McNair Raises The Stakes In Houston

The Houston Texans entered the NFL in 2002.  And they’ve yet to play more than 16 games in a season.
The time has come for that to change.
And that’s not just our viewpoint.  It’s the opinion of owner Bob McNair.

I’ll be disappointed if we don’t make the playoffs,” McNair said recently, according to the Houston Chronicle.  “I don’t make predictions, but I fully expect us to do it.

Here’s our prediction.  If they don’t make the playoffs, we fully expect that Gary Kubiak will be looking for a new job in 2010.

The Texans started off at 4-12 in their first season, and then slowly improved.  They won five games in 2003 and seven in 2004. 

The flirtation with .500 prompted many to think that their fourth season would result in a trip to the postseason.  It wasn’t an unrealistic expectation.  The Browns qualified for a wild-card berth in their fourth season back in the league, and the Jaguars and Panthers both were playing in conference championship games only a year after joining the NFL in the mid-1990s.

But the bottom dropped out in 2005, with the Texans winning only two and losing 14. 

Coach Dom Capers promptly was fired after the season, and G.M. Charley Casserly “resigned” after the draft.  (We know that this was a sore point for Casserly at the time, but the prevailing theory in league circles was that McNair didn’t want to fire both men right after the season, in order to avoid the perception that McNair swung and missed on both hires.  And though Casserly now gets praised for passing on Reggie Bush and draft Mario Williams in his last official act for the Texans, the story at the time was that Casserly had no input in the decision given his short-timer/Scotch-and-Splenda status.)

[Editor’s note:  We’re not suggesting that Casserly was drinking Scotch and Splenda or any other alcoholic beverages during the final days of his tenure in Texas.  Or at any other point during his professional career.  We’re merely making a reference to the Michael Scott Paper Company story arc from The Office, during which Michael Scott was drinking Scotch and Splenda in the time after he gave his two-week notice.  Hopefully, that disclaimer will be enough to get the lawyers to leave me alone so that I can enjoy my Rum and Rice Krispies in peace.]

So now Kubiak, who enters his fourth year on the job, steps into the shoes that Capers was wearing in 2005.  The Texans gradually have improved under the long-time Broncos assistant’s leadership, winning six games in 2006 and eight in 2007.

Last season, the wheels were wobbling and threatening to come off early, thanks to an early schedule including games against the Steelers, Titans, Jaguars, and Colts.  They lost each one, and the whispers started regarding Kubiak’s job security.

But then the Texans woke up, winning eight of their last twelve games.

The improvement saved Kubiak’s job, but it only raised expectations entering 2009.

And that’s the reality of life in the modern NFL.  A coach’s performance is determined not by what his squad does in relation to every other team, but what his team does in relation to the expectations entering each season.

In Detroit this year, five wins could result in a ticker tape parade; in Houston, a similar outcome probably will result in Kubiak getting canned.

After the 2-14 effort of 2005, the proper outcome was easy to identify.  It’ll get more difficult if Kubiak generates another 8-8 season and misses the playoffs by a game or two.  The challenge at that point would be for McNair to determine whether to stay the course — or whether to turn the keys over to one of the four big-name unemployed coaches with Super Bowl rings in their jewelry boxes:  Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, and Mike Shanahan.

Of that quartet, Shanahan is the most intriguing.  On one hand, he’d likely not be interested in coaching the team that fired his friend and protege.  On the other hand, maybe there would be a way to bring Shanahan on board without firing Kubiak.

The issue will be moot if the Texans play beyond Week Seventeen.  If they don’t, all options will be on the table.

18 responses to “McNair Raises The Stakes In Houston

  1. So, say the Texans win 8 – again – in 2009, enough to save his job, comes back 2010 and gets fired while McKid goes 2-14 two years in a row in Denver and then Kubes comes home to the Broncos.
    Which is why it might have been premature to fire Shanny. Is McKid a better head coach prospect? Is Kubiak? Answer: No. Other than his HUGE ego, Shanny could still be in Denver. In a related story, today a flight will go from Houston to Denver AND Denver to Houston. Could it be…?
    Note to Napoleon Florio: I don’t watch The Office and would not have gotten your reference. But if you have to explain humor, obscure or otherwise, for legal reasons or not, please don’t. Just forget about it. Because I never, ever heard a comedienne or five foot tall-website-rumor-mongoring, conspiracy-theorizing-Italian-leprechan have to explain themselves. Well, maybe on open-mike night…
    Got to admit the Charlie Casserly turnaround is quite amazing. He had less credibility than Matt Millen for a while.

