"I just wanted the team to know how close, not only we think they are, but how close our competitors think they are to being an outstanding team...I think what it does it's sort of an affirmation that we're on the right track. Clearly we have to do better because what we've done wasn't good enough, but that we're on the right track." -- Bob McNair, after the Texans loss to the Ravens on December 13
So on Monday night, December 13, in front of the entire nation, the Houston Texans fought. They battled. They battle-fought. And they lost, 34-28.
At that time, that was apparently good enough for owner Bob McNair. He had seen all he needed to see to judge that the team was "on the right track" -- NFL football games apparently in McNair's mind being judged by some esoteric, "try hard" scoring system as opposed to...you know, which team actually scores more points.
Fast forward to this past Sunday. The Texans were embarrassingly outplayed in all three phases of the game in Nashville with their season on its final pulse. Final score, Titans 31, Texans 17.
So now what, Bob?
No really, now what? If you're going to try and use close losses as a reason for hope, if you're going to attempt to convince us that a team combining admirable effort with sporadic execution (or poor execution if you play on the defense or special teams) is a group that is "on the right track," then you owe it to the fans to make this McNair Report Card a weekly thing.
Because when you try and tell us that everything is thisclose to being all right, you frankly sound either clueless or slimy. I, for one, refuse to believe that you're either. So I want you to explain further.
For the record, I don't think you amass an "NFL owner" level of fortune by being a nimrod. You may have made mistakes along the way, we all do, but at some point you did enough good business to supply the funds and the wherewithal to bring football back to Houston. So clearly, you're a smart man.
I also don't think you're a snake oil salesman either. You're about personal relationships and high moral character, some would argue perhaps to the detriment of your on-field product. So when you tell me that the Texans are "on the right track," I don't think you're trying to convince me of something you truly don't believe, that you're Jedi mind tricking me into thinking that the men running around in battle-red gear that Monday night "aren't the droids I'm looking for."
So it comes back to this simple, chilling thought -- you actually believe what you said last Thursday. You believe in this coaching staff, in this regime, despite what is now a mountain of evidence to the contrary.
And now your customers feel trapped. Hopeless even.
Frankly, regardless of what happens these last two games, the return of the Kubiak/Smith regime in any configuration is going to send Texans fans into next season with no hope. The "road warrior" mentality that good NFL teams take into hostile environments on the road is going to get an early wake up call here at home, because while the atmosphere surrounding the team may not be out-and-out hostility, I think it's safe to say that it will be disgusted skepticism.
Few will believe in you, Bob. These are your home fans. Your customers.
Chain of command is important in any business. Up the Texans' food chain almost everyone can be fired. David Gibbs, Frank Bush, Gary Kubiak, Rick Smith, the players, the equipment manager, the cheerleaders. All of them answer to somebody who can decide it's time to move in a different direction.
Everyone can be fired except you, Bob. It all ends with you. Nobody can fire you. So when you tell us that (at the time) 5-8 is acceptable, that the team is close to being where we want it to be, that's scary. It feels like "sports fan" prison.
I don't know if you know this, but all those people buying your jerseys and your tickets and your beer? For many of them, NFL football is all they look forward to each week. The human condition generally includes a lot of misery -- people's sports teams are supposed to assist in escaping the misery, not exacerbate it.
I understand, there's also a chain of command in business. As a CEO, you serve shareholders first. The bottom line is the bottom line -- the Texans are very profitable, despite the wretched 54-88 run you've had as an owner. But a sports team is different than your average business. There's a public trust that goes with being a sports owner that entails occasionally eschewing profit for the sake of winning. No one's asking you to lose money, but please, please don't let your ill-advised extension of Gary Kubiak last winter be the reason you're espousing the "right track" point of view.
We all know this team is not on the right track. It's never been on the right track. Ever. Last Thursday, you tried to tell us otherwise, using one frenetic quarter of football as your basis for satisfaction.
Some will tell you to keep quiet, Bob, that you're just making people angry. I disagree. In the final chance to save the most pivotal season in your franchise's history -- your company's history -- your employees put forth perhaps their worst effort of the campaign. They were outplayed, outcoached, outhustled, and literally openly fought with each other on the field.
So I ask you, Bob McNair, are the Texans still on the right track? Seriously, tell me. I want to know what you think.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.