After an 11-game losing streak that had them going from two-time AFC South champions to contestants for the first overall draft pick far sooner than anyone expected, the Houston Texans have fired head coach Gary Kubiak. The MMQB.com's Peter King speculated on Twitter this morning that the firing could happen, and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports said before Kubiak's Friday press conference that the coach had told his coaching staff that he had been let go.
The team made it official during a Friday morning press conference.
"This has been a very disappointing year for the Texans organization," team owner Bob McNair said. "We started out with such high hopes, and we felt like it was the best roster we've ever started the year with. We really, really anticipated a very favorable outcome, and to have this string of losses is just totally unacceptable. It's not what this organization is about. We're about winning and accountability, and even though we would normally wait until the end of the year to evaluate our coaching staff ... under these extreme circumstances, I thought it was in the best interests of the organization to go ahead and start that evaluation process now.
"We felt that a change was needed at the head coach position, so Gary Kubiak is no longer the head coach."
"We've been together almost 18 years, and there's a lot of history with Gary," general manager Rick Smith added. "I have tremendous respect for him ... We've got to right the ship. We've got to move forward. We have three more games to evaluate every player, coach and process."
The former Denver Broncos backup quarterback and assistant coach was hired to lead the Texans before the 2006 season, replacing Dom Capers. He has amassed a 61-64 regular-season record, with two playoff wins in four chances. But the current losing slide, compounded as it had been by a season sweep at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, made the decision an easy one for the Houston higher-ups, though it seemed like an unbelievable option before this season began.
“I want to thank Bob McNair and his family for giving me my first head coaching opportunity in the National Football League," Kubiak said in a statement released by the team Friday afternoon. "Bob has treated me with the utmost class and respect throughout my career with the Texans. I am appreciative of him for bringing me back to Houston to coach my hometown team. I want thank the players and coaches for all the work they have put in during my years with the Texans. Though we came up short this season, the work, effort and sacrifice they gave me and this organization over the last eight seasons is not to be taken for granted. I want to wish them all the best.
"I want to thank the people in the organization for their support over all the years. We could not have achieved our goals without their tireless work and commitment to our team. Lastly, my family and I want to thank the city of Houston for their support of the football team and our family. We had a great run here and we will never forget our back-to-back AFC South Championships. Coming back home was a dream come true for all of us. This will always be our home. Thank you.”
Unfortunately, Thursday night's loss to the Jaguars was perhaps the clearest indication that Kubiak was lost and flailing for answers wherever he could find them. Houston racked up rampant penalties (14 for 177 yards) that killed its drives over and over, Kubiak made several questionable in-game strategic decisions and the team appeared listless and undisciplined. When Kubiak subbed quarterback Case Keenum out for former starter Matt Schaub and Schaub ended the game in the wrong direction with an interception, it was clear that something in the coach-team dynamic had gone bad at some point along the way.
The loss to Jacksonville was Houston's seventh this season by a touchdown or less, and that piqued Kubiak's frustration after the game.
“Yeah, it was another one," he said. "It’s very difficult when you have 2nd and a yard in a position to win the game, and one play will make you go backwards and go 4th-and-4. If you can’t make that yard, you don’t deserve to win. We had 14 penalties or something, and it’s just ridiculous. [The penalties] didn’t give us a chance to win. I think there were 22 or 23 penalties in the game, and the only ones I am concerned about are ours. There were huge penalties; down the field, pass interference penalties and those types of things. It’s on me. I am the coach. It’s discipline, and it’s just ridiculous. There is no way you should make that many penalties in a football game.”
It's been a rough year for Kubiak all the way around. Less weighty matters like a complete defensive collapse or Schaub's implosion into a pick-six machine paled in comparison to the Transient Ischemic Attack, or "mini-stroke," he suffered at halftime of the game against the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 3. Kubiak sat out until Nov. 11, but when he returned to work, the first public reports of the front office's frustrations with him had already surfaced. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network revealed that Smith (who could also be on his way out) and others in the building were unhappy with the amount of input coaches had in recent drafts and that the lack of a defensive line rotation led to sloppy play late in games. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who served as interim head coach during Kubiak's recovery, will do so again.