Houston Texans' Collapse Further Proof Gary Kubiak Must Go

Ty Schalter@tyschalterNFL National Lead WriterOctober 14, 2013

Throughout history, there have been a few military defeats so shocking, so thorough, so embarrassing they've become synonymous with utter failure: the Battle of Little Big Horn, the Battle of Waterloo, the Bay of Pigs invasion.

For Gary Kubiak, the Houston Texans' 38-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams was his Game of Pigs.

Suffering a 25-point upset at the hands of a 10-point underdog (per OddsShark.com at kickoff) is awful enough. For Kubiak, though, it drops his talented Texans to 2-4. They are on pace for a season far, far short of their Super Bowl goal.

Texans general manager Rick Smith and owner Bob McNair have been patient with Kubiak while the Texans have underperformed their talent year after year. Sunday's inexcusable defeat, though, should mean Kubiak has finally blown his last chance.

Great Expectations

Only three NFL head coaches have seniority over Kubiak: Bill Belichick, Marvin Lewis and Tom Coughlin. Two others have had equally long tenures: Mike McCarthy and Sean Payton.

Let's take a look at exactly what Kubiak has achieved with his eight seasons in Houston, per Pro Football Reference:

Since Kubiak's second season, when the Texans moved on from quarterback David Carr and acquired Matt Schaub, the team has been solid on offense. From Kubiak's third season on, the Texans have always finished with a top 10 scoring offense.

Kubiak, a former NFL quarterback and protege of Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, has held up his end of the bargain in this regard even though he went through four offensive coordinators in his first five seasons. 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 06:  Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans talks to Matt Schaub #8 on the sideline after Schaub threw his third interception during their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on October 6, 2013 in San
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Under Kubiak, the Texans quickly gained respectability; they went from 2-14 to 6-10 in his first season, and from 6-10 to 8-8 in his second season. By 2008, though, Kubiak had assembled almost all of his current offensive nucleus: Schaub, stud wide receiver Andre Johnson, tight end Owen Daniels and a stable of explosive tailbacks (primarily Steve Slaton and, since 2010, Arian Foster). 

It seemed like the Texans were always everyone's sleeper pick, dark horse contender or up-and-coming team. Yet year after year, they disappointed: 8-8 in 2008, 9-7 in 2009, 6-10 in 2010. Despite great talent on both sides of the ball (including defensive end Mario Williams and linebacker Brian Cushing), the Texans couldn't even reach the postseason.

The Breakthrough

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 05:  Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips of the Houston Texans celebrates against the Cincinnati Bengals during their AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at Reliant Stadium on January 5, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Imag
Bob Levey/Getty Images

In 2011, Kubiak hired defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and finally had a stout defense to match his prolific offense. The Texans had the NFL's fourth-best scoring defense and immediately became one of the NFL's best teams, racing to a 10-3 start.

Schaub then suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury, which seemed to doom the Texans' chances for postseason success. With fifth-round rookie T.Y. Yates under center, the Texans lost all three of their remaining games, but still won the AFC South and their first playoff game.

Seeing the difference Schaub's loss made to the team's performance, the Texans signed Schaub to a five-year contract extension at the beginning of the 2012 season.

Then, everything clicked. Second-year defensive end J.J. Watt became the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, which set the catalyst for a magical Texans season. With the eighth-best scoring offense and ninth-best scoring defense, the Texans put up a 12-4 record, again winning the AFC South.

Schaub, finally able to test his postseason mettle against the AFC's best, failed. After a shaky no-touchdown, one-interception performance that barely scraped the Texans past the Cincinnati Bengals, the Texans were pasted by the New England Patriots, 41-28.

It was clear that the Texans had a roster worthy of the Super Bowl. Whether Kubiak and Schaub were good enough to get them there, though, was clear as mud.

In July, Smith told Sirius XM Radio (quoted via The MMQB), "[Schaub] does have to play better in those situations for us to take our team to the next level."

