By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) It’s no secret that sports fans lack patience and that it’s almost always about winning now – except when you are talking about the Chicago Cubs.
But those who own and run teams have to be a lot smarter than fans who are concerned primarily with immediate gratification and not what’s the right thing for the long run.
The Bears have risen to a top position in the NFC and certainly have a shot at Super Bowl glory, thanks to the best defense in football.
Owner Virginia McCaskey has shown great patience and admiration for Lovie Smith. While the Bears have only won one playoff game since the 2006 Super Bowl run, Smith has not been under a win-now demand from ownership.
Neither has Gary Kubiak, who will be coaching on the opposite sideline Sunday night when the Bears host the Houston Texans.
If owner Bob McNair had wanted to, he would have had ample opportunity to fire his head coach. Kubiak has been coaching the Texans since the start of the 2006 season, when he took over for Dom Capers.
The Texans were starting to become a legitimate team when Kubiak took over as they entered their fifth year in the league. While they finished 6-10 that season, they were a .500 team in 2007 and they had legitimate talent.
Houston fans lost their patience about that time. They wanted to see their team earn a playoff spot and they started howling about Kubiak as early as 2008. While he was still molding the team in his image and getting the right pieces in place, Houston fans did not want to wait.
These were fans who were jilted by Bud Adams when he moved the Oilers from Houston to Tennessee and those same fans didn’t get an expansion team to take their place until 2002. They were used to seeing bad football and they were not happy with their team’s many disappointments.
But McNair was not worried about fans’ expectations. He didn’t necessarily like waiting himself, but he had faith that Kubiak would get them there. There was no knee-jerk reaction when the Texans failed to make the playoffs in 2009 or 2010. He just stayed the course.
Finally, the reward came last year when the Texans won the AFC South with a 10-6 record and then went on to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in their wild-card playoff game before losing in the divisional playoffs to the Ravens.
This year, the Texans are the best team in the AFC at the halfway point. They are likely to clinch homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs. Matt Schaub is one of the most accurate passers in the game and J.J. Watt is a wrecking crew on defense.
But it’s McNair who has gone the opposite route of obnoxious owners like Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder and Adams. He has been patient and he has gotten his reward.
McNair is not an absentee owner, either. He takes the time to get to know his players and coaches, but he does not interfere with them.
He doesn’t sit in on draft meetings or coaching meetings. He’s not interested in upsetting the chain of command or making new friends.
“I want to know the players,” McNair told the Houston Chronicle, “but we can’t be buddies. I want to know ’em so they’re comfortable when I’m around. I don’t want them to be uncomfortable if I walk in the locker room or on the sideline. I don’t want them to read something into that.”
It takes maturity and intelligence to be a good owner, and McNair has it – along with the requisite billions.
His team has a chance to go all the way and he’s happy to take the ride with them.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.