Offseason Blueprint: Four Priorities for the Texans

Categories: Sports

Is Rick Smith ready to rebuild the Texans?
The early time of death was surprising. But with a painful illness that we already knew to be fatal, perhaps it's a relief for everyone involved.

No, we certainly didn't expect the 2013 Texans to become the worst team in the NFL at 2-14. But after the 11-1 start in 2012 that ended with a collapse to blow home-field advantage and ultimately another second-round playoff loss, we knew the era of Gary Kubiak and Matt Schaub would end without a Super Bowl.

The road back to Super Bowl contention begins at the two most critical positions in modern football -- head coach and quarterback -- and all the pain of 2013 has put the Texans in an ideal position on both fronts. The early firing of Kubiak gave the Texans a three-week head start on interviewing coaches and selling themselves as an organization to candidates, while the 14 losses allowed them to capture the No. 1 overall pick in next May's NFL Draft and the opportunity to draft the best QB available.

It sounds promising on paper, especially when you look at comparable situations such as Kansas City -- a 2-14 team in 2012 that transformed to an 11-5 playoff team in 2013, led by a new head coach and quarterback acquired in the prior offseason. It's certainly possible for owner Bob McNair to oversee a similar turnaround in Houston.

But with Rick Smith retaining his job as GM (a post he's held since 2006), it remains to be seen whether he and the front office can learn from prior mistakes and be more successful in their second attempt to rebuild Houston into a Super Bowl-caliber team.

To that end, here are four priorities that would serve as an opportune place to start:

Matt Schaub's time in Houston should be over.
1.) CUT MATT SCHAUB. Yes, there is $10.5 million that's still owed to Schaub even if he never plays another down and is released on June 1. Eat it. For the Texans to turn the page from a season that began with Super Bowl aspirations and ended with the worst record in the league, they need to sever ties with the symbols of so much disappointment. Step one was Kubiak's dismissal, and step two will come when Schaub officially exits the franchise.

To me, the lowest point of the dreadful 2013 campaign came vs. the Rams on October 13. The Texans were 2-3 at the time, and while reeling, were certainly very much in the AFC playoff conversation and needed only one win to return to .500. The main issue at the time, of course, was Schaub. He had thrown a "pick six" in four consecutive games and bottomed out the prior Sunday with no touchdowns, 3 interceptions and a woeful quarterback rating of 32.2 in a 34-3 primetime annihilation in San Francisco. And while Kubiak admitted considering a change at quarterback to Case Keenum or T.J. Yates, he ultimately stuck with Schaub despite his NFL record-setting streak of futility.

That lack of accountability led to something occurring vs. the Rams that I had never seen in my five years covering the Texans as a credentialed media member: they outright quit. They were lifeless from the start and were crushed at home, 38-13, by a losing team. When Schaub rolled his ankle late in the third quarter, many fans at Reliant Stadium cheered, sparking an entirely new controversy.

In the locker room afterward, the shock and anger seen after the Texans collapsed against Seattle two weeks earlier (Schaub's "Brad Lidge moment") were seemingly replaced by apathy. Players didn't seem particularly surprised or bothered. The season was officially off the rails at that moment, and there was no bringing it back.

Combine that with poor play when it mattered most in 2012, and there is no way Schaub regains respect as a leader in the Houston locker room. Yes, there might be a situation next summer when the Texans could use a veteran to offer guidance to a rookie QB and possibly start on a short-term basis if the rookie isn't ready. That's fine. Bring back Yates or Keenum, or sign a cheap veteran free agent that falls through the cracks. It just can't be Schaub. The change in culture that the Texans are trying to enact requires Schaub to exit completely, just as it did Kubiak.



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Yes, Schaub and his Bernie Kozar skillset needs to be cut loose.  (These days, the game manager type of QB is pointless since even the best running back in the league can get hurt and that throws the pressure back on the passing game.  The Vikings are exhibit A.) Kubiak just never grew into the job as head coach.  Cutting players and coaches is the job, and he's always acted as if he didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  (His relationship with Schaub was just too buddy-buddy.)  Yes, Wade Phillips and other retread coaches are a bad bet.  (That they've been with so many teams says it all.)  And yes, a QB should be the first need addressed.  Can Smith do it?  We'll see.

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