Don't Kill The Mellinger

Five Minute Break: Justin Houston’s money, KU’s title, and Scott Drew’s coaching

Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston prepares to tackle New England Patriots running back James White on Sept. 29 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 41-14.
Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston prepares to tackle New England Patriots running back James White on Sept. 29 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 41-14. The Kansas City Star

You had no idea that when you clicked that link you’d be a part of history^, seeing the first ever Don’t Kill The Mellinger Five Minute Morning. My hope — and I make no promises here — is that this is a regular or semi-regular feature here on this indispensable^ blog where we ask for just a few minutes of your valuable^^ time to waste on sports and other very important stuff.

^ Not really.

^^ Really.

Anyway, I think we’re already 45 seconds or so in, so let’s get to it…

Justin Houston’s contract will be at least talked about when his agent and Chiefs management meet at this week’s combine in Indianapolis. Houston will play for the Chiefs next year, no matter what, but the adult talk will determine how good a team he plays on.

The Chiefs blew it by not giving Houston a long-term deal last year, the price now way higher, and if they keep him on the franchise tag instead of a long-term deal now it means less money to fill significant holes on a team that probably only has two years or so left with Jamaal Charles as a premiere running back.

Those are the stakes. The Chiefs are as close to the salary cap as Zack Lavine’s head is to the rim, and they need all the space they can muster for a receiver, left guard, inside linebacker and other improvements. Pulling the parachute and going for a one-year franchise tag is the sign of a failed negotiation.

If there is any hope of Kansas not winning the Big 12 championship outright, the Jayhawks almost certainly have to lose Monday night at West Virginia. A win would put them two games up in the loss column on Iowa State, and three up on Oklahoma, with just five games to go. The remaining schedule includes at K-State, Texas at home, and at Oklahoma, but Iowa State still plays at Oklahoma State, at Texas, Baylor at home, at K-State and Oklahoma at home. For what it’s worth, KenPom gives KU a 55 percent chance of winning; Vegas has KU as a 1 1/2 point favorite.

Speaking of Big 12 basketball, I went to Lawrence for this column on that sandbagger Bill Self and the rare KU basketball team that’s better than perception, but I also came away impressed with Baylor coach Scott Drew.

I’ve always seen Drew as a bit of a clown, for a lot of reasons, even while maintaining respect for the way he built that program up from a horrendous beginning. My criticism of Drew has always been as a game coach, but I think that’s now outdated. His teams — again, just my perception — seem to play well together, they play hard, and I appreciate the way he changes defenses just enough to keep the other side uncomfortable.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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