The Houston Texans played and won the franchise's first ever postseason game on Saturday, and the city's first since 1993, way back when Warren Moon was under center. We don't particularly care for Texas around these parts, but it's a nice thing for sport when a perennial loser finally makes some progress toward legitimacy. In fact, were it not for a bevy of injuries, Houston might have been the favorite to win the AFC.
There were some bumps along the way before the Texans arrived as a contender, not at all unlike the ones the Eagles faced in 2011. Two years ago, Houston was coming off a 9-7 season in which they narrowly missed the playoffs. Naturally expectations were high for 2010, but for a variety of reasons, the Texans hit a lengthy rough patch, and before they could regroup, had finished with a mediocre 6-10 record.
Houston was 10-3 at one point this season, likely headed for a first-round bye, but once quarterback Matt Schaub went down with an injury, their fortunes changed dramatically. They were fortunate to avoid a first-round exit instead. Still, point is the front office didn't take drastic measures to rebound from a disappointing campaign. They tweaked their coaching staff and roster in the offseason, but mostly they stayed the course.
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It starts with the head coach. Last winter, Gary Kubiak looked like a goner. Five years after he was hired, Kubiak had a couple of 8-8 years, and of course the 9-7 season in '09, but he had failed to produce a single playoff appearance. Fans were growing impatient, and there was talk 2010's awful conclusion would provoke ownership to make a change. They stuck with Kubiak though, who rewarded the franchise with the best season in its ten-year existence.
Houston's other big problem was on defense. In fact, Houston made NFL history by becoming the first team to lose four games in which they came from behind to tie the score or take the lead in the fourth quarter. When you think about it, that's not very far removed from blowing five fourth-quarter leads like the Eagles did this season. The Texans responded in the offseason by changing defensive coordinators, and adding talented free agents to their trouble spot in the secondary.
Those types of changes could be on the way for the Birds as well. Adding a free agent and/or drafting a talented linebacker or two seems like it should be priority number one for the Eagles' front office. There is also a lot of about replacing Juan Castillo with somebody like Steve Spagnuolo -- although, the Texans had the 30th ranked defense, while Philly's was eighth this year.
And with Pro Bowlers at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, neither roster required many changes on the other side of the ball. They are already built in the head coach's identity.
Of course, the flip side to this comparison would be the 2010 San Diego Chargers. Disappointing season, embattled head coach, subtle changes to the coaching staff and roster -- 8-8 finish in 2011. Clearly there are no guarantees sticking with these coaches and players sparks the necessary turnaround a year from now.
The Eagles shared some remarkable similarities with another team this season -- themselves.
Friend of the Level Johnny Goodtimes put together a fascinating piece that asks, "Did we just relive the the Eagles' 2007 season?" Both iterations of the Birds finished 8-8, but the comparison runs far deeper than that. Many of the team and player statistics, as well as several of the events that transpired over the course of the year, are eerily familiar to their counterparts in 2011.
For instance, the Eagles ended this season on a high note by winning their final four games, two of those when they were already eliminated from postseason contention. In '07, they finished on a three-game streak after the playoffs were out of reach. Both teams had three-game stints with their backup quarterback at the helm as well.
Most of it probably doesn't mean much as far as the 2012 Eagles will be concerned, but it is interesting to note the '08 team made it all the way to the NFC Championship. Hopefully a deep playoff run the following season will be the last thing these clubs have in common.