Don’t look now but the Houston Texans are quickly becoming one of the NFL’s more impressive organizations.
I know what you’re thinking: The Texans have one postseason win in over a decade of existence — don’t you think you’re getting ahead of yourself?
Nope. And here’s why.
GM Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak have constructed one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. I wrote over the summer that owner Bob McNair made the right call by extending their contracts this offseason, not only because it set a precedent for rewarding success within the organization, but also because it established continuity and stability.
Much like the Packers, Patriots, Steelers and Ravens, the Texans have used the draft to build their core, free agency and trades to supplement their drafts and the vast majority of their salary cap to retain their cornerstone players.
That precedent continued with RB Arian Foster and OLT Duane Brown receiving new deals.
When the club announced immediately following its Week One thrashing of the Dolphins that QB Matt Schaub was the latest Texan to be locked up for the next four years, I admittedly was surprised at first. I heard all offseason that Brown and OLB Connor Barwin were priorities 1A and 1B, with the club taking a wait-and-see approach on Schaub, coming off a season-ending foot surgery.
That made sense. Given Schaub’s durability concerns, why not hold off on showing him the money until he showed the Texans he could stay healthy for 16 games and guide this team deep into the postseason, somewhere he has never been before?
Despite Schaub saying Sunday he was never going to be distracted by playing in the final year of his deal, it was an enormous amount of pressure. The Texans likely realized this. But more importantly, they realized that, with Wade Phillip’s “D” just scratching the surface of how good it could be last season, and the unit's cornerstone players with the exception of Barwin signed for the next several seasons — and with all of the offensive firepower also securely in the mix — they are in the driver’s seat of the transitioning AFC South for the foreseeable future.
It’s an unprecedented time in the NFL, what with nearly one-third of the NFL's teams (and three-quarters of the AFC South) handing the reins to rookie or second-year signalcallers. But how many of those teams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders? The Texans clearly are, and they wisely acknowledged that the grass wasn’t going to be greener after the season if they were forced to start anew with a rookie — or perhaps a free agent less attractive than Schaub — at the most important position on the field.
Phillips loves pass rushers, and Barwin is a good one. I think the Texans should try to find a way to afford his services as well after the season, but much like Brooks Reed made Mario Williams expendable, if rookie Whitney Mercilus becomes the player the Texans think he will, they have a better contingency plan for Barwin leaving than they would have if Schaub somehow got away. What's more, it is clearly easier to find pass rushers than franchise quarterbacks.
Sure, it would have been nice to see the Texans build themselves a bit more security over the next two years in the event of another Schaub injury. But it was a huge vote of confidence for the QB, who no longer has to wonder if the Texans are among the critics who point to his lack of postseason experience and fourth-quarter acumen as deterrents to him leading a team to the Super Bowl.
Instead, the Texans and Schaub can now focus squarely on the task at hand: continuing their ascent to AFC supremacy and a possible trip to New Orleans this February.