Just about every great Super Bowl winner has had at least one clunker of a game in their championship campaign. The 1994 San Francisco 49ers lost 40-8 against the Eagles in their fifth game that year before going on to plant the Chargers in the big game 49-26. The 2001 New England Patriots started the season 1-3. The Colts, on their way to their first Super Bowl win in decades, lost to Jacksonville 44-17 in December of 2006.
Additionally, sometimes, the teams that thrive in their franchise’s Red Zone took a few years to get the plane off the runway. Just ask the Broncos, who took years to build up to Super Bowl contender status only to lose four times before John Elway finally got to hold up the trophy.
The point here isn’t to take you on some directionless stroll through the NFL history books. It’s to give a better understanding that it takes years of effort to become an overnight success.
One of the main reasons so many NFL teams fail to ever get into their own metaphorical Red Zone is simple: impatience. Chuck Noll, the greatest coach in modern NFL history (his four rings in six years proves the point, so don’t bother debating), took over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969. It wasn’t until 1975 that Noll slid the first of those four rings on his finger. Joe Gibbs guided the Redskins for six years before the fateful day when he and Doug Williams brought the Washington faithful their first NFL championship.
The average span of an NFL coach’s head coaching gig these days? Well, in the last ten years, there have been 78 men hired to the head coaching position of an NFL team.
Remove seven or eight of the 78 and you have a pile of men who work for teams that are too impatient to get to the Red Zone.
Now, we can give the Houston Texans a pass on this, as they’ve had only one coaching change in that time span. But what about the other expansion team to enter the league when Houston did? Cleveland is on their EIGHTH coach since the new version of the team made the scene in 2001. And guess what? They’re worse than the Titans.
What does all this mean to Texans fans? One word: Patience.
Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith constructed something that Bill O’Brien and Smith are building on. It’s easy to get upset about getting blanked by the Patriots and their rookie QB who was never meant to play this year. It’s also easy to feel uneasy about the recent win against the Titans, who are firmly in the discussion for worst team of the league, even without a rookie QB.
But the real thing to take from Sunday’s game isn’t the sloppy nature of the offense’s execution, the first two-pick game of Brock Osweiler’s H-Town career, or the drama over whether DeAndre Hopkins is getting enough targets and solid chemistry with Brock.
It’s the W.
This team got clowned on a national stage by New England. Hard.
What got Kubiak fired was the team giving up and falling into the trap of letting unfortunate plays cast a shadow over the future of team.
In short, the players stopped believing they could win.
If any team in the league had an excuse to fall into that trap this week, it was Houston. They were coming off an incredibly embarrassing loss to New England. They just found out their best player – the LEAGUE’S best player – J.J. Watt was going on injured reserve and not returning till 2017. Their offensive line is littered with backups and utterly lacking in the continuity that sets champion o-lines apart from the rest. Then, the game most had circled on the calendar as a sure win before the season started went from a quick 14-0 lead to a 17-17 tie just before halftime.
Yeah, in any case where it’s understandable for a team to give up, this was it.
But that fire the Texans showed in the preseason when they went 4-0 was still burning. The drive that pushed them past the Bears and Chiefs appeared again. And when it mattered most, in that crossroads where every man has to decide if he’s going accept being a loser or not, the Texans chose to win.
That’s what winners do.
That’s what Texans do.
Welcome to the new normal.