After the 2-11 Houston Texans fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the second time in three weeks on Thursday night, Texans owner Bob McNair decided he'd seen enough. ESPN's Tania Ganguli reported this morning that McNair had fired head coach Gary Kubiak.
With a great owner, plenty of talent and likely the number one pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Texans head coaching job is one of the more desirable gigs in recent memory. In McNair's press conference this morning, he laid out his basic criteria for hiring his next coach.
“We would like someone who has had head coaching experience, but has also had NFL experience," as The Houston Chronicle reported. "It’s a combination of those two things would be the ideal situation and there are people who meet those conditions."
McNair also expressed that he wasn't interested in a rebuilding process and that he expected his team to start winning next year. Objectively speaking, this is a fair expectation on his part.
Let's take a look at the most likely candidates to replace Kubiak in Houston.
David Shaw is an excellent NFL head coaching candidate. He boasts a sterling record of 33-6 at Stanford (per sports-reference.com) and, perhaps more importantly for McNair, has nine years of NFL experience with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens.
Shaw also had the more recent benefit of learning from 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, as he was the offensive coordinator for the Cardinal from 2007-2010. Harbaugh's success in his first three years in the NFL has been well documented. Shaw would be a great hire for the Texans.
Gruden's name has consistently been one of the first to emerge when a head coaching position is vacated in the NFL or at high-profile college programs since he was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2008 season. While Gruden seems to be enjoying life as a broadcaster, conducting ESPN's Monday Night Football with co-host Mike Tirico, he hasn't denied his desire to return to coaching.
The Ocala Star Banner's Carlos E. Medina quoted Gruden in October as saying, "I haven’t lost a game in three and a half years,” Gruden laughed. “But no, I would like to give coaching one more try."
Is this finally the right opportunity for the Super Bowl-winning Gruden to give it "one more try"?
Another potential candidate is former Bears head coach Lovie Smith. Smith coached the Bears for nine years where he was 81-63 as their head coach and took them to the Super Bowl in 2006, losing to Peyton Manning's Colts. Coaching candidates with Super Bowl experience are certainly hard to come by, and Smith fits into the mold laid out by McNair.
McNair also said this morning that, "if you look at the record, defensive coordinators have been more successful than offensive coordinators, but not by a large percentage," as reported by The Houston Chronicle. "It’s going to be based more on the individual."
Well, Smith is a defensive guy by trade, having served as a linebacker coach in Tampa Bay under Tony Dungy and moving on to the defensive coordinator role with the St. Louis Rams (prior to coaching the Bears). He's often credited with helping to invent the "Tampa 2" coverage with Dungy, per footballtimes.org.
Smith could take help the Texans reverse their course right away.