The Houston Texans fired Gary Kubiak on Friday, parting ways with the only coach to lead the team to the playoffs.
The team announced the decision one day after the Texans lost their 11th straight game, 27-20 at Jacksonville, a stunning fall for a team that expected to make a Super Bowl run. Houston (2-11) played miserably and was flagged 14 times for a franchise-record 177 yards.
The 52-year-old Kubiak was hired in 2006 and was working under a three-year contract that runs through 2014. An eighth-round pick out of Texas A&M, he spent nine years as John Elway’s backup in Denver and has made his mark as an offensive guru and quarterbacks mentor. The Texans said they couldn’t wait any longer to start turning things around.
“What’s taken place with this organization is unacceptable,” general manager Rick Smith said. “We’ve got three weeks of an evaluation process left and we’ve got to right the ship.” Owner Bob McNair said the decision was a hard one.
“It was difficult for me because I think so much of Gary,” McNair said. “We’re here to have a winning culture and this year has not contributed to that.” The Texans said defensive coordinator Wade Phillips would serve as interim coach for the rest of the season.
After taking over the team in 2006, Kubiak led the team to back-to-back AFC South titles in 2011-2012. Kubiak’s overall record is 61-64, with a 2-2 mark in the playoffs. He suffered a mini-stroke Nov. 3 in a frightening scene, collapsing at halftime during a game against the Colts and being rushed to a Houston hospital. He had returned to the sidelines, but the Texans have been unable to rebound from injuries to top players including quarterback Matt Schaub and running back Arian Foster.
Kubiak bought a full-page advertisement in the Sunday Houston Chronicle to deliver a message to Houston. The ad appeared on Page C3 of the Sunday sports section. From the ad:
“Thank you, Houston. I want to thank the players, the coaches, and staff for their tireless work and commitment. And especially to the fans, you are the best in the NFL. It was an honor to return to my hometown to work my dream job. My family and I thank you for eight great years.”- Gary and Rhonda Kubiak
As far as the coaching situation, there are many lists and stories around the country about who the Texans are considering as Gary Kubiak’s replacement, and you can rule out a couple of prominent former and current coaches being mentioned.
The Texans will not try to hire ESPN analyst Jon Gruden and they won’t be pursuing Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, even if he does get fired. Good friend and fellow sports journalist Jayson Braddock pointed out that the two longest losing streaks in NFL and the worst teams in the AFC and the NFC are the Houston Texans and the Washington Redskins. Shanahan & Kubiak both use the same system. Is this a coincidence?
Owner Bob McNair said during and after last week’s news conference, announcing Kubiak’s firing, that he prefers candidates with head-coaching experience. He also wants the candidates to have NFL experience.
Among the candidates I know the Texans are interested in are former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, Stanford coach David Shaw and San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.
I previously wrote that Shaw would be a great fit for the job before Kubiak was released. There will be many others they evaluate, including some who’ll be interviewed.
Smith has taken off this season and is expected to be the first candidate interviewed. He was fired by Chicago, a team he led to a Super Bowl, after the Bears finished 10-6 last season and missed the playoffs.
Just like McNair did in 2006 when he hired Kubiak, who was Denver’s offensive coordinator, he’ll use Jed Hughes’ search firm. Hughes works for Korn/Ferry International. McNair, general manager Rick Smith and vice chairman Cal McNair will be involved in the interview process.
Whoever the new coach is, one thing we all know for sure is that they can only go up considering where the Texans are now.