We’re back to the basics here. Nobody thinks we’re going anywhere in the playoffs because we’ve got a rookie third-string quarterback playing and we head into the postseason on a three-game losing streak. But we’re confident that in a rocking Reliant Stadium, we’ll open some eyes, again, with a big performance against the Bengals. We’ve got great playcallers on both sides of the ball, we’ve got a rested Arian Foster, we’ve got a healthy Andre Johnson, we’ve got a smothering defensive front and we’ve got a lot better chance than most people think. We will be focused but loose this week, and while we take pride in having made it here, we’re hardly satisfied with the idea of this as our final destination.
We’re expecting news today on Jim Caldwell, and we’re not expecting it to be a vote of confidence. Look: That was an ugly season. Losing Peyton Manning was going to be painful. We didn’t have nearly the personnel that we thought we did in a scenario without him, and the front office takes a big hit on that. But this franchise didn’t adjust its thinking, strategy or identity enough without him, and that falls on the head coach and his staff. It certainly hurts Caldwell’s case, too, that our defense played so much better once his coordinator, Larry Coyer, was tossed and replaced with Mike Murphy. Who stays and who goes is a question that needs to be answered well beyond Caldwell, however, with regard to the front office, coaching staff and roster.
We overestimated ourselves. Even if we stayed healthy, as a dominant defensive and running team we serve as a blueprint for just how necessary an effective passing offense and true receiving weapons mean to a team. No, we didn’t intend or want to start Blaine Gabbert in 14 games. But we allowed a framework to exist where that is what we had to do, and we paid the price for it. If we can bolster the defense at defensive end and cornerback, then all our resources can go toward weapons and protection and maximizing Gabbert’s chances to grow into a success. First, however, we need Shahid Khan to take over and sort out the plan of attack for our coaching search with general manager Gene Smith. Who should we chase? Who can we get?
Expectations change as results come in. So a team that was 3-1 and 7-5 should have expected to qualify for the playoffs. We know that. We accept that. Ultimately, we underachieved by at least one game. But, we came into this season with a new coach and staff and two new quarterbacks without and offseason together. We lost our top receiver, Kenny Britt, for the season in our third game. Our running back, who sold himself as a playmaker who extended beyond his position, didn’t produce nearly what we expected. And our defense was inconsistent and didn’t generate nearly enough pressure. Does that sound like the construct of a 9-7 team to you? We’re disappointed and we have a lot of work to do. But set our arrow up because we’re on our way.