  2. Mike,
    I just wanted to drop a line and say that you continue to be one funny bastard. I love the way you write and articulate the very funny idiosyncrasies of sports fandom and life.
    Sign me up for a bowl of rum and rice krispies.
    Keep up the good work

  3. A Houston franchise’s best chance of making the playoffs is bringing in the other McNair back to town (Steve).

  4. “and then Kubes comes home to the Broncos.”
    Hey, Einstein. Kubiak is a native Houstonian and the Broncos aren’t going to bring back a coach who (theoretically) just lost his job with the Texans.
    As I said yesterday, if the Texans make the playoffs, it will be because the rest of the AFC took a step back. As a native Houstonian, I’ve been hearing the “this is our year” talk all my life. All of these predictions from Houston sports writers and talk jocks is over Schaub winning 3 out of 4 after returning from an injury. Forget about all those games he lost before the injury.

  5. Didn’ the Texans have to play their first three games on the road due to a hurricane in Texas? That’s not easy for any team.

  6. Barring a tsunami of injuries at critical positions, if Houston doesn’t make the playoffs this season, it won’t be for lack of roster talent. It’s a tossup between them and GB as to which was the most underachieving team of ’08.

  7. Peyton Manning has to retire sometime. Maybe then Houston will have a shot at the division crown and/or post-season.
    I don’t watch The Office either & didn’t get the reference. So thank you for clearing up that Casserly wasn’t actually ripped on scotch at the time (that we know of), but kinda like furcoat said, if you have to explain humor….

  8. “Here’s our prediction. If they don’t make the playoffs, we fully expect that Gary Kubiak will be looking for a new job in 2010.”
    Wrongo. McNair didn’t want to fire Capers after the 2-14 debacle, he had to. Kubiak has 2 yrs left on his contract. If they miss the playoffs (Playoffs?!?) then he’ll have one more year left to miss them again and they’ll part ways. He’s not going to get fired unless there is another 2-14esque debacle.

  9. If Houston makes the playoffs, the AFC must be in shambles. Does anybody think Indianapolis will let them win that division? Because that is the only way anybody makes it out of the South this year besides the Polians.

  10. theres just no way in hell, no matter how much texans have improved, it wont be enough to be any better than 3rd in the division. most likely, though, the jags will be better than last year and texans will end up 4th…maybe next year texans fans (the year after next rather)

  11. FLORIO!!! “is short-timer/Scotch-and-Splenda status.” you must really really love The Office.

  12. A Texans article? On PFT? Haven’t even finished my coffee this morning and the sky is already falling.
    Anyway, you touch up on a very important topic: Does Casserly deserve the credit for passing on R. Bush and VY for Super Mario? If not, who does? I really need somebody in the know to get back to me on this, that decision was HUGE!
    As far as Kubs is concerned, he won’t be fired if the Texans don’t make the playoffs this year unless the team is just a total embarrassment (which is entirely possible considering their division). I like the thought of Shannahan in Houston, but have been pleased with the progress Kubiac has made thus far, and know most other Houston fans are too. That said, Playoffs sure would be nice…

  13. In order for the Texans to make the playoffs they have to fix their defense. They have done nothing in this off season to advance that cause. In fact the Texans appear to have taken 4 to 5 steps backward. New DC Frank Bush seems to be on track to do for the D what Mike Sherman did for the O, which was not much. Bush brought in one of his former players (aka Sherman) Anthony Smith, GTD him $15 million as the answer to Anthony Weaver and Weaver is better against the run.
    Sage Rosenfels could win games. What happens if Schaub goes down for any extended period of time. Will Orlovsky rise to Sage’s level? Doubtful! The Texans failed at getting a complimentary back to Steve Slaton. Again, if Slaton goes down for an extended period of time the number of Texans losses will increase. With each game missed by either Schaub or Slaton the Texans will match in the LOSS column.

  14. The Texans have good talent, and I expect Tennessee to come back to earth this year. So they may not be able to beat Indy for the division, but with their soft schedule they should be looking at a wild-card berth.

  15. I like how you people talk about these other teams taking a step back would be a slight against a successful Texans season.
    Teams like Indy and the Titans have been good for a while. It is the nature of sports that a teams time will come, then go, then come again later. The torch is always passed, eventually.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.