Let me preface this article by saying that I have been leading the "Fire Gary Kubiak" charge since early in the 2009 season. I was fed up much earlier than the rest of the Texans fan base, and it got even worse over the next couple of seasons.
Eventually, after the next couple of disappointing seasons, the majority of Texans fans began to agree with me and even became more ardent supporters of that movement than I ever was. Fans led rallies outside the stadium, callers on local radio wanted anyone besides Kubiak back for another season and I'm pretty sure even his wife and kids thought he deserved to be fired after the meltdown last season.
However, my tone quickly changed on January 5th of this year. If you don't know, this is the date that the team hired Wade Phillips to replace the atrocious Frank Bush as defensive coordinator. From that moment on, I've been good on the decision to give Kubiak a sixth, make-or-break season. Why, you ask? It's quite simple.
Before this fiasco all started, Bob McNair had given Gary free reign to hire whoever he wanted for his coaching staff. It showed confidence in his head coach, sure. But it also made him look bad after the Texans fielded a historically bad defense last season that probably should have cost Kubes his job.
In hindsight, it was an awful decision on multiple levels to let him hire his own guys for the entire coaching staff. We all know that Kubiak is a brilliant offensive mind, and it really didn't matter who he hired on that side of the ball, as he was pretty much going to be the offensive coordinator with head coaching privileges.
But the guy wasn't brought here for his knowledge of how to run an NFL defense. So he thought he'd hire all of his buddies to run the defense, and it backfired in his face. Twice. So all those people who said it wasn't his fault that the defense was so bad, that's just wrong. He made the decision to hire Frank Bush when there were better options out there.
Finally, Bob McNair had it, and I'm pretty sure he read Gary Kubiak the riot act behind closed doors before he decided to keep him on one more year. Bob made the decision to hire Wade Phillips, and Bob made the decision for Wade to hire his guys to help fix a defense that didn't seem fixable. Bob made the decision to start holding this coaching staff accountable, no longer blindingly trusting them to make the proper football decisions.
Something that Bob McNair has never been is a meddling owner like a Jerry Jones-type. But this season, I've seen him leave his suite up high and come down to the sidelines in crunch time of a close game. He seems like a different guy this year, and he is no longer going to accept excuses or mediocrity.
While this all sounds like doom and gloom for Gary Kubiak, let me get to the point of this article. I apologize, I have been known to ramble on when it comes to this topic. So, the biggest thing that these two differences have done for Gary is that they are making him a better coach. All of a sudden, he is coaching with a sense of urgency. He knows this is his last chance, and he is going above and beyond what he has done in any of his previous five seasons.
He is holding players accountable for bad play. He is pulling guys out that are underachieving, regardless of their expectations or where they were drafted. He is focusing on the offense and letting Wade Phillips do his thing on the defensive side of the ball and not interfering. In all these facets, he just seems more intense and focused this year than I've ever seen.
One thing I've always accused Kubes of is being too easy-going and too nice to his players. I'm not saying he has to grab players by their face masks, screaming and spitting all over them, to make a point. He doesn't have to be a media darling that says outlandish things that gets the focus off his team or anything like that. I could care less about that, in all truth. Just yelling at your team isn't going to make them play better, I know this. But something we saw this past Sunday has made me finally realize that this guy just might have what it takes to be an NFL head coach after all.
With the momentum shifting to Pittsburgh in a close game at home, the offense came onto the field and had a quick three and out. Most Texans fans have seen this movie too many times and began to get restless until they saw Gary Kubiak on the sideline. He got the entire offense into a huddle on the sideline and gave them a good thrashing where everyone in the stadium and on TV could see it.
It may not have seemed like much to a casual NFL fan who doesn't follow this team on a day-to-day basis, but it was a pretty big deal. Especially since on the next offensive possession, the team went out and scored on five plays.
To me, it just might be a defining moment for Gary Kubiak. It is easily his greatest moment as a head coach and even has me believing he just might make a solid NFL head coach after all.
I have been quite vocal in the past about how I didn't think this team would ever win with this current regime at the helm. But it just seems different this year. I did say that I thought the hiring of Wade Phillips would make Gary Kubiak a better coach because he would no longer have to hold his defensive coordinator's hand during the games. But I didn't think it would happen this fast.
There have been much less "What the hell, Kubiak?!" moments this year, and the players look like they now would run through a wall for their coach. After five years, you wouldn't imagine it would take that long for it to get to this point. But perhaps Gary Kubiak is just a late bloomer.