TIM: Thanks to Rivers for this FanPost. While I'm still not ready to bid Kubes adieu, I'm always in favor of a good discussion; hence, the bump to the front page.
Admitting that Gary Kubiak isn't the right coach for this team is something that really pains me. I still think he can be a successful head coach, and I still think he's far from the biggest problem for the team (hello, defense!). But in light of the fact that a) I think he's going to be fired and b) I think he's had enough problems with clock management, playcalling, winning close games, and challenges to warrant it, I figured I'd put my thoughts on e-paper here about the next head coach.
Stipulation #1 for me in hiring a new head coach is that I want Kyle Shanahan to stay on as offensive coordinator. The overall offensive scheme that we have is successful, the players that we have on offense best fit the PA-pass system. I think most of the offensive problems this year stem from poor personnel (the interior offensive line, Slaton's struggles with fumbles/injuries, the lack of a good interior back) for the scheme rather than any problems with the scheme itself. To blow that up and start all over again with say, a total West Coast offense, would probably do more harm than good.
I would rather pair Baby Shan with a stellar defensive mind than deal with a new cook messing up what we have offensively, because we have made progress there. In the event that we CAN'T keep Shans, I think we should at least look into a similarly young/inexperienced mind that has the same Denver offensive principles. I'd also love to see Kubiak back as the offensive coordinator, but well, that's not going to happen. Haha. I think I've wasted enough words trying to say that the offensive scheme and the stars we have are good fits for each other, so let's move on to the candidates.
1) Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier - He has experience building a program out of nothing in college (Trinity), he improved pretty much every staff he was a part of prior to being a defensive coordinator (Philly, Cincy, Indy), He stumbled at first, given the Vikings after Mike Tomlin left, but the past two seasons he's presided over one of the better defenses in the NFL. He runs the 4-3. The 2008 Vikings had the best DVOA against three-wide sets in the NFL, something that could come in handy when Peyton Manning is in your division.
Reservations: I'm pretty sure he's a stellar coach, but well, as much as I hate Jared Allen, it's hard to not have a good defense with him and the Williams Wall at the forefront of everything. He's definitely had a lot of talent to work with in all of his professional stops, exempting perhaps the Bengals. However, he turned that Bengals team into a high-turnover machine, which tells me that he probably knows how to adapt to not having a good defense.
2) Carolina Panthers coach John Fox - Well, just look at his head coaching career. He's well over .500, and has yet to finish below 7-9 in a season. The Panthers defense has been outside of the Top 15 once in his entire eight-year stint with the Panthers, including three times in the Top 5. He loves man-to-man coverage, which after 8 years of hell having to deal with the zone defense this team throws out would be a godsend. He's also built big running games, has experience drawing up plays for a dominant wide receiver, and made a Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme as his quarterback. I can't help but look at the people who want him out of Carolina as people trying to make a change just for the sake of making a change. Runs the 4-3. Of all the retreads out there, I think he's the best bet for future success in Houston.
Reservations: His defense hasn't exactly set the world on fire the last few seasons, but they've also been dealing with an abnormal amount of injuries. Whether it's his fault or not, the Panthers definitely have traded up in the draft a lot for my taste. He has a tendency to rely too much on stars and not enough on depth. Of course, his hiring relies on the Panthers actually firing him.
3) Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott - Hey, it's the guy I wanted to be our defensive coordinator last offseason! He's back! All McDermott has done this season is put the Eagles #3 in defensive DVOA despite the passing of Jim Johnson, several injuries, and a downright pathetic linebacking core that forced a midseason trade for Will Witherspoon. He philosophically tends to follow Johnson, and that's great because Johnson was one of the absolute best in his profession. Runs the 4-3. Has a background as a defensive backs coach that would come in handy given how it's our absolute weak point.
Reservations: He's very young, and the young coach trend hasn't shown itself to be the best thing for NFL teams over the past couple of years. Not a ton of data on him as a defensive mind, and has shoe-horned himself in with the Eagles to the point where it's difficult to be sure that he brings enough to the table on his own.
4) Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer - Presiding over the Cowboys defense for years, Zimmer survived numerous regime changes and had only one real bad year, 2004. Was the fall guy in 2005 despite a 12th-ranked DVOA defense because Wade Phillips was the main defensive cook. Hired by Bobby Petrino in Atlanta, he presided over an abysmal Falcons defense, but I'm willing to throw that year out since it was such a sideshow. The Bengals hired him to be second-chef for Marvin Lewis, and the Bengals defense has gone from 28th in DVOA in 07, to 16th in 08 and 17th in 09. Great backstory with his wife this year. Has 4-3 and 3-4 experience.
Reservations: He doesn't seem to have much recent experience being the #1 defensive mind. I don't like that he's been such a second banana. The Bengals defense would have been hardpressed not to improve with all the money and draft picks they've poured into it. More importantly, he's only presided over one defense that has been in the DVOA top 5 in any given year. I like him, but I think he's clearly the 4th best candidate wheras the other three I've juggled back and forth between the #1 spot. He could be someone who just doesn't have the coaching skillset to make the jump to head coach.
Those would be the first four guys I would interview. The rest of the guys I like fit into a few easy categories so I'll just give them capsules:
Guys I like slightly less, but whom I don't think would actually coach in Houston anyway: Bill Cowher (3-4, think we're not prestigious enough for him, and I'd rather have Fox than him anyway. Still, hard to ignore the resume.), Tony Dungy (He fits all the categories but can you really picture him joining the Houston Texans to try and beat Peyton? Me either.), Monte Kiffin (Extremely old and has already sort of taken on the happy father role with Lane at Tenn, but a hell of a coach.)
Guys I like who I don't think fit us scheme-wise: Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett (would change the offense, don't think Jerry would let him get away), 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky (prefers 3-4), former Rams coach Mike Martz (I think he's incredibly underrated and has an excellent scheme, but it goes away from what we have and putting Matt Schaub in a position to take a lot of hits isn't something that has historical support as a good idea).
Thoughts, BRB? Anyone I missed?
(More Texans talk and Game Charting observations throughout the year at: From Mom's Basement)