Aug 19, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Houston Texans chief executive officer D. Cal McNair attends the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Fred Faour: As the Texans look for a new coach, they can learn a lot from these playoff teams
As the Texans continue their coaching search, I hope they are learning from the teams that made the playoffs this weekend.
There is one thing they should be focused on: coaching matters. Bad coaches lose games. Good coaches find ways to win them. Doug Pederson and the Jags showed us that on Saturday in a remarkable 31-30 win. Kyle Shanahan showed us that as his 49ers blew out Seattle.
There are a lot of ways to build football teams. Having an elite quarterback is the easiest path to big-time success. A Josh Allen, Pat Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson … These players win games for you.
But without a great coach, even the best QBs won’t get it done. What we saw from Pederson on Saturday was a master class on how to get your team back in a game and win.
The Jags fell behind 27-0 as Trevor Lawrence threw four picks in the first half. Pederson did not panic. He kept a steady hand, and the Jaguars kept chipping away at the lead. When they scored to cut it to 30-26 in the fourth quarter, Pederson took advantage of a penalty and went for two on a play that would be hard to stop from the 1-yard line. The Chargers did not stop it.
On the final drive, facing a fourth-and-1, Pederson did not like the alignment and play call and called timeout. It might seem like a small thing, but they came back with a different play that looked like they were going to try to push Lawrence over the line. Instead, they went wide with Travis Etienne, who broke free, got the first down, and set up the winning field goal.
In poker, we always say decisions not outcomes. But if you make enough good decisions, the outcomes will happen. That’s what Pederson did. It was not just the obvious calls at the end; it was the patience to know your team could come back.
That’s great coaching.
Shanahan’s 49ers were in a dogfight with Seattle, which also has a pretty good coach in Pete Carroll. A huge defensive play (by a player the Texans gave away, by the way) turned the game. But Shanahan does not have an elite quarterback. He has a rookie seventh-round pick. His genius was in how he kept calling crossing routes for easy passes and helped build Brock Purdy’s confidence after a rough first half. It paid off in the end because Seattle could not defend everything the 49ers were doing.
Again, great coaching. Rest assured, the 49ers are loaded with game-breakers on both sides of the ball. But to be real Super Bowl contenders with a seventh-round pick at the most important position on the field? That does not happen with an average coach.
The reality is to win in the NFL you need talent, great coaching, and preferably an elite quarterback. And the truly great coaches can get an elite run out of an average quarterback and win it all – witness Joe Flacco.
And now? Maybe Brock Purdy.
Because Shanahan is coaching him at an elite level.
Not every decision is a good one. But if you continually make more good than bad choices, it shows up. Just like in poker. Sometimes it’s the hands you fold that help you win. They set you up for the big pots. That’s all great coaches do. Deebo Samuel’s game-clinching TD came because the 49ers set it up all game long. Brilliant poker.
As we watch these playoffs, let’s hope Hannah and Cal McNair take time away from things like uniforms and focus on what really matters – getting the right coach. It might not get them to the top, but why not a Jaguars-type step? Jacksonville’s run probably ends in Kansas City, but the team is set up to make it to that next level quickly. The Texans are nowhere close. But make the right call on the coach? Draft the right quarterback? Things can change in a hurry.
Of course, you have to make a good decision. And that coach has to want to be here. But the Texans are interviewing the right people for once and have amazing options.
Decisions, not outcomes. So far, the Texans have made bad calls and gotten bad outcomes. If they watched the Saturday games, hopefully, they saw what it takes to make better decisions.
If so, they can get these outcomes, too.