Profiling the Texans' 2009 Coaching Staff
On Jan. 2, 2006, the Houston Texans fired Dom Capers following a dreadful 2005 season that culminated in a last place finish and a 2-14 record.
Less than a month later on Jan. 26, the Texans ushered in a new era with the hiring of Houston native Gary Kubiak. Kubiak was brought in to inject the struggling franchise with some of the winning pedigree he helped build in Denver.
However, he’s gone far beyond just bringing the playbook and a winning attitude, Kubiak also brought in Alex Gibbs, the former Broncos offensive line coach; Kyle Shanahan, the son of Kubiak’s mentor, Mike Shanahan; Rick Smith, the former head of Broncos Player Personnel and current Texans GM; and Frank Bush, a former Broncos assistant.
After bringing so many pieces of the Denver system with him to Houston it’s no surprise why some people have begun to call the Texans "Denver South."
But so long as the team continues to improve every year, you won’t hear anyone in the Bayou City complaining.
Although the playoffs have thus far eluded Kubiak's Texans, their consistent improvement has transformed the team from the NFL’s doormat franchise into an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with.
Regardless of the past, the Texans believe their time is now and that 2009 is a playoff year.
With that fanfare, let me introduce you to a few of the coaches that will play a determining role in whether or not the Texans' playoff dreams come true.
Bruce Matthews: Offensive Assistant
Although his official title is offensive assistant, it’s no secret Bruce Matthews will largely be working with the Texans' young offensive line.
Few players in NFL history have posted the kind of career Bruce Matthews had. His long and distinguished NFL career began in Houston, when the Oilers selected Matthews with the ninth pick overall in the 1983 NFL Draft.
During his subsequent 19-year career, Matthews went on to become arguably the greatest offensive lineman to ever play the game. A spectacularly successful career that saw nine All-Pro selections and an NFL record 14 Pro Bowls.
Although he retired as a Titan, Texans fans won’t hold that against him since he gave so much to the City of Houston while wearing an Oilers uniform.
The Texans' brass hired Matthews with the hope that the qualities that made him a Hall of Famer will rub off on their young offensive line. Moreover, he played every position on the offensive line during his career, so he'll be able to help everyone on the Texans' offensive front.
Matthews’ keen football knowledge, work ethic, and calm demeanor should be an added benefit to the Texans' offense, and serve as a nice counter balance to Alex Gibbs' in-your-face coaching style.
Joe Marciano: Special Teams Coordinator
Since their inception, the Texans' special teams has been the only consistently solid facet of the team, and you don't need to look any further than Joe Marciano as the reason why.
Marciano's NFL career as a special teams coach has spanned 23 seasons, during which he’s established himself as one of the top coaches in his field.
Marciano has been the Texans special teams coordinator since the start in 2002, and is the only remaining coach from the Dom Capers area.
The fact that Kubiak and company decided to keep Marciano on board, speaks volumes to his ability, since NFL coordinators rarely survive a new coaching staff.
Under Marciano the Texans have showcased a plethora of dazzling returners in Jermaine Lewis, Andre Davis, Jacoby Jones, and Pro Bowler Jerome Mathis. During his tenure the aforementioned bunch combined for nine return touchdowns over an eight-year span.
Hopefully his expertise will continue to improve the Texans' already solid return game—specifically that of Jacoby Jones, whose brief career has shown flashes of electrifying return ability, coupled with mind-boggling drops and poor decisions.
Texans fans should have no doubt that their special teams are in good hands under Marciano's care.
Bill Kollar: Assistant Head Coach / Defensive Line Coach
Hired on Jan. 20, 2009, as assistant head coach/defensive line coach, Bill Kollar is the newest addition to the Texans coaching staff.
Kollar spent the last three years coaching the defensive line in Buffalo which many people believed overachieved under his care.
Prior to his stint in Buffalo, Kollar coached the defensive line in St. Louis under Lovie Smith from 2001-05.
During his stay in St. Louis, Kollar groomed Leonard Little into a premier sack artist, amassing 57 sacks in five seasons and helping the Rams earn a trip to the Super Bowl in 2001.
He’s also coached the Falcons’ defensive line in 1998, which led the NFL by allowing only six rushing touchdowns the entire season along with a remarkable 75.2 rushing yards per game. The Falcons' defense under Kollar was a big reason for the franchises first NFC Championship victory and Super Bowl XXXIII berth.
As a coach, Kollar is known as an intense motivator (as seen above) who won’t tolerate his players giving anything less than 100 percent. The Texans are hoping his fiery intensity will carry over into the defensive line and onto the field.
Kollar is expected to push and improve players such as Travis Johnson, who has yet to live up to his expectations as a first round pick.
Kollar's defensive lines are known for their ability to shoot the gaps, high energy level, and a willingness to do everything in their power to disrupt the opposing offense.
Which is why the Texans are hoping Kollar’s intensity and fiery motor can translate into a more aggressive and effective pass rush.
This is something the Texans need dearly if they hope to make the playoffs a reality in 2009.
Frank Bush: Defensive Coordinator
After two seasons as the Texans' senior defensive assistant, Frank Bush was promoted to defensive coordinator following the firing of Rick Smith.
Prior to joining the Texans in 2007, Bush spent time with the Cardinals, Oilers, and you guessed it, the Denver Broncos.
Although Frank Bush ushers in a change defensively, expect it to be more of a philosophical one. While the Texans will still use the same base 4-3 defense they had under Smith, expect more emphasis on getting to and disrupting the quarterback.
Under Bush, look for the Texans defense to be more aggressive rather than sitting back, in fear of giving up big plays. They’ll likely rely on more substitution packages, player movement, and blitzing to keep opposing offense on their heels.
