Note From Tim: As always, these are JMay's thoughts. He sent them to me because he was having some formatting issues, so I'm just the conduit through which his analysis flows. Direct all your kudos in his direction.
First, I feel the need to put this out there: I am one of Kubiak and Schaub's greatest defenders. Yet, I thought this loss was absolutely on them, so to speak. Matt Schaub was so horrendous in his accuracy that I wonder if he had an undisclosed injury. Is that an excuse? Sure. Except, I don't actually think he had an injury but was just bad. I've never seen him that inaccurate. Despite his numbers, Schaub has been more inaccurate than I can ever remember this season, and this game was the ultimate example of that. As for Kubiak, I think the game was everything the haters could have wanted (despite their protestations, I feel the Kubiak haters often would prefer a loss to give them ammo). The game started with a quick stop, drive for 7, and another quick stop. The Raiders didn't get a first down until almost the end of the half! The Texans were clearly a more talented team. The Raiders were a team on their heels, who had given up the worst rushing yard average in the league. However, not only did they minimize the Texans' rushing game but they did so while also finding a way to disrupt their passing. The Raiders kept tipping balls, tipping balls, tipping balls all day long, and the Texans had no answer. Early, it often felt like Kubiak was feeling out the Raiders D, getting ready to strike when he found the weakness. But, he never did find it. Instead, the Raiders are the ones who got better as the game went deeper. Both Kubiak and Schaub let an inferior team beat them in a game they were controlling, and the team leaders must be accountable for that disparity.
So, after Sunday's game, I wasn't actually all that upset. I was strangely calm and assured my more cynical game watching buddy that we would still win 10-11 games this season and win the division but that I was no longer sure about contending for more than that. As the hours went by and the beers went down, that serenity turned into the anguished opening paragraphs above.
Upon further viewing, I have softened and have plenty of thoughts on the game which don't exactly line up with the sentiments I've been hearing from most agitated Texan folk. However, that is not why we're here, so look for me on Twitter @mayj6 for my counterculture narrative on the game itself tomorrow (yup, that's me with about 10 followers).
However, those thoughts are not the goal here, which is also why the drunken ramblings and venom above are crossed out. The goal here is to look at Kubiak without that emotion and judge his GAME MANAGEMENT decisions without bias rather than to serve as a referendum on his coaching overall. Why? If you're new, read here.
If we put down our pitchforks and let that half week of talk radio haze slowly dissipate as it turns its angry head towards next week's contest, we can look back safely where no one is longer looking and judge for ourselves with fresh eyes how Kubiak performed.
I think in that regard, you will find Kubiak did surprisingly well against the silver and black. Well, at least 50-50. Kubiakian mediocrity or a decent performance, you be the judge.
As always, the ranking system goes from 1-5. 1 for terrible; 2, mildly negative; 3 neutral; 4, mildly positive; and 5, tremendous.
2Q. 8:10 left. 4th and 6. Raiders 47 yard line. Texans lead 14-6.
Kubiak faced a decision to have Rackers try a 54-55 yarder or to punt. With the lead, he chose to play it safe and take the latter. Hartmann punted to a fair catch on the 13 yard line.
Honestly, I think Kubiak, and coaches in general, are too conservative when it comes to long field goals. I think Rackers and most kickers this day in age make 4 of 5 from 55 yards (anyone else notice Rackers's leg is clearly stronger this year, perhaps fully recovered from his Cardinals injury?). I just typed about 4 sentences trying to back up why I feel the kick is the better percentage play, but I confused myself by the third sentence.
Anyone out there hooked into the advanced statistical websites that knows about studies on 50+ yard kicks, perhaps with score taken into account? Damn, that was lazy of me not to look it up myself.
But, no matter--since we can't really judge whether the decision worked out without getting into extremely speculative alternative histories, I'm going to open this one up to our weekly poll. Vote below for whether you liked the call to punt. I'm voting for a 2, a mildly poor decision.
2Q. 1:09 left. Texans up 14-12. Houston 19 yard line.
The Texans got the ball with time to at least move down the field for a field goal. Kubiak chose to run the first two plays to eat a little of the clock and move out of the deep end of his side the field. Only after getting the first down did he decide to unleash a few passes, even getting a timeout along the way from the Raiders, who were clearly and more aggressively hoping to get the ball back for Janikowski's big leg.
Was this an example of Kubiak being too conservative? Because the Texans didn't complete any of their passes, to me the issue was moot, and I judge it a 3 for a neutral decision.
3Q. 2:20 left. 3rd and 8. Texans' 32 yard line. Down 15-14.
This is the big one. Schaub attempted a pass for a first down to Joel Dreessen, which was ruled incomplete. Dreessen came up yelling for Kubiak to throw the challenge flag. Upon replay, it looked like Dreesen controlled the ball against his thigh and the question was whether he kept control.
At the bar, I was yelling for Kubiak to challenge. And, despite hearing EVERY SINGLE account of Kubiak's challenge this week say it was a poor-to-terrible decision, I still found myself explaining why I think it was the right one to my fiancee while rewatching the game. I want to argue the case. I really, really do because I think it was worth the risk. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get into a scruffle in the comments about it. Just go on and try to tell me how important timeouts are.
But, for the sake of the Kubiak Konundrum scorecard, it's clear-cut. The challenge didn't work out and therefore gets a negative ruling. Mild for the fact that it was debatable and keeping the ball would have been so important.
4Q. 3:49 left. 4th and 9. 1 TO remaining. Texans down 25-17. Raiders 30 yard line.
For those who deem Kubiak as too conservative, I think this was definitely an aggressive call, albeit not wildly. The Texans could have kicked a 47 yard field goal, and with one timeout remaining, a three and out would have gotten them the ball back right around the two minute warning, perhaps with the two minute warning time stoppage still intact.
Instead, Kubiak went for it and Jacoby Jones was able to draw a PI call to keep the drive alive. Being that they kept the ball and only Lawrence Vickers displaying his hands of stone kept them from six points and the chance for a game-tying two point conversion, this decision can only go in the mildly positive category.
4Q. 3:01 left. 4th and 18. 1 TO left. Still down 25-17. Raiders' 23 yard line.
Faced with a similar decision, this time the yardage to go for the first down was just too much to chance. Kubiak had Rackers kick the 40 yard field goal, which he made.
The fact that the Texans did in fact get the ball back with enough time to do something, and did in fact move the ball to the six for the play that shall not be named, makes this another clear-cut case of a mildly positive decision, a 4. I think Kubiak made two very solid 4th down decisions late in the game, and I don't think they were slam dunks.
So, not the stuff of legends by any stretch but not a disaster. I would have graded him positive on the day if I didn't remember my self-created bias defense of (when at all possible) judging on results rather than preconceived notions or strategies, which made the challenge a negative.
Raiders game results:
2 for mildly negative: 1 play.
3 for neutral: 1 play
4 for mildly positive: 2 plays
TBD: 1 play
Season Totals (note--from now on I will update the most recent game into the season totals, withholding whichever play we're voting on):
Mildly negative: 3 plays
Neutral: 3 plays
Mildly Positive: 5 plays