Here's the first installment, detailing what we're trying to accomplish with the Kubiak Konundrum, namely taking an unbiased look at Kubiak's game management decisions.
After the first two weeks of this experiment, I've come to the conclusion that game management decisions will most likely fall into three categories:
The Jacoby Jones
A decision that was as obviously wrong as a pass clanging off the hands or as obviously right as an amazing catch that you wish could happen more (for Jacoby and Kubiak, really). These decisions shouldn't need much deliberation, though the negative might cause plenty of venting and vexing.
The Seinfeldian Debate
A questionable decision that might or might not have worked out, depending on one's interpretation. George and Jerry could sit at the coffee shop debating this for hours, and, really, that's why we're here. Although it might be more of a bar room discussion on BRB. I will open these decisions up to a poll at the end for the readers to decide.
A philosophical decision that some will disagree with out of principle, but that will be almost impossible to determine whether it worked out. I will discuss these decisions when I see fit but refrain from "judging" them on the scorecard because of their ambiguous nature. Still , fire away in the comments on what kind of strategy would best suit the Republic of the Texans.
Yes, I just used Jacoby Jones, Seinfeld, and Plato together in a qualification system. The confusion seems only fitting in a discussion involving Kubiak.
I also think these decisions can't just be considered good or bad but that some sort of degree of good or bad must be taken into account. So, on my sliding and arbitrary scale of coaching decisions from 1-5, 3 will be considered neutral, 1 the worst, and 5 the best.
Enough ballyhoo, on to the results from the Miami game. This week, I tried to focus in real time to get a feel for making the call under the time pressure (even if I had the benefit of 62 inch HD in front of me). Trying to make the call before the next snap definitely added an appreciation for how difficult the decisions which are so easy in hindsight really are. Without further ado:
9:04, 2Q. 3rd and Two. Category: Seinfeldian Debate
Henne passed to Bush in the flat, a yard beyond the first down marker. A big hit by JJo knocked Bush back a yard behind the marker, but Bush then reached the ball past it as he went out of bounds. The call on the field was that the play was a first down. But was Bush out of bounds before reaching the ball past the marker? Had the officials given Bush forward progress anyway, making the matter moot? I immediately thought we might see a challenge, especially since overturning the call would leave Miami with a fourth and one. Sure enough, Kubiak pulled out the red flag as he decided what to do. Miami did a good job of getting to the line and running a quick play, and there was no challenge.
Upon further review, it sure looks like Reggie's right foