Before we get started, let me ask you to excuse my lack of writing recently. I started a new job and had my wisdom teeth pulled.
These were both very positive changes in my life, but didn't leave me much time to write about our beloved Houston Texans.
With that being said, let's get back to business.
Should we celebrate the team's first winning season?
Absolutely, we should! This is a team who has never been more than 8-8. One game above that, while it ends short of the playoffs, is a 9-7 season worth celebrating.
In the spirit of the New Year and the team's (relative) success, let's take a moment to look at the positives that came out of this season.
Matt Schaub was able to play a full season and led the NFL in passing yards. This is (hopefully) a major development for Schaub. He is emerging as a leader for this young team and his stats certainly back up a claim that is among the elite in the game.
Andre Johnson continues to amaze. If Andre isn't the best receiver in the NFL, he's on a very short list. I suppose cases could be made for Larry Fitzgerald or Randy Moss, but I'm partial to AJ.
Arian Foster emerged late in the season as a viable option in the backfield. Is he a franchise back? No. He could be part of an effective rotation with Steve Slaton, however. More on Slaton later.
The team was able to survive the loss of Owen Daniels. Joel Dreessen stepped up, as did Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones and David Anderson. Daniels should be locked up long term but the Texans proved they can move the ball without him. He certainly makes them better, but his absence is not crippling.
On the other side of the ball, rookie Brian Cushing showed why he was taken so early in the draft. I don't need to list his stats to prove his worth to the team. He brings an attitude and toughness to a team that needs more of both. Simply put, if he's not Defensive Rookie of the Year, the award becomes as big a joke as the Heisman Trophy to me.
DeMeco Ryans was re-energized by Cushing's emergence. Along with Zac Diles, the Texans have a trio of young and talented linebackers to lead the defense well into the next decade.
Bernard Pollard, claimed on waivers, was nothing short of a miracle. He also brought toughness and tenacity to the Texans. Without a doubt, Pollard is the best safety the Texans have ever had. He must be locked up for the future.
Finally, Gary Kubiak demonstrated he deserves another season at the helm for the Texans. I'm still not convinced he's the best coach for the team, but he deserves another year to show what he can do.
His offensive scheming is top notch (in the first half at least and unless he takes his foot off the gas). He still makes errors in time management and challenges, but I'm no longer at the forefront of the "Fire Gary Kubiak" chant. He can and must do better and should be allowed another season to show his mettle.
While there was plenty to be happy about, there were some, well, less than stellar developments this season.
Kicker Kris Brown, a life long Texan, is simply lost. He led the NFL in missed kicks and is no longer reliable. Hell, he even shanked a PAT in Week 17's victory over New England. A replacement kicker must be brought in. I don't have to tell you about missed opportunities in the kicking game.
Running backs Chris Brown and Ryan Moats are not NFL caliber players. If somebody tells you differently, immediately question their knowledge of football. Sure, they've shown flashes (brief flashes), but they cannot be counted on to hang onto the ball and score touchdowns. This is not debatable.
Dunta Robinson is a shell of the player he once was. He used to be aggressive in run support and as close to a lock down corner could exist in today's NFL. Today, he flails at run support and can't cover any decent receivers.
It's too bad. Dunta was once the heart and soul of the defense. Now, he's the appendix. He brings nothing to the table and must be removed. It's honestly sad but true.
On defense, a top notch corner must be brought in to shore up the pass defense and a space eating defensive tackle must be acquired to help in the running game in the off season. On the other side of the ball, more talent and size in the interior offensive line and at running back must be found.
Finally, the most important lesson that the Texans must learn is to take care of business.
They can't lose five out of eight home games. They can't lose four division games in a row.
They can't show up flat. They have to play four quarters.
My grandfather always told me that the best help is self help. While his intention was to teach me to be self-motivated, the Texans must take lesson to heart.
The Texans can't place blame on the Bengals for keeping them out of the playoffs.
Take care of business and don't rely on anyone else to help you get to the dance. That's what the most important lesson must be.