The Downfall

With a healthy Johnson, Daniels and Foster, plus breakout rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins and All-Pro left tackle Duane Brown anchoring one of the league's best two-way offensive lines, Schaub is having his worst season since becoming a full-time starter.

Schaub's not only thrown more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (eight), his touchdown rate (3.8 pecent) is his lowest since his first year in Houston, and his interception rate (4.2 percent) is his worst as a full-time starter.

Schaub's yards-per-attempt average (6.4) is also his worst as a full-time starter, and a full yard below his career average. His NFL passer efficiency rating is just 76.9; again his worst as a full-time starter and far below his career mark of 90.9.

As a result, going into Sunday's game against the listless St. Louis Rams, the Texans had just the 26th-ranked scoring offense. Worse yet, the defense fell off the map too, allowing an of average 27.8 points per game.

Combined with the offense's meager 18.6 average points-per-game output, the Texans—with a largely identical roster to 2012's 12-4 juggernaut—were getting outscored by an average of 9.2 points per game, the league's fourth-worst scoring differential.

Schaub's collapse was punctuated by an NFL-record four-game streak of throwing interceptions returned for touchdowns. Incredibly, angry Texans fans then showed up at Schaub's home to hurl abuse at him.

The Game of Pigs

As I said in Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Picks (in which there was truly a 12-0 consensus on this game), "The Texans have hardly been world-beaters lately, but Andre Johnson and Arian Foster should feast on the Rams at Reliant Stadium."

The lifeless Rams, whose 2-3 record coming into the game was extremely flattering to their their poor play to date, looked like an opponent against whom Schaub and the Texans could get their groove back.

Instead, the 28th-ranked scoring defense in the NFL slapped Huston silly.

After the first Texans drive ended in a punt, they nearly reached the red zone on their second drive. Then, Hopkins lost a fumble to the Rams' James Laurinaitis, who returned it 43 yards and set up a Rams field goal.

The Texans brought it back to 10-3 just into the second quarter with a field goal of their own. Unfortunately, the defense let Sam Bradford and the Rams slice right through, helping the Rams cause 20 yards' worth of defensive penalties.

After the ensuing Rams touchdown, the Texans put together another scoring drive, kicking a field goal just before halftime.

Then, things spiraled out of control.

The Rams answered with another touchdown drive, and on the ensuing kickoff, Texans returner Keshawn Martin lost a fumble, which Rams undrafted free-agent rookie Daren Bates scooped up and returned for his first career touchdown:

The spiral continued as Schaub was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury, which was greeted by sickening cheers from the home fans.

Shortly thereafter, Yates continued Schaub's pick-six streak:

Yates was intercepted again on the very next drive, putting an end to the Texans' hopes for a victory, a Super Bowl win and likely, Kubiak's tenure as Texans head coach.

As Always, Too Little Done With Too Much

It's reckless and irresponsible to call for a coach's firing after one bad loss.

This "one loss," though, punctuates Kubiak's complete failure: The regression of Schaub from one of the NFL's better starting quarterbacks to arguably its worst. The bizarre collapse of a defense which lost only one piece (safety Glover Quin) without an equal or better replacement. The holistic failure of an offense that's as balanced, deep and talented as any in the NFL.

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans works out on the field before the start of the game against the St. Louis Rams at Reliant Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Quarterbacks and offense are supposed to be Kubiak's calling card, and Schaub's slow development and sudden regression are damning. The Texans, hosting a tomato-can opponent, should have relished the opportunity to bust some chops and get back on track; instead, they sleepwalked to a disastrous loss.

Nearly any head coach would kill to have the talent Kubiak's been blessed to command. Kubiak, though, has done less with his bumper crop of talent than any coach of similar tenure. There are also some fired head coaches who arguably did more to deserve so long of a leash.

This performance proves it: Kubiak can no longer direct his elite troops to his career-long level of mediocrity, let alone the triumphant Super Bowl victory they seek.


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