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Friday, December 6, 2013
McNair's most critical decision coming

By Tania Ganguli


You'll give credit to Houston Texans owner Bob McNair for consistency.

He said before the season that this was the most talented roster he's ever had, and he said it Friday, even after firing Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. It's why general manager Rick Smith sat beside him as he explained what was next for his team.

"We felt like that we had the best roster that we’ve ever started the year with, and we really, really anticipated a very favorable outcome," McNair said. "To have this string of losses that we sustained is just totally unacceptable, and it’s not what this organization is about. We’re about winning and accountability."

McNair believes in the strength of this roster. That means McNair doesn't think the Texans are entering a rebuilding phase. He wants a coach to push them over the top of the mountain, not one to push them up it.

As such, this is the most important hire of McNair's tenure as the team's owner.

The Texans' problems this season came in a cascade.

Bob McNair
Texans owner Bob McNair said he wants his new head coach to have prior NFL coaching experience.
They beat the San Diego Chargers in the season opener after an improbable comeback with the help of an interception returned for a touchdown by inside linebacker Brian Cushing. They beat the Tennessee Titans in Week 2 on a late drive, overcoming Matt Schaub's first pick-six of the season.

The avalanche of miscues that included pick-sixes, missed field goals, fumbles, penalties, injuries and a future Hall of Famer (Ed Reed) tossing verbal grenades at the coaching staff on his way off the roster followed. Then came a quarterback change that Kubiak mishandled from start to finish.

The loss that doomed Kubiak, a 27-20 loss Thursday to the Jacksonville Jaguars, happened without starting running back Arian Foster, starting tight end Owen Daniels, starting strong safety Danieal Manning and Cushing. It happened with an offensive line that has had good and bad moments trying to protect a quarterback who hasn't yet figured out how to let them. It featured a complete meltdown in discipline that led the Texans to set a new franchise record with 14 penalties for a loss of 177 yards.

After the game, Kubiak's kind face looked defeated.

He explained a decision to go for it on a fourth down, rather than kick a field goal, by saying the Texans needed momentum. Not just for that particular game, but for a season that had slipped from his grasp. He knew he needed momentum because he knew this was coming.

"We’ve got a lot better talent than Jacksonville," McNair said. "To have them beat us twice, that’s to their credit. They played harder, they played smarter, and that’s not acceptable to us to have some team beat us on that basis."

With a healthy roster, a good draft and especially a solution at quarterback -- which will fall on Smith -- the Texans will need a veteran voice to stabilize the team.

McNair mentioned Lovie Smith by name when asked about the coaching search. The former Bears coach, who inexplicably lost his job after a 10-6 campaign in 2012, has the head-coaching and NFL experience that would be a good fit.

McNair needs a coach who can maximize the talent on the roster and prevent the disciplinary lapses and personnel bungles that characterized this season. He also indicated he would lean toward a defensive mind.

There was some sentiment in the front office this season that the coaches had too much say in personnel decisions. That McNair sat beside Smith indicates that perhaps he views the personnel missteps the Texans made as a function of that dynamic.

If that's true, the right coach will make this nightmare season disappear quickly. On this decision, the Texans can't afford to miss.