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The Texans disaster of 2013 is over; what happens next will define franchise

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It ended in Tennessee in the most fitting way possible, with a Matt Schaub interception at the end of a sloppy, ineffective second half.

The Texans season died a long time ago. The funeral was finally held on Sunday in the closing 16-10 loss to the Titans.

The next decisions will be the most important in franchise history. This is an organization that could easily implode on itself. Or it could be back in the playoff conversation next year. Another disaster season could easily lose a loyal fan base that has sold out every home game in the team's history.

It's also a franchise that has earned the No. 1 pick as many times as it has made the playoffs during its history. The Texans will draft first for the third time (they were granted the No. 1 pick in their inaugural season for being an expansion franchise).

A new coach could be named as early as net week, perhaps Penn State's Bill O'Brien if reports are to be believed.

Maybe he will be a home run. Maybe not. This is not anything close to an exact science.

Speaking of inexact sciences, a new quarterback will be part of the deal. A new defensive coordinator may be in play as well. Those could be enough to make the team competitive -- if the Texans get it right. And make no mistake, there are no guarantees, especially looking at the track record of this franchise.

Head coach and quarterback are critical to any successful team. There will be enough pieces for the Texans to be competitive next year, but make no mistake; this was an awful football team. We saw that Sunday when they struggled against an equally awful Tennessee team.

If the Texans can keep some key players and get some others back and healthy, they will have the core of a solid football team.

But if they try to trim veterans to create cap room, then the holes get bigger. That core is less solid. Owen Daniels is probably gone. They like Garrett Graham behind him, but like Daniels he is rarely healthy. And who knows how much a new coach will use the tight end anyway? Antonio Smith is likely gone as well.

Decisions will have to be made on Jonathan Joseph and Danieal Manning. There is not a replacement for either anywhere on the roster, and free agents of equal value would likely cost more.

Wade Smith can likely book his way out of town as well, leaving another need to fill.

If they keep Manning and Joseph, get Brian Cushing back healthy and make some shrewd draft picks (big ifs), the defense is playoff caliber again.

The offense is a complete mess. There is not a starting quarterback on the roster. The offensive line needs more than a mild tweak. And who knows if Arian Foster will ever return to form, and if he will be a fit for whatever the new offense is?

That might not be fixable in one year. But the right QB and a sharp playcaller could cover some of the warts.

As of today, we have no idea who that will be. Whoever gets the coaching job and whatever QB they bring, one thing is for sure: The Texans can't afford another mistake. A bad head coach can set the franchise back another three or four years.

These are decisions the Texans simply must get right. They can't afford another mistake at either position. The most important decisions in this franchise's history will soon be made. Get it right, and this team is right back in it. Get it wrong?

More funerals like the one we saw Sunday.

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