Texans so close, yet so far after playoff loss

Texans so close, yet so far after playoff loss

Published Jan. 15, 2013 11:54 a.m. ET

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."