done on Amazon on Thursday night was here against the 40 Niners and I went over and hung out outside the Niners locker room say hello to Coulson and he and a bunch of the coaches like to make under Miko came up shook hands on me. I said let me let me be the first to congratulate you said what I said I’m being an NFL head coach next year. And he’s Oh, man, I’m a long way from that. I’d say you might think you are. But you aren’t. You’re gonna be a coach. I just wish I had said here.

Nestor Aparicio  22:52

Well, in the case of Houston and for what that is, I mean, they recognize all of this right? It’s been easy and familiar to come back to for a playoff game this week, because they this has been dangled in front of them but but not this angle with Deshaun. Watson to your point was probably one of the reasons people were so angry because that could have been a very good thing you felt like you might have been in the cover and five to eight years of good football. The way we’ve had it here the way maybe we feel about baseball here now that once you get those pieces together, this has probably been a very, very heartening four months of time for you. Because you probably thought this was years in the making this this wasn’t something that was going to turn around quickly right. Now

John McClain  23:30

the longer and longer you suffer, the more the more you like to celebrate the louder you celebrate. And and the thing about the Ravens because of Jackson, they’re an exciting team. Yeah, they run the ball lot. They lead the NFL in rushing but when you watch the ravens, you can’t take your eyes off of Lamar because you don’t know what he’s gonna do. He didn’t know what he’s gonna do. And that’s kind of the way it is dry out and he doesn’t run like Jackson he could if he needed to not like Jackson, but he could be a threat at running but he wants to throw the ball down and feel but every time he drops back you kind of hold your breath because you want to see what he’s going to do and some of his passes the pinpoint accuracy is breathtaking and so that’s the thing is they’re exciting teams are some teams pretty good and they’re not exciting. But man these two teams are and I can’t wait to see them square off up at m&t Bank Stadium and and I I picked the Ravens before the season on every all my weekly 18 shows, podcasts and TV. And the reason I did it was because I wanted to be different nobody else was now like to say oh yeah, I saw this, this this. I knew Lamar is gonna stay healthy for the first time in three years. But I did it. And so now if the Ravens win at all, I’ll get a lot of good recognition because I picked them when they beat Niners that year, and I got a lot of good attention out of that. But this one, I didn’t do it because of any insight. I did it just Just be different. And so if the Ravens beat Texans I want the ravens to win the Super Bowl song brag a little bit,

Nestor Aparicio  25:08

John McLean’s, we’re doing it for five decades down in Houston, Texas back from the Oilers to the Texans. And of course, the Astros. He will be voting on the Pro Football Hall of Fame coming up this week as well. So at some point, you know, I’m not doing the radio row thing in Vegas. I’m doing this crabcake row thing and whatever. But we could sit here and go at it all, like, give me the plugs for what you’re doing with your life. Because things had been different change and you weren’t the Chronicle for a million years now you do a million different things.


John McClain  25:33

Now, I retired from Houston Chronicle for 47 years, so I get my pension and I can do commercials on my radio station. I write five columns a week for sports radio six No paywall, which is the Texans flagship, and I do six weekly appearances and three podcasts and I still do weekly shows in Nashville, Knoxville, Austin, Waco, San Antonio in Las Vegas. That’s

Nestor Aparicio  25:58

all he does. He’s in semi retirement. Sure, he is John McClane. Do you find a McLean on NFL with the underscores? There’s only one John McClane some people think there’s a different John McClane from the movies. That’s a fictional John, this is a real John McClane down in Texas. Enjoy the game crabcakes with you soon all right.

John McClain  26:17

It’s gonna be a great great setting great football can’t wait. Nestor Thank you very much as always, and

Nestor Aparicio  26:23

then we get to sit around on Sunday night and watch a Josh Allen and Patrick mahomes Shoot him up. Big weekend this weekend looks out knowings mills were doing crabcake row a cup of soup or bowl for the Maryland Food Bank beginning on February 5, they were this were Baltimore

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