The Gerheim Principle

or: "Holy Crap, Content!"

In case you haven't heard, the Houston Texans (or, as I like to think of them, the Houston Football Astros) recently posted a winning season. For those of you not from Houston, the importance of this event is probably lost on you, but suffice it to say that this in (some small way) makes up for almost two decades of bullshit from Houston's NFL teams (the last time I saw a Houston pro-football team post a winning season? I was five. I'm old enough to purchase liquor now).

Anyways, I was reading Football Outsiders (always a great source of analysis, as well as projections for fantasy football) following the victory, going through their post-game archive, when I came across this:

Tim Gerheim: Oy.  Pollard has really helped the Texans defense this year.  I'm not watching the game (thank you NFL Rewind for the opportunity to watch the Texans lose to an inferior opponent every Tuesday).  He was cut by the Chiefs in preseason or early in the regular season.  I'm starting to develop a theory that, counterintuitive as it may be, adding free agents from bad teams is actually a better strategy than adding them from good teams.  It's just anecdotal, but I can think of several recent examples that worked in both directions - Wes Welker, Deion Branch and David Givens, Leonard Weaver...

Bernard Pollard, as you recall, was the guy who destroyed Tom Brady's knee in Kansas City last year, and he tackled Wes Welker under similar circumstances last Sunday, as well as making a critical late-game interception. For anyone who has paid attention to the Texans this year (and I confess that, for health reasons, I largely stopped watching them after the second Colts game), it should be obvious that Pollard was possibly the best Texans defender in the secondary. Part of that is simply because the Houston secondary is awful, but part of it is because Pollard, as it turns out, isn't bad, either. So I was thinking about Gerheim's comment (adding free agents from bad teams might be a better strategy than adding them from good ones) in the context of the NBA...

The most obvious example of this "principle" (hypothesis) for Rockets fans should be Kyle Lowry (though the Rockets traded for him; I'm going to drop the "free agent" thing from this, simply because trades are more common in the NBA than in the NFL). Fans' reactions to trading for Kyle were largely positive at the time, but that attitude was by no means universal. I remember that one of the main criticisms of the trade was that Lowry couldn't get off the bench in Memphis, so how could he possibly be a good option in Houston?

Well, as it turns out, Kyle has been one of the leaders off the bench this season, and he made some great contributions to the team last season and in the playoffs. He's a good player - he gets to the line, he defends, he passes well, and he rebounds. In fact, he's so good that one could reasonably argue that he is/was better than Mike Conley, the man in front of him in Memphis (this was a sentiment alluded to by a few Grizzlies fans at the time, actually, but that sort of feeling is common among fans, and doesn't really mean much).

Going a little deeper into Rockets' history, Kenny Smith provides another example. "The Jet" wasn't thought of too highly by either the Sacramento Kings (who drafted him, trading him to the Hawks three years later) or the Hawks (for whom he started only five of thirty-three games). Neither of those teams were particularly good in 1990: the Hawks played .500 ball, while the Kings won only 23 games all season.

Kenny came to Houston and flourished. He started at point guard for the Rockets for virtually every game from the '91 season until he was released before the '97 season. Everyone remembers his playoff exploits, but he also lead the league in effective field-goal percentage in 1993, and he was consistently one of the most effecient scorers in the league during his time in Houston.

Really, this sort of thing shouldn't surprise any of us. Bad teams are bad for a reason. Most typically, they're bad because they don't evaluate players properly. They think good players are great players, or that other good players are bad ones, or that scrubs can contribute to a decent team. They give out bad contracts to bad players and don't lock up the players they need to. They trade away or cut players who can contribute. Good teams don't do these things. They evaluate their players properly, and they can see who deserves what type of contract, who can contribute and who can't, etc.

So if a good team simply lets one of their players go, there's probably a good reason for it. If a bad teams does this, there's a decent chance that it's because they've made yet another bad decision. Makes sense.

So here's my question for all of y'all: Are there any other examples of this? On the other hand, is the phenomenon of a bad player on a good team signing an undeserved contract the next season common enough to make us dismiss this "Gerheim Principle?"

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