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For Texans, maybe it's not about personnel

METAIRIE, La. -- Standing with an old friend who covers the Saints as New Orleans and Houston practiced against each other Wednesday, I was struck when he said he felt like the Texans have better overall personnel.

It immediately made me think: In many ways, 2010 won’t be about players for Houston. It will be more a referendum on coaching and scheme and cohesion.

The Texans have some holes and some areas that lack sufficient depth. But Houston stacks up well in young stars department with Andre Johnson, Mario Williams, Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans, Matt Schaub and Owen Daniels.

The Texans have had time to supplement that six pack, they’ve had time to figure out how to maximize the effectiveness of those talents.

For years they’ve been a popular breakout pick, yet they still await their first playoff berth.

It may boil down to their ability to build off what they’ve done to this point. I think they need to find a killer instinct. I think they need to have a moment, relatively early in the season, that allows them to say, “That’s it, we’re different now, there is no way we don’t finish this season having met the postseason goal.”

“Definitely,” running back Steve Slaton said. “When teams watch us on film they see when we finish and we kind of give up a little bit. For us, we just need to finish. We need to start showing in the first quarter and finish to the fourth.”

Schaub is all about the slow building process and doesn’t buy my idea there needs to be a moment, perhaps because there have been plays and series and games before that have been christened as the sort I’m talking about only to prove in hindsight to have been over-played.

“I think we’re on the right path to that [killer instinct],” Schaub said. “I feel like the past few years we’ve been building up to that… It obviously doesn’t happen overnight, you’ve got to develop stuff like that. I feel like we’re ready, right there knocking on the door to do that. But it’s about going out there and playing.”

There have been too many games where they first half didn’t match the second or vice versa, Johnson told me, and it’s on players to produce the right brand of football for the duration of a game.

I don’t mean to deflect the responsibility off the personnel by any means -- players need to do their thing and do it well. But I do feel like the verdict could be more about the leadership, direction and methods.

Coach Gary Kubiak is an accountable guy and will take his fair share of responsibility if things don’t go well.

But he’s not heading into the season thinking like I am.

“I think it’s still a combination of everything we’re doing,” he said. “We’ve made progress as a football team. Regardless of the few Pro Bowlers that we had and the quarterback leading the NFL in throwing and all that good stuff that’s been going on, we still were not good enough as a group to get into the playoffs.

“Our players have got to get better, our coaches have got to get better, the whole organization has to find a way to play in January. It’s still a challenge for everybody, not just in one or two areas.”