On the surface, the word "loyal" feels positive, and that's because at its core, loyalty is a noble trait that comes from a good place in one's heart.
However, in business (and really in any walk of life, but especially business), loyalty has to be based on merit. It can't be blind, nor can it be based largely on emotion. (Emotion, to some degree, will always factor into business decisions.)
Because there is a point in business where being overly loyal to the undeserving crosses over into being disloyal to your high performers. This was brought up repeatedly in this space during the Texans' regular season.
Bob McNair is generally thought to be a good NFL owner. He is undoubtedly a good man, a very wealthy man, and as evidenced by eight seasons of Gary Kubiak an exceedingly loyal man.
But does that make him a good owner?
If you work for him, I would say it makes him a fantastic owner. Employment is awesome. If you are a fan of his team, I would guess your feelings are mixed on how "good" an owner McNair is. If you're a high performing Texans player, your feelings should be, at the very least, mixed, because McNair's loyalty to important members of management has crossed the line to where it's impeded the team's success the last few years.
The results speak for themselves. 61-67 since 2006. Two playoff wins. Good night.
Bob McNair took care of the Kubiak issue back in December, some would argue three seasons too late. (Actually, it's now inarguable. The benefit of hindsight tells us the team would've been better served with a change post-2010.) Still, eight seasons in, general manager Rick Smith remains.
As a point of reference, how loyal is Bob McNair when it comes to Smith? Well, here is the list of NFL general managers (or those serving that function without the GM title, in a few cases) in order of the year they were hired:
1989 JERRY JONES, Dallas
1991 MIKE BROWN, Cincinnati
2000 BILL BELICHICK, New England
2002 MICKEY LOOMIS, New Orleans OZZIE NEWSOME, Baltimore
2005 TED THOMPSON, Green Bay
2006 RICK SMITH, Houston
2007 JERRY REESE, New York Giants
2008 THOMAS DIMITROFF, Atlanta MARTIN MAYHEW, Detroit
2009 BRUCE ALLEN, Washington
2010 HOWIE ROSEMAN, Philadelphia JOHN SCHNEIDER, Seattle
2011 TRENT BAALKE, San Francisco KEVIN COLBERT, Pittsburgh JOHN ELWAY, Denver
2012 PHIL EMERY, Chicago RYAN GRIGSON, Indianapolis REGGIE McKENZIE, Oakland LES SNEAD, St. Louis RICK SPIELMAN, Minnesota RUSTON WEBSTER, Tennessee
2013 DAVID CALDWELL, Jacksonville JOHN DORSEY, Kansas City DAVE GETTLEMAN, Carolina JOHN IDZIK, New York Jets STEVE KEIM, Arizona TOM TELESCO, San Diego DOUG WHALEY, Buffalo
2014 RAY FARMER, Cleveland DENNIS HICKEY, Miami JASON LICHT, Tampa Bay
So putting this in plain English, the most tenured GM's (de facto or actual) in the league are, in order:
1. Two guys who actually own their teams and can do whatever they want 2. Four guys who have constructed Super Bowl championship teams 3. Rick Smith 4. Another guy who has constructed a Super Bowl championship team
That, my friends, is loyalty.
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The purpose of this post (and of my written column this week) is not to merely dredge up a narrative that some may think was more timely when McNair was cleaning house with the coaching staff. In light of what has transpired since the hire of Bill O'Brien, the question again should be asked by fans, why did Rick Smith get a pass for 2-14? Hell, a pass for the last eight seasons? A pass for the salary cap hell/purgatory the team is perpetually in? A pass for the lack of quality "cheap labor" (i.e. depth) on the current roster?
On the date that Bob McNair fired Gary Kubiak, McNair indicated that the Texans were not a long-term rebuilding project. Yet, the total lack of incoming free agents, along with the indifference to and shedding of their own free agents (not to mention Owen Daniels, who was under contract) indicates the exact opposite.
The teardown of everything Rick Smith (and Kubiak) constructed is underway, which I personally think is necessary. But why is Smith the one overseeing (with O'Brien) the reconstruction?