For Week 2's Kubiak Konundrum, I concocted three categories of game management decisions named after Plato, Seinfeld, and Jacoby Jones. While it was a fun exercise, it was patently obvious at the time that those categories would not be used after that week and were, at best, simply adding flavor to that week's post or, at worst, demonstrating the epitome of intellectual masturbation.
At least, I can say that with total and utter certainty in hindsight (wait, didn't I just say it was obvious at the time?). The device would be laborious to use every week, as people would either have to go back every week to find out what the hell I was talking about or just not know what the hell I was talking about.
However, for the purposes of that week, I feel it worked. The device sparked considerable conversation and hopefully was amusing. The device, in short, achieved my goal. Much like Kubiak's decision in the Steelers game to go to a conservative play call in the fourth quarter while protecting a seven point lead. Yes, I was going somewhere with all that.
With another week of few questionable decisions in the time out and challenge departments, Kubiak faced perhaps his biggest game management decision of the year in whether or not to risk incomplete passes, which would stop the clock, or to run the ball, taking the sure seconds off the clock and trusting the defense.
It's a great Texans world we live in where I can say Kubiak chose to trust the defense and it worked. And, while many commenters were gnashing their teeth in the game thread, the fact that the Steelers had nary a credible offensive threat in the fourth quarter has to be considered a win for the coach.
While this strategy could backfire in another game, Kubiak had to go with his feel for the situation at hand. Namely, no Andre Johnson and a Steelers offense that was hurting and vulnerable. Had Kubiak chosen to let Schaub put the ball in the air and Schaub had thrown what so many consider to be his obligatory stupid interception of the game, the howling would have reached decibels ten times what they were for the conservative play call (see fall out in Dallas over Romo interceptions).
My goal, as stated in the original Kubiak Konundrum, was to take an unbiased look week to week and judge how the game management decisions worked out, not necessarily what I thought Kubiak should do. In that regard, I give the decision to run, run, run a 4 on the arbitrary 1-5 scale. But, I'll let y'all chime in at the end in the poll.
First an updated scorecard of the first three weeks:
1 is a terrible decision, 2 mildly negative, 3 neutral, 4 mildly positive, 5 brilliant.
2: 2 plays
3: 1 play
4: 2 plays
Interestingly, no 1s or 5s, as there have been no decisions that were blatantly terrible or tremendously good. As for this week:
3Q. 10:22 left. 3rd and 6.
With the Steelers just crossing into Texans' territory, Ben Roethlisberger threw to Antonio Brown for seven yards and the first down. Seeing it live, I immediately thought Brown bobbled the ball and only gained control one yard behind the first down marker, making the play a challenge opportunity. I later saw a few commenters agreed.
However, watching the replay, Brown made a nice clean stab and had control of the ball for the first down. While there was a slight wiggle when he changed the ball to the other hand, short of the first down, I don't think it was nearly enough to overturn the call. But, since the "challenge opportunity" turned out to be so innocuous, I can only give Kubiak a 3 for a neutral decision. Nothing to see here, move along.
4Q. 4th and 1. 1:14 left. Up by 7.
This one, to me, represents Kubiak's 4th quarter mentality in a microcosm. Faced with 4th and 1 on the Steelers' 46 and with the best short yardage back in the league in his pocket, Kubiak could have gone for the jugular. A first down would have clinched the game. Instead, he did what most coaches would and what we all expected: He punted. The end result, as we know, was a beautifully downed punt on the one and the subsequent harmless failure of a Steelers' drive that ended in Jason Allen's hands.
While the decision to punt is perhaps not on the same level of conservatism as the rest of the fourth quarter play calling, I think it serves nicely as a decision to represent the whole in our weekly poll. I give it a 4, for mildly positive. I still think we would have won the game had he gone for it, whether by getting the first down or stopping them, but Kubiak's decision was the final step in getting us the W.