The NFL Network broke the news on Friday morning that Gary Kubiak had been terminated as the Head Coach of the Houston Texans after the previous night’s humiliating second loss in two weeks to the lowly, sub-par talented Jacksonville Jaguars. Shortly after, at 11:20 AM on Friday, the Houston Texans sent the following press release to the media.
“The Houston Texans relieved Gary Kubiak of his duties as head coach today. Wade Phillips will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season in addition to maintaining his responsibilities as defensive coordinator.”
“Phillips, 66, has an 82-61 (.573) regular season record as a head coach and will be the coach of record for the sixth franchise of his career next Sunday at Indianapolis. Phillips last served as an interim head coach for the Atlanta Falcons for the final three games of the 2003 season. He also served as the interim head coach of the New Orleans Saints for the final four games of the 1985 season.”
As we have been discussing for several weeks, although Kubiak is a good man and has been a good head coach, he completely lost the team when he kept Matt Schaub in at quarterback despite him having thrown pick-six interceptions in four consecutive games before sustaining an injury that forced a quarterback change.
Team owner Bob McNair has shown the “patience of Job” in keeping Kubiak in place during the team’s unprecedented 11-game losing streak. He really had no option other than to fire his head coach IF he wanted to settle down the restless Houston fans. The firing almost certainly now means the Matt Schaub era at quarterback is also at an overdue end. Schaub was a good quarterback, but has obviously lost a lot of skill in the last year, and is without a doubt one of the most immobile signal callers in the NFL this season.
After the announcement of the firing, everyone knew that McNair would have a statement to make during the early afternoon, and that came as expected. The Texans released quotes from a hastily called press conference at 12:36 PM Friday.
Mr. McNair gave a lengthy opening statement regarding the change of command in the team.
“Good morning. This has been a very disappointing year for the Texans organization. We started out with such high hopes. We felt like that we had the best roster that we’ve ever started the year with and we really, really anticipated a very favorable outcome. To have this string of losses that we sustained is just totally unacceptable and it’s not what this organization is about. We’re about
winning and accountability. Even though we normally would wait until the end of the year to evaluate our coaching staff and our players, under these extreme circumstances, we decided it was in the best interest of the organization to go ahead and start that evaluation process now. As a result of that, we felt that a change was needed in the head coach position. So Gary Kubiak is no longer the head coach and Wade Phillips will serve as the interim head coach. We’ll evaluate the rest of the coaching staff. We will also be evaluating the players. We decided that one of the advantages of going ahead and taking action now rather than waiting is it allows us to start the process of finding a new head coach. And that process is under way and those prospects that are not under contract in the NFL are people that we can visit with. So we’ll start this process immediately. Some of the people that we’ll visit with are going to be in coaching positions now and it would be detrimental to their situation if those discussions with them were made public. So therefore, all of this will be held on a confidential basis and we will not be having public sessions with the prospects. We will have to wait until after the season is over and when the window is open for those prospects who are under contract in the NFL, and we’ll certainly abide by those rules. We are so disappointed, I guess shocked by what has happened. I know that our fans are just terribly disappointed and they’re no more disappointed than we are. I want to thank Gary Kubiak. Gary, he has brought this team to a new level. We’ve had two division championships. We’ve had some outstanding performance. It’s been a job that he has totally committed and he’s put everything, his whole being into it. We couldn’t ask for more out of anyone and it’s very disappointing that he’s not going to be with us in the future. I truly felt that he would be with us until it was time for him to retire. And so I’m disappointed for him and for his family that it didn’t work out this way. But we have to do what’s best for the organization and we will always do that. We’re here to have a winning culture and this year does not contribute to that. We’ve got to turn this around. Wade Phillips will serve as the interim coach and our goal is we’ve got three more games. Our goal is to go out and win three games. Some people say that’s not going to be our interest. Well, believe me, it is our interest. We’re going to go out and fight hard and do everything we can to win. We want a winning culture. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first game or the last game. That’s what we expect of everybody in the organization. So with that, I believe we will be ready for any questions.”
The first question posed to him was what kind of coach he’ll be searching for going forward. “Well, if you look at the record, defensive coordinators have been more successful than offensive coordinators, but not by a large percentage. It’s going to be based more on the individual. We’re looking for a coach that is bright, ethical, who’s culture fits in with the culture of our organization, innovative, flexible, able to make adjustments, works with great energy and enthusiasm and very positive in his approach. Surely that person is out there and we’ll find that person.”
