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Tavern talk: Texans need to start over

Problems aren’t all Kubiak’s fault, but he hasn’t delivered. Michael Lombardi

Print This October 01, 2009, 05:29 PM EST

Mark Cuban joined Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio to talk about the NBA season right around the corner and discuss issues from his viewpoint.

On the patience that an owner needs to show:

“It really comes down to who do you trust in the organization? If you have a general manager that has proven themselves and you really trust, he’s probably telling you, ‘Hey we just got off to a bad start, just bear with us.’ If you trust him that’s what you have to do. Realize the Mavs got off to an 0-4 start and ending up winning 67 games. We got off to a terrible start and ended up going to the Finals. Getting off to a slow start is not necessarily the big problem, it’s who do you trust. One of the hardest things to do as an owner is hire a head coach and hire a general manager because if they’re out there looking for a job, chances are they’ve done something wrong or they haven’t had the experience, so it’s hard to say that they have a perfect track record. And then when you’re talking to them, they put on the date face. No one goes on their first date and starts picking their nose. You don’t see the warts till after it’s too late. It’s really, really difficult as an owner to pick the right coach and know you’ve got the one that lasts forever.”

Yes, it does come down to patience, but patience only works if the team is headed down the right road. Patience down the wrong road is like the expression, “Lost but making good time.” In the NBA, it’s easy to be patient with 82 games, and in baseball it’s even easier with 162, but with football, so much is invested into each game that the reactions run quick and the patience levels are very short.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak is on the hot seat, but he’s had four years -- and I’m sure, if you ask him off the record, he would say that he knows he has to deliver a playoff team in Houston. Entering his fourth year, with a 6-10 first year followed by two 8-8 seasons, Gary clearly has had enough time to make a statement to his owner and the fans about his ability to lead the team. He has not been able to get the right blend of defensive players on the team, and for me, when I watch the Texans behave as an organization, I don’t feel they have an infrastructure that can adequately procure players. They operate under the old Denver system of randomly picking players. This method might work for offensive players, but it doesn’t produce the kind of defensive talent needed to win in the NFL.

Owner Bob McNair has been very patient. He initially hired Charley Casserly as general manager and gave him all the power. When that went downhill, he hired the coach and gave him all the power. So what does he do now? He’s done A and he’s done B. What’s next?

Next is to hire someone who can bring a plan and an infrastructure to the team, someone who can find players and develop them and who knows what it takes to win in the NFL. Hire someone who can interview a coach, who can talk football on an intellectual basis with the head coach, and split their powers — much like the New York Giants successfully do. Give the coach the power to be the coach and give the general manager the power to be the general manager, and make sure both of them are smart, experienced and well-versed in what it takes to win -- but might not be best friends.

As Mark Cuban said, it comes down to whom you trust. And that’s the key problem in the NFL. Some of the people the owners go to for advice, in and out of their own building, just don’t know the game, the coaches or what it takes to build an organizational infrastructure. Owners rely on getting information from people with agendas — good or bad. No other business in the world calls its competitors for advice on whom to hire, but in the NFL they do it all the time.

McNair is smart and patient, and he just might win the next 10 games in a row to put the Texans in the playoffs -- which would make Matt “I Love Me Some Texans” Bowen very happy and not induce McNair to make any changes. But that won’t happen — because I’m going to Amsterdam when Bowen has to pay off our bet. And when it doesn’t happen, McNair will have to take a step back and find the right people to talk to, people who don’t have an agenda, who won’t to tell him what he wants to hear but what he needs to hear.

The problems in Houston don’t all rest at Kubiak’s feet. This is a structural organizational problem that stems from having too many friends of friends and not enough quality. And McNair has allowed this to happen. He needs to spend time away from the team and rely on the resources and business practices that made him millions, which allowed him to buy the team.

I’m recommending Bowen. He loves the Texans.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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