HOUSTON - Houston Texans owner Bob McNair watched with admiration as the New Orleans Saints celebrated their first Super Bowl victory.
McNair is confident that Gary Kubiak will lead the Texans to one very soon.
The Texans announced Wednesday that Kubiak has signed a contract extension that runs through the 2012 season, a vote of confidence after the team finished 9-7 - the first winning record in the franchise's eight-year history.
"We have a foundation in place," McNair said. "We don't have to go out and establish the foundation, which is what we've been doing the last eight years. We've got some outstanding players, and we just have to keep building on that.
"In evaluating where we were and looking at our coaching situation," McNair added, "I believe Gary can take us to the Super Bowl."
Houston is 31-33 in Kubiak's four seasons, though the team is still seeking its first playoff berth. The 48-year-old Kubiak took over the Texans in January 2006 after the team finished 2-14. His original contract was due to expire after the 2010 season.
"Bob has taken a hard look at where we were four years ago and where we are today and with that, made the decision that we're heading in the right direction," Kubiak said. "I want to finish what I started. We still have a long way to go, but I'm enjoying the work, I'm enjoying the challenge."
McNair admitted he was disappointed that the team missed the playoffs again last season. But he said the team has showed "a lot of progress" under Kubiak and he wanted to maintain continuity by keeping him in charge.
"The most disruptive thing you can do is go in every two or three years and change your coaching staff," McNair said. "When you do that, the new coach might have different schemes that he wants to employ and all of a sudden, the players you have don't fit that scheme. It just sets you back several years."
The Texans ranked fourth in total offence last season (383 yards per game), but assistant head coach Alex Gibbs left for Seattle and offensive co-ordinator Kyle Shanahan went to join his father, Mike, in Washington.
Kubiak hired former Denver offensive co-ordinator Rick Dennison to replace Shanahan and former Atlanta offensive co-ordinator Greg Knapp to become Houston's quarterbacks coach. Dennison worked on the Broncos' staff during Kubiak's 11 years as Denver's offensive co-ordinator, and Knapp coached Houston quarterback Matt Schaub for three seasons with the Falcons.
Both Dennison and Knapp are also signed through the 2012 season.
"We have strengthened our coaching staff," McNair said. "I'm pleased we were able to finalize our contractual negotiations with Gary and with our coaches, so everybody will be on the same timeline. That makes everyone feel very good about the situation."
McNair said the Texans need to bolster their offensive and defensive lines and their depth at running back before next season.
Houston ranked 30th in rushing last season (92 yards per game), ahead of only Indianapolis and San Diego. Both those teams won their divisions, but Kubiak said the Texans need a stronger running game to complement their high-powered passing attack.
"We can go out there and throw it with anybody in the business. I don't think that's what's best for our team in the long run," Kubiak said. "We've got to be more dominant late in games. Some games we lost, it was because we couldn't hang onto the football late in those games. It's very important in the development of our team, taking the next step. It wasn't good enough last year."
The Texans have 15 unrestricted free agents, including cornerback Dunta Robinson, offensive lineman Chester Pitts and receiver Kevin Walter. McNair said there's no rush to re-sign any of the players, since free agency doesn't begin until March 5.
"A lot of what we do will be dependent on who we might sign from free agency, and who we get in the draft and what our needs are," McNair said. "We won't look at that until later."
McNair said he would prefer to continue replenishing his roster with draft picks. He said free agents are riskier investments.
"We believe you have to build through the draft and we will continue to do that," McNair said.