The AFC South Time Machine has used the sling-shot effect, and spun around the nearest star flinging us five years into the future.
All week, I'll be looking at what each front office/coaching staff has to accomplish over the next five years in order to keep its job. Expectations and standards are different in every city. Obviously, the short answer is "win," but there's more to it than that.
Today, we read the tea leaves for the Houston Texans.
They Must Answer the Schaub Question Correctly
Matt Schaub's contract is up at the end of this year, and how the Texans handle that will go a long way toward determining whether Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak are still employed in Houston five years from now.
Smith has a four-year deal and Kubiak a three-year deal, and if they want another round of extensions, the team will have to be in a solid position. That means having a franchise quarterback in place.
The right move is to extend Schaub. When healthy, he's the perfect quarterback for Kubiak's offense. However, if they give Schaub the extension and he winds up hurt too often, it could spell doom for the GM and coach.
If they let Schaub walk, they had better come up with a real plan to replace him, because T.J. Yates isn't everything fans think he is. If Schaub is allowed to leave and has success in another city, it could mean curtains for the Smith Era.
Wade Phillips Needs to Hang Around
I'm not particularly high on Kubiak as a coach in part because he was entirely incapable of fielding a respectable defense until Wade Phillips came around.
The Texans are stacked with young defensive talent, and Phillips is the perfect man to deploy them in mad pursuit of opposing passers.
Without him, I doubt the Texans would return to their porous days of yore when they allowed opposing teams to pass at will. They have significantly more talent than they did in the past. Still, I don't trust Kubiak's ability to manage a defensive staff. It's a skill he's never manifested before.
Phillips is an experienced coach. Kubiak can wind him up and let him go without having to worry about the results. Take Phillips out of the equation, and I can't see Kubiak fostering the kind of long-term defensive success necessary to win.
They Must Capitalize on this Window
The Texans are the best team in the AFC South.
They have a brief window where the other three teams are all grooming young quarterbacks. That window will last a year or two at the most, before the Titans and Colts at least are ready to challenge them with elite passers.
Now is the time for the Texans to establish themselves as a force. Winning the division handily this year and next would go a long way to ensuring the job stability of Kubiak. It's hard to fire a coach with three division titles under his belt.
I expect the AFC South to be brutally competitive from 2013-2016. The Texans don't have to win every year. There's never going to be a team that dominates the division the way Peyton Manning's Colts did. The Texans will have good years and bad years, like all teams.
The key will be making sure they take full advantage of these next two years. A Super Bowl run, a couple more home wins in January and a couple of division title banners hanging in Reliant Stadium will help secure Smith and Kubiak for a long time to come.
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