He was also asked what his thought process was in coming to the decision that a change was needed and what the final straw was that made him decide it was time to pull the trigger and make a change.
“We’ve been evaluating it every game and asking the question, ‘What’s in the best interest of the organization?’ We have a young quarterback, Case Keenum, and we need to find out whether Case is capable of being a starter or whether he’s capable of being a backup and the way you find that out is by playing him. We have waited to see how that was developing and to see how much progress we could make in the development of him as a player. We’re at the point now where we needed to go ahead and make some changes because losing like this is just unacceptable and something that we just can’t tolerate. I think the last straw was losing. We’ve got a lot better talent than Jacksonville and to have them beat us twice, that’s to their credit. They played harder. They played smarter. That’s not acceptable to us, to have some team beat us on that basis. If they’re better than we are, if they have better ability than we do, then fine. We expect to go out and play hard and play smart and we didn’t play smart.”
He also faced the obvious question of whether former Cowboys coach and current Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips would be considered as a candidate for the permanent position, and whether or not Phillips, as the interim coach the rest of the season would make the decision on who the starting quarterback would be the rest of the year. “Yeah, we’ll interview Wade and give him an opportunity to interview for the position. He’s got an outstanding record and he’s a fine coach. We’ll be interviewing him and we’ll be interviewing a number of other people.”
“Case (Keenum) is going to be the quarterback. We’re going to give him a chance to see how he can perform. I think the jury is still out. He’s got a lot of ability. He’s shown some flashes of brilliance and then he’s shown some rookie mistakes. We’ve got to see if we can improve, eliminate those mistakes, minimize those mistakes and continue some of the outstanding play that (we’ve) seen and see whether we think that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. At this point, we really don’t know.”
Mr. McNair indicated it was very tough going through 11 straight losses, especially considering what the team’s expectations were at the beginning of the year. “It’s been horrible. It’s been a nightmare. Fortunately, we’ve always had successful organizations. This is not what I’m accustomed to. It’s not what our organization is accustomed to and we don’t like it. We’re unhappy about it and we’ve got to do something about it. We think the organized, disciplined way of doing it is doing it at the end of the year but when you have extreme circumstances like this and there’s an opportunity to go ahead and get the process started earlier, which we can by making this announcement now, whereas if we didn’t do this, then we’d have to hold off that
whole process of the search. I think it’s in the best interest of the organization to go ahead and start now. We don’t have to do a lot to get us back on track. We’re going to do everything we can to do that and we expect to be right back in playoff contention next year.”
The Texans’ owner indicated that any talks with potential candidates for the head coaching position will be kept in confidence, and that he would be talking with both coaches who are under contract in the NFL now, once the season is over, as well as coaches who are not employed in the NFL at this point. A specific question was asked as to whether or not Big Sandy, Texas native and former St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator and former Head Coach of the Chicago Bears, Lovie Smith would be considered.
“There are some people who are not coaching now that will be considered and Lovie is a good example. He’s a good coach and one of several. It will be best for the whole process to keep it confidential as to who we actually decide to visit with as we go forward.”
There is no doubt that Smith would be a good fit in Houston. He is a “player’s coach”, but does have accountability and expects his players to give it their all, and he is very well respected in NFL circles. In all likelihood, an announcement will probably not be made until sometime in February at the earliest.
Kubiak wasn’t the only coach on the squad who was released Friday. The Texans sent also sent out a release regarding the firing of long-time Special Teams Coach Joe Marciano at 2:30 PM Friday afternoon.
“The Houston Texans promoted Bob Ligashesky from special teams assistant to special teams coordinator today. In a corresponding personnel move, Joe Marciano was relieved of his duties as special teams coordinator.”
“Ligashesky joined the Texans coaching staff last March. He is in his 10th NFL season and has an additional 19 years coaching experience in the collegiate ranks. Ligashesky served as special teams coordinator for Tampa Bay in 2012 and was the special teams coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2007-09 and the St. Louis Rams from 2005-06. While with the Steelers in 2008, Pittsburgh led the NFL in kickoff return average allowed and ranked fourth in the league in punt return average allowed on the way to winning the Super Bowl.”
“Ligashesky was also a special teams assistant with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2004 and Oakland Raiders in 2011, and served as tight ends coach for the Denver Broncos in 2010.”