HOUSTON (Jan. 2, 2007) -- This was supposed to be the season David Carr proved he was the right man to lead the Houston Texans.
Instead, the fifth-year quarterback's inconsistency -- coupled with more than a dozen major injuries -- doomed the team to another dreadful year. Now the question becomes whether 2002's top overall draft pick will get one more chance in Houston.
"I know that's a big topic right now," coach Gary Kubiak said. "All I can tell you is that David's going to be evaluated like any other player. You don't make decisions on players in this league and with your team quick. You make those decisions with a lot of people's opinions and a lot of views."
The Texans (6-10) expected Carr to flourish under the offensive-minded Kubiak, but that wasn't the case. He had two touchdown passes in the last 10 games, and finished with more interceptions (12) than TDs (11) for the first time since 2003.
Carr, who has two years left on a contract option he received before this season, is trying not to think of the possibility of not returning because it would make him miserable.
"I think they're moving in the right direction," Carr said of the team. "I think we're going to win some football games here. I think they're going to eventually win a Super Bowl here. I'd like to be a part of that. And to think that I wouldn't be a part of that would be pretty depressing because I have a lot of good friends on this team."
It looked as though he might be turning the corner early in the season, but soon regressed and had two of the worst performances in his career in the last third of the year. The lowlights included 32 yards passing in a win over Oakland and a career-high four interceptions in a loss to New England.
Carr said he spoke with general manager Rick Smith and some assistant coaches this week and their conversations have him feeling "good going into the offseason."
"They were very positive about moving forward and just talking about the maturation process of the quarterback, and in this system it takes a couple years," he said. "But that is something that I don't want to hear. I want to just win right now. But they were all very positive as far as the things they had to say to me."
And if the Texans do dump Carr, who will replace the only quarterback the franchise has had? They likely won't be able to draft an immediate starter with the eighth pick and it's unclear how much value Carr would have in a trade.
"You've got to look at all your options," Kubiak said. "If we make this move, then what's our next option? If we decide to change this player and that player, what's our next option? You might be staring at the best option if you just coach a little better and work a little harder."
Andre Johnson's 1,147 yards receiving were a career high and earned him a second trip to the Pro Bowl. But his production suffered with Carr's late-season struggles, and he had more than 50 yards receiving just once in the last five games.
Despite finishing with a losing record, the Texans did improve in the first year under Kubiak. They tripled their win total from last season and got a morale-boosting first win over AFC South foe Indianapolis.
Houston also finished the season with a win for the first time in team history by beating Cleveland Dec. 31.
Another decision this offseason for the Texans is what to do at running back if Domanick Davis is able to return from the knee injury that caused him to miss this season. The early struggles of the offense came when they were left without a proven running back after passing on Reggie Bush in the draft, only to lose Davis. Ron Dayne had the best stretch of his NFL career to end the season and wants to stay in Houston, but the team likely won't keep both him and Davis.
The good news for Houston is that the defense improved throughout the season despite losing nine players to injuries. Much of that success could be attributed to the development of rookie middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, whose 126 solo tackles led the NFL. Top draft pick Mario Williams wasn't as flashy as Vince Young or Bush, but coaches were impressed by his progress and believe he and Ryans are a pair they can build the defense around.
Williams had 4 1/2 sacks and 47 tackles despite dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot for much of the season.
"It's night and day how we just developed as a unit, and that's how it should be," Ryans said. "The chemistry is there now, and it's a matter of us just continuing to play together and get better."