The Houston Texans announced contract extensions Thursday for general manager Rick Smith and coach Gary Kubiak, rewarding them for taking the team to the playoffs last year for the first time.
Texans owner Bob McNair wanted to maintain continuity with both men in the final years of their current contracts. Smith's extension is for four years, which will keep him with the team through 2016. Kubiak's is a three-year agreement which re-does the last year of his current deal and keeps him under contract through 2014.
"Stability is very important and these people work well together and they are committed to bringing a championship to Houston," McNair said. "That's our goal and what we work for every day. I'm real pleased we were able to bring this about."
McNair said he offered Kubiak a four-year deal, but he preferred to make it for three.
"Gary has assured me that with the level of success he's going to have, he's going to be worth a lot more money in three years instead of four. So I had to agree with him," McNair said with a laugh.
McNair wanted to extend the contracts after the team finished 10-6 to win its first AFC South title.
He was impressed that Kubiak was able to lead the franchise to the postseason and its first playoff victory despite playing significant time without a number of key players. Outside linebacker Mario Williams and receiver Andre Johnson missed large chunks of the season, and Houston had to rely on rookie third-string quarterback T.J. Yates after starter Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart were lost to injuries.
The Texans beat Cincinnati 31-10 in the first-round of the playoffs before a 20-13 loss to the Ravens ended their historic season.
"I think the coaching performance last year of Gary was outstanding with the injuries we had and I don't know how he could have done a better job," McNair said.
Kubiak and Smith were both hired in 2006 after the team finished a franchise-worst 2-14. Smith spent 10 years with Kubiak while the coach was offensive coordinator of the Broncos. Smith was Denver's defensive assistant for four seasons before moving into the front office for his last six years with the Broncos.
The pair has led the transformation of this team, which began play in 2002, from league laughingstock to contender. But the process hasn't been without challenges.
The team went 6-10 in their first year and 8-8 in each of the next two seasons. Expectations were high in 2010 after Houston finished at 9-7 for its first winning record in 2009. But the Texans instead fell to 6-10, which led to many fans calling for Kubiak's firing.
McNair was disappointed by that setback, but still believed Kubiak was the man to lead his team.
"If you coach in this league, especially as a head coach, you're going to go through tough times," Kubiak said. "It's hard to win in this business (but) Bob stayed the course with our program through a very tough time two years ago ... and we were rewarded."
Kubiak loves working for McNair and is looking to build on the team's success in 2012.
"It's an honor. It's a big responsibility," he said of his new contract. "You guys know since the day I walked in here it's been a dream situation for me to come back home and build a winner in Houston. I'm just very thankful that Bob and Janice and their family have entrusted me with this situation and (have) done it again for a few more years."
Smith improved Houston's defense by drafting several key players in the past few years that have developed into starters. He nabbed inside linebacker Brian Cushing in the first round in 2009 and picked up weakside linebacker Connor Barwin in the second round that same year. He drafted cornerback Kareem Jackson in 2010 and added outside linebacker Brooks Reed and defensive end J.J. Watt last season.
He's excited to have several more years to work on building this team.
"One of the things that's important to us is that we're a consistent winner, and it takes time to put processes in place to get players and coaches," Smith said. "We've set the foundation for success and we had a little bit of that last year and I think we're in position to continue that."
McNair is impressed with the growth of Smith and Kubiak since he hired them as what he called "rookies," since neither man had been a head coach or general manager before joining the Texans.
"It takes a little time to learn your job and work with others and determine how things mesh, and I think we have gotten better as we've gone along," McNair said. "They know each other well and they work well together and they listen to each other and I think that's extremely important."