Being in control of everything is central to the job of NFL head coach. You are the great high overseer of all, and must install the best strategy each week to win a game, and put your players in the best position to succeed.
The problem, though, is that despite the best efforts and intentions of a head coach, he can be completely unraveled by an insufficient quarterback. To an extent, this is out of the coach’s control, as there’s only so far instruction and guidance and, eventually, outright reprimanding can reel a quarterback in as he regresses. This is how Matt Schaub cost Gary Kubiak his job.
Earlier this afternoon the Houston Texans fired Gary Kubiak, naming Wade Phillips as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Kubiak finishes with a 61-64 record, with his latest and last loss coming to the Jaguars Thursday night. At a press conference owner Bob McNair announced that Case Keenum will remain the starting quarterback for the rest of the season. That makes a whole lot of sense in a lost season following a franchise record 11 straight defeats, and in a year when the Texans could hold the first overall pick. But since when does an owner who isn’t named Jerry Jones get to select his starting quarterback?
The first guy to hold that title this season could hardly drop back without throwing a pick six, with Schaub setting a record by chucking one in four straight games. Keenum has been equal parts promising and dreadfully inconsistent, getting yanked twice, and overall that tandem has totaled 6.8 yards per pass attempt (22nd).
Of course, Kubiak played his part with the odd shuffling between the two quarterbacks, most notably in Week 11 when Keenum was pulled in the third quarter of a game against the Raiders that was still well within reach (Houston was down by 10 at the time, and lost 28-23). When an offense is under performing so dramatically that it’s averaging just 19.2 points per game – which is ahead of only the Jets and Jaguars – tugging at the already fragile psyche of an undrafted rookie isn’t ideal.
But then, what was the preferred course of action for Kubiak? Although his fate became a formality and today’s announcement was greeted with no surprise whatsoever, coaches operate in a way which maximizes their chances to maintain employment. Kubiak surely looked at both Schaub and Keenum, and saw little like the rest of us. But twice in a game when he thought a win was possible and within reach, he favored experience over upside, and Schaub over Keenum. Mostly, Kubiak favored desperation over long-term gains, because he was very conscious of the fact that he had no long-term remaining in Houston. That’s the description of a coach that had to be fired, and a team that had to move on.
So, what’s next? A lot. McNair said during the presser that the firing was done now so that the process of evaluating and hiring the next coach can begin. Instantly the hearsay and speculation ignited, with Lovie Smith’s name already dropped by McNair, in addition to Kyle Shanahan’s by the Internet.
With some health (stay safe, Arian Foster and Brian Cushing), the right quarterback, and the right coach, the Texans are a team that could be turned around quickly. Sort of sounds like the Chiefs, yes?