Why Rick Dennison Was Houston Texans' Right Choice as Offensive Coordinator
The Houston Texans announced that Rick Dennison has been hired to succeed Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator.
Good move, Kubiak.
Now, unfortunately, most fans can't really tell the difference between one coordinator and another.
Yes, we can see the results and appropriately give credit to a coordinator when an offense plays well or rain venom on them when the unit struggles, but as your average fan has no access to practices and team meetings, we can't really know how well the coach connects with his team.
As a result, we don't know how much credit for a unit's performance should go to the coordinator as opposed to the head coach or positional coaches.
So how can I, or anyone else for that matter, say with any level of certainty that this was a good or bad hire?
Because if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The Texans had a lot of problems last season, but you don't have a winning record and the best season in franchise history if you don't do a few things right.
If Kubiak wants to build on that, he better not mess with the strengths of his team.
The one thing the Texans did better than any team in franchise history, and better than most teams in the league, was pass the ball.
Matt Schaub led the league in passing yards, had a 98.6 quarterback rating, threw 29 touchdowns, and cemented himself as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league.
In fact, statistically speaking, his year was very comparable to that of NFL MVP Peyton Manning.
Aside: No, I am not suggesting that Matt Schaub is as good as Peyton Manning but merely pointing out that their numbers this year, wins aside, were very similar, and trying to use that platform to suggest Schaub should be in the discussion of the top NFL quarterbacks. I understand there are non-tangible areas such as decision-making and precision where Schaub is nowhere near Manning's level.
The familiarity between Kubiak and Dennison, and the comfort level that Schaub has with the offense and his receivers, means that they probably won't change much in that area.
Dennison also has experience calling plays with this scheme as he was Gary Kubiak's successor as the Bronco's offensive coordinator under Mike Shanahan. This is very important if only because Kubiak has shown that unless he has complete trust in his coordinator, he will struggle to give up play-calling duties, and that level of micromanaging is rarely successful.
The other side of this coin, however, is if it is broke, you need to fix it, and Dennison's history suggests that he should be able to help in this capacity as well.
As prolific as the Texans' passing game was last season, the running game was equally, um, not prolific.
Houston's rushing offense ranked 30th in the league with a meager 1,475 rushing yards, 30th with a 3.5 yards per rush average, 30th with only 92.2 yards per game, and every team in the league had a run longer than the Texans long of 32 yards.
Football Outsiders has Ryan Moats ranked as the team's best running back this season with a meager 1.6 percent DVOA and a DYAR of 45. While they rank the offensive line at 15th in Adjusted Line Yards, they were ranked worse than 20, and usually closer to 30, in every other metric they have for offensive line run blocking.
Suffice it to say, the running game needs help.
Dennison can help here as many credit him with not only managing Denver's offensive line that paved the way for such luminaries as Tatum Bell and Reuben Droughns to have 1,000-yard seasons, but also with coordinating the efforts of the running back and offensive line to work together as a single unit.
This is nowhere more evident than in 2008 when the Broncos' placed seven running backs on injured reserve but still managed to rush for an average of 4.8 yards per attempt—good for third in the league.
Lastly, the fact that the Texans are widely considered to be at a crossroads (and have been for some time) means that Dennison is brought in to help the team win now.
In fact, whomever the team brought in to fill the offensive coordinator vacancy would not have the luxury of putting together a two-to-three-year plan.
If the Texans struggle next year—and let's face it, if the offense regresses, there is little chance for team success—there will likely be an entirely new coaching staff for the 2011 season.
As a result, you have to discount anyone who may want to make too many changes, as this team cannot afford a learning curve.
If Gary Kubiak is getting one more year to prove he can lead this team to victory, then he has to be able to prove he can do it with his system and Dennison is the best choice to maintain continuity within that system.
If that doesn't work, our new head coach will likely be looking for a new coordinator next year anyway.
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