By all standards, it's been a trying offseason for the Texans.
The Texans have not had a good offseason in terms of improving the team that will take the field in 2012, but they have had a great offseason when it comes to making the right moves for the health and stability of the franchise.
The right moves don't always make a team better right away.
Texans fans can sense just how close the team was to serious contention last year, and it has to be difficult to see talent flowing away from the team, but by stepping back from their free-wheeling ways in free agency, the Texans are setting themselves up to make the playoffs not just once, but several times.
Fans tend to think in terms of loading up for a big run and creating a "super team" that can win in the playoffs.
Smart general managers know the truth, however.
The best any front office can do is make the playoffs as often as possible. So maybe the Texans go 9-7 and squeak into the 2012 playoffs instead of going 10-6 and resting starters like they did this year.
The AFC South is still there for the taking.
The Titans, Jaguars, and Colts all have uncertainty at quarterback. By not overloading in 2012, the Texans preserve their chance to make the playoffs (where anything can and does happen), while staving off a true salary cap disaster in 2013 that could sink the team for years.
The best team does not win in the NFL playoffs—the luckiest team does. The Texans are lucky to play in a down division and can still make a Super Bowl run even if they aren't as good as last year.
Stability is the key to a healthy, well run franchise. The hard choices of March 2012 may not pay off for the Texans in January 2013, but they will surely reap the benefits down the line.