Peter King will answer your questions each week in Monday Morning Quarterback: Tuesday Edition.
HOUSTON -- I came here a few days ago in search of the truth about Vince Young for Sports Illustrated. Which I think, at least in a football sense, I've found. More about that later. While here, I stumbled into this Reggie Bush-Mario Williams flap. And I am violating my own ignore-what-they-say-before-the-draft words, just slightly, because of a couple of things I found out.
First the facts. Texans general manager Charley Casserly told me on Sunday that the team has given the agents for Bush and Williams offers, and their responses will help determine which player Houston picks. If one of the players wants several million per year more in a package than the other player, Casserly said that will be a major factor. (Warning! Warning! Take a GM's words at your own risk the week before the draft!) Most of the coaches and scouts of the Texans took Sunday off. Today will be a very big day in this draft process, because Casserly will convene a staff meeting to discuss whether Bush, the USC running back, or Williams, the North Carolina State defensive end, will be the top-rated player on the Houston draft board.
"I can honestly tell you -- honestly -- that we have not made a decision as to who we'll draft with the first pick,'' Casserly said from his Reliant Stadium office shortly after noon on Sunday. (Funny. He said the same thing in person the other day while I sat in his office, punctuating it with, "I know everyone says this is a sham, but I can assure you it's not. We have not decided and I am not saying that for any reason other than it's the truth.'' You mean, any other reason than "I'm trying to leverage one guy against the other"? Leverage, I believe, will be a very big factor in how this deal goes down.)
You decide for yourself whether to believe Casserly. Or whether to believe owner Bob McNair, who told me stridently last week that the pick was up in the air.
Now the factors involved in making this choice, if -- and I stress if -- there is a decision to be made today in the Texans' war room:
1. Money. McNair has come very close to issuing an edict to Casserly that he wants the first pick signed before the draft. If he isn't, a holdout will almost certainly ensue. Look at the facts. The cap rose from $85 million last year to $102 million this year. Agents are going to argue that the money given to draft picks should make a similar 20 percent rise. McNair told me he think a system that pays the first pick so much more than the picks immediately behind it is unfair. Would you expect him to say anything else, holding the first pick? Last year the first pick, Alex Smith of the 49ers, got a six-year, $49 million contract, with $24 million guaranteed. The second pick, Miami running back Ronnie Brown, got five years and $30 million, with about $19 million guaranteed. That's a per-year difference of $2.2 million -- a monstrous gap between the first and second pick. By leveraging one player against the other this week, the Texans might be able to keep the increase over last year's top-pick contract to a minimum.
2. What makes the Texans better in 2006? Contrary to popular belief, McNair told me, there's no pressure on Casserly or new coach Gary Kubiak to pick the guy who sells the most tickets. "I think we'll be sold out this year no matter who we pick,'' he said. And last week, in the draft room, Casserly said a continuing theme was, "How do we beat Indianapolis? How do we close the gap?'' Is it with a player who will touch the ball 15 times a game, as Bush is likely to do, with the defense following him everywhere when he's not touching the ball? Or is it with Williams, a player who could play most anywhere on the line and should be in on every defensive down?