The Houston Texans entered the league in 2002. They have yet to play beyond Week 17.
Last year, the latest failure to qualify for the postseason nearly claimed coach Gary Kubiak’s job. (But for the looming work stoppage, Kubiak probably would have been gone.) This year, an inability to win the AFC South or to secure a wild-card berth almost definitely will.
Owner Bob McNair has made clear his belief that now is the time to take the long-awaited next step.
“Well, we have to be there,” McNair recently said, via the Houston Chronicle. “It’s time for us to make it happen and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. That’s what I fully expect.”
If there was any ambiguity in his words, McNair quickly removed it.
“Well, it’s time for us to make it happen,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I think that’s true with all of us. We’re tired of talking about it and we want to see it happen. Players want to see it and coaches want to see it and that’s what we expect.”
Someone later asked him, as if McNair wasn’t abundantly clear, whether he expects the team to qualify for the postseason.
“Well, I’m not even considering the other [option],” McNair said. “It’s the playoffs. That’s what we expect and have no reason to believe we won’t be there. We’re going to do whatever we have to do to win, period. Of course, that means you’re going to be in the playoffs. We’re going to make those judgments as we go along, but it’s all about winning and we’ve had adequate time to get there and we’ve been very close. We just need to make that determination that we’re going to make it happen.”
It’s the right mindset, especially in light of the recent Rex Ryanification of the NFL. But with the owner making his desire so obvious, and in light of the money spent since the lockout ended to sign new impact players, it will make it harder for anyone who fails to satisfy the expectations to remain employed.
This will be Kubiak’s sixth season. Rarely do coaches make it that long without a playoff berth. And even though the presence of the Colts in the AFC South and an otherwise top-heavy conference that includes at least two quality teams in the AFC East and AFC North, there should be no doubt that McNair believes the time has come, after a decade of futile existence, to finally make the next step.
Whether or not the pressure helps Kubiak and company focus or causes them to fail doesn’t matter. The pressure is there, and it’s arguably stronger than it is in any other NFL city.