HOUSTON – Houston Texans owner Bob McNair was so moved by all the positive comments about his team he heard from fellow owners at a league meeting this week that he wanted to pass on the encouraging words to his struggling players.
As another disappointing season is winding down in Houston with little hope of that elusive first playoff berth, McNair gave his players a pep talk to help them move on from their latest heartbreaking loss and finish the season strong.
McNair said many of the owners were impressed with the Texans rallying from a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit against the Ravens on Monday night to force overtime before losing. He said he'd never heard other owners talk about his team in such a positive way and was "shocked" and "amazed" by the comments.
"(They talked) about the level of respect that they have for our team and how close they think we are to not just being a good team, but an outstanding team," McNair said. "It was nice to hear your peer group say that about you. I just wanted the team to know how close not only we think they are, but how close our competitors think they are to being an outstanding team."
The Texans (5-8) play at Tennessee (5-8) on Sunday and can't match last year's 9-7 record even if they win out. If AFC South rival Jacksonville wins any one of its last three games, Houston will be eliminated from postseason contention for the ninth straight year.
Star receiver Andre Johnson said it was meaningful for McNair to address the players as a group because he rarely does that.
"I think that was big of him to come and just tell us to stay positive because I'm pretty sure it's been just as frustrating for him as it has been for all of us," Johnson said.
McNair believes the response he received from other owners is affirmation his team is on the right track.
Still, that doesn't mean he plans to leave everything as it is for next season and there has been much speculation about the future of coach Gary Kubiak.
"We'll review everything at the end of the year," McNair said. "And will we make some changes? I'm sure we will make some changes. We'll see some things that need to be improved. But we're very close to having the kind of team I think we can all be proud of."
McNair conceded this season has been difficult for him.
"It's a killer," he said. "I hurt more than anybody. To see that we're so close to being where we want to be and to be denied is just very disheartening. But you know, it's like life. Does everything work out right in your life? I doubt it. You don't quit, do you? No. You just suck it up and go on."
Johnson can probably relate to McNair's disappointment better than anyone on the team after joining the Texans in their second year. Johnson's only goal in each of the last few years has been reaching the playoffs.
"I definitely feel his pain," Johnson said. "I've seen all the ups and downs and it's been rough. It's been very frustrating and I'm pretty sure he never thought it would take this long for the organization to get to where it wants to be."