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Texans so close, yet so far after playoff loss

The Texans have shown they are good, but just not good enough for success in the playoffs.

The Houston Texans are in one of the rarest positions in sports. They are good, but not good enough. They need to get better, but they can't make any big changes.

As Texans' seasons have gone from being about just making the playoffs to being about winning the Super Bowl, the Texans have experienced the magnifying effects of success and expectation. After yet another playoff disappointment, there are questions surrounding quarterback Matt Schaub and head coach Gary Kubiak.  Schaub has proven he can lead his team to the playoffs but has yet to prove he can lead his team to the Superbowl. Kubiak is under attack for not being aggressive enough with his strategy.  

The irony of the Texans' situation is that they've had enough success to reveal their tiniest flaws, and yet they can't mess with success. They're too close to make a drastic move like firing Kubiak or drafting a quarterback in the first round. They've built too much. Success has a way of pushing organizations past the point of no return.

The Texans’ success has made them part of the rat race.

"We have to go back and put a team together next year that has a very strong nucleus right now that gives us a chance to be, in my opinion, successful for a long time," Kubiak said.

Monday, Kubiak dismissed the notion the Texans would take a quarterback in the draft with an eye toward replacing Schaub. It was a fair question, given the way Schaub performed in the playoffs, but it's the right call. By the time that new quarterback was ready to win a Super Bowl, Andre Johnson would be retiring and Arian Foster would be pushing 30.

The Texans are, in a way, trapped by their own success. A bad team could easily part with Schaub and Kubiak. But when you're this close?

"Our whole team has got to get better – that includes coaching and players – for us to take the next step," coach Gary Kubiak said. "And Matt is part of the team, but I've got a lot of confidence in him."

The Texans are primed to make a push in the next couple of years. The team looks to have committed to this core group – Gary Kubiak, Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and their defense.

The Texans can improve in subtle ways. They'll probably make some changes in the secondary. There will be some changes on the offensive line. They're still looking for a No. 2 receiver.

Whatever time these Texans have left together has to be spent tinkering.

The Texans have been the next big thing in the AFC since about 2006. And they just have not been able to make any headway on Manning and Brady. That's what it's going to take. They're going to have to find a way to beat those guys, and they're going to have to find a way to do it with the group they have now.

There is an organic feel to the Texans. This is the only team Gary Kubiak has ever coached. This is the only team Andre Johnson has played for. If Arian Foster remains in Houston for the remainder of his contract, it might be the only NFL team he plays for too. The best players on the defense are mostly Texans draft picks.

But the Texans aren’t trying to be good, they’re trying to be great. For this push to have meant anything, it has to end with a Super Bowl trophy. And if the Texans are going to get there, they're going to get there looking a lot like they do now.

"Tweaks here and there, some players we lost here and there, and some plays," said safety Danieal Manning. "That's pretty much how everybody's season will end at some point. That's what happened to us."