Expect Bush and the Texans to step up their pass rush by bringing extra heat from their young, athletic linebackers. Don’t be surprised to see Antonio Smith move inside with Connor Barwin lining up at defensive end in passing situations.
Frank Bush intends to light a fire, and ignite an aggression not seen in the Texans' defenses of the past.
Hopefully his presence will be the missing piece needed to transform this young and ever-improving defense into a force to be reckoned with.
Kyle Shanahan: Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach
With such a last name it’s not hard to figure out why Kyle is considered one of the rising young stars in the NFL coaching ranks.
Although Shanahan is young, he comes from a winning pedigree and has an undeniable thirst for football knowledge. This thirst for gridiron knowledge was clearly displayed by a response regarding his coaching philosophy.
"I studied every potential Xs and Os play and issue possible," Shanahan said. "I spent my whole life working on that. My goal was that any question a player could have about anything on the field, I'd be able to answer it."
Following his playing days at the University of Texas, Shanahan served as an assistant coach in Tampa Bay under Jon Gruden before being hired in 2006 as the Texans' wide receivers coach.
At the ripe age of 26, Kyle Shanahan was the youngest position coach in the NFL. However, he quickly proved wise beyond his years by developing Owen Daniels and Kevin Walter into immediate contributors.
By 2008, Shanahan was promoted to offensive coordinator, becoming the youngest coordinator in the NFL. It didn’t take long for Kyle to exceed expectations, and Gary Kubiak handed him the play-calling duties by mid season. Once again, the young protege didn’t disappoint, as he helped guide the Texans' offense to third best in the league.
The Texans and their fans should expect the offense to build and improve on last year, just as Kyle Shanahan surely will.
At this point there should only be one question left regarding Shanahan's tenure with the Texans.
How long can we keep this kid before he's a head coach somewhere else?
Alex Gibbs: Assistant Head Coach / Offensive Line Coach
Alex Gibbs is the tycoon of the trench, the connoisseur of the cut block, and the baron of the zone-blocking scheme.
His proven track records speak volumes about his ability to immediately and effectively transform any offensive line into a cohesive path clearing force.
Alex Gibbs is most recognized for his tenure in Denver from 1995-2003, in which he worked with Gary Kubiak in helping build the Broncos into a perennial winner.
It was his zone-blocking scheme that served as the catalyst behind Denver’s five playoff appearances and back-to-back Super Bowl victories in 1997 and 1998.
Under Gibbs' tutelage, the Broncos built an envied running game that seemed to work regardless of who was in the backfield. In fact they were able to churn out four separate and consecutive 1,000-yard rushers in Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, and Clinton Portis.
In the nine years Kubiak and Gibbs were together in Denver, the Broncos rushing attack led the NFL with 20,150 yards.
In addition, from 1995-2000, the Gibbs-coached Broncos offensive line did not allow more than 35 sacks in a season.
Following his success in Denver, Gibbs was hired as the Atlanta Falcons' offensive line coach from 2004-06. It didn’t take long for him to duplicate the success he had in Denver as the Falcons rushing attack led the NFL in 2004. Their 2,672 yards marked not only the first time the Falcons ever led the league in rushing ,but the most team rushing yards since 1990.
During Gibbs’ three seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons compiled a league leading 8,157 yards. They were also the only team in the NFL over that period to record a rushing average above five yards per carry.
Given his track record and former stint with Kubiak, it was no surprise that the Texans offered him a job—in hopes of immediate help.
In his first year, the Texans' rushing attack improved in every statistical category from the year before. Their yards-per-carry went from 3.8 to 4.3, their total yards per game improved from 99.1 to 115.4 and they added four more touchdowns than the previous year. Perhaps most importantly, the Texans' overall offense went from 14th to 3rd.
With Gibbs working his magic, there’s no reason to believe this team’s offense will take any steps backward in 2009.
Gary Kubiak: Head Coach
Houston native, former college & NFL quarterback, a coach to two future hall of fame quarterbacks, and current coach of the Texans, Gary Kubiak.
His coaching career reads like an expose into success that begins with his role as quarterbacks coach for Steve Young and the Super Bowl champion 49ers before following his mentor Mike Shanahan to Denver.
During his 11 seasons in Denver, Kubiak continued his success as the Broncos' offense coordinator during a slew of playoff appearances and back-to-back Super Bowl titles. In those 11 seasons, his Broncos offense totaled 66,501 total yards and 465 touchdowns, the most in the NFL during that span.
Interestingly, Kubiak had been a top choice for many NFL teams following the Broncos' second Super Bowl victory, but he decided to stay in Denver and hone his skills. In fact, he was interviewed for the Texans' head coaching position in 2002, and was reportedly a top candidate before being passed over for Dom Capers.
Luckily for the Texans, Kubiak stayed in Denver until his hometown had a vacancy at the head coaching position. On Jan. 26, 2006, Kubiak was named the Texans' second coach in franchise history. This came after an abysmal 2005 campaign that left the Texans with a depleted roster and the number one overall pick.
He immediately shocked us all by having the brass to draft Mario Williams over Vince Young and Reggie Bush; a bold move that has already paid off and left doubters eating crow.
In his first season, he guided a less-than-stellar roster to an admirable 6-10 season, culminating in the Texans' first (and only) victory against the Indianapolis Colts. Since then, Kubiak has led the Texans through two 8-8 seasons.
Offensively, the difference between Kubiak’s offense and that of the Capers/Palmer era is night and day. What was once a dink and dunk conservative offense has been transformed into a budding powerhouse populated with young stars.
Since 2005, the Texans have improved from the 30th ranked offense, to 28th in 2006, 14th in 2007, and 3rd in 2008.
Under Kubiak, Texans fans now have reason to hope, and a playoff birth that seemed all to distant three years ago is now within reach.