2009 has been a season of ups and downs for the Houston Texans.
After starting the season as most pundits' darling pick for the playoffs and getting off to the best start in franchise history, the Houston Texans of old decided to show up.
After some disappointing performances and three consecutive blown games against division opponents, they appeared to be dead and buried.
Forward to their usual December run and, although just barely, they are still alive for the playoffs going into Week 17.
With this, the seat in Houston has cooled off somewhat. The chatter surrounding Kubiak has gone from "Done after the season no matter what" to "Giving them a winning record will more than likely save his job."
When will Bob McNair finally reach his breaking point?
It has to be this offseason.
Since the arrival of Rick Smith, the Texans have amassed a squad of talented young players on both sides of the ball, although this was in part due to the talented rookie selections in 2006 made by Charlie Casserly before his departure.
Kubiak has been handed a roster that most first-time head coaches would kill for, yet consistently delivers mediocrity.
All season I have been hearing people talk about how getting a wild-card spot would be a success, as if their season would be done once they get there.
To quote Ray Lewis: "Getting into the dance is meaningless. You do not go to the dance just to go home."
Whether this has to do with overall expectations or the media's interpretation of the Texans' chances I do not know, but it is a mentality that frustrates me in such a talented team.
I am in no way saying that Houston is an all-star team that should be dominating every week. I am saying that they are a talented team that with the correct mentality and coaching could beat any team on any given Sunday.
Take the three-week stretch earlier in the season for example. Twice they had the unanimous choice for best team in the league, the Indianapolis Colts, by the throat, only to let them slip away. I put this down to coaching.
Consistently the Houston Texans build up a lead, only to let it slip through their fingers through a series of controllable events. Penalties, turnovers, and an inconsistent running game have led to multiple blown wins this season.
Heck, if not for Kyle Shanahan managing to open up the pass game without an effective run game, the Texans could very well be 6-9 right now.
When Kubiak promoted Shanahan to offensive coordinator, he took a risk, one that has paid off and hurt him in the same stride. Shanahan has shown himself to be a good passing play-caller, but he is often limited in the run game, which can be attributed to the game plan installed during the week.
In times of need and desperation, when the Texans need to kill some clock in the final minutes of a game, running on 3rd-and-1, are you putting money on them making it?
The offensive line gets blown off the line of scrimmage more often than not. They have been driven into the mentality of Alex Gibbs' Zone Blocking Scheme, perhaps losing the art of grinding out a yard in the crunch time of the game.
They have no killer instinct. They play without fear. And fear should be respected in the NFL.
Fear that you are going to lose. Fear your coach will cut you if cost your team a game. Fear that you aren't playing to the best of your ability.
I am in no way saying the offense needs to change in Houston. The offense is not the problem. The mentality is.
When your leaders on the team are Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub on offense, the voice has to come from the bench. Tony Dungy always had Manning to be his voice of motivation in hard times, so his demeanor worked in that situation.
With a lack of killer instinct and playing without emotion, a change at the top is drastically needed.
Kubiak may be a good coach, but he is not the coach for the Texans going forward. Scraping into the playoffs is not where this team should be aiming for. It's not what any team should be aiming for.
So, where should they be looking? With all the talk of the big-name coaching returns this year, the eyes instantly look to Mike Shanahan. His son is the coordinator, it is a similar system to what he ran in Denver, and it has a good young defense to complement his style of coaching.
But it's not where they should look. Shanahan would not do that to his longtime friend, and, although he is more vocal than Kubiak, he is not fiery enough to do the job required, in my eyes.
The new coach will need to go into Reliant Stadium and install a fear of losing and a killer instinct. Bill Cowher obviously then jumps to the top of the list.
As a longtime secondary coach, he would bring invaluable knowledge, and his coaching style would bring in the changes to the culture that are needed. If Cowher accepts the position, pay the man whatever he wants. That is a big if.
If Cowher is not interested, the only choice in my eyes would be Mike Zimmer. His speedy 4-3 defense is a perfect a fit for the Texans' personnel as you are going to find in the NFL.
His leadership on the Bengals has been invaluable, and this has been the case dating back to his great 2004 Dallas defense. Having worked under Coach Parcells, he has perfected the blend of personal motivator with great tactician that can lead the Texans to where they need to be.
Whether Bob McNair wants to go back to a first-time coach again is something he needs to consider, but if the Texans can't get Cowher, they can't do much worse than Zimmer.
Either way, Kubiak has to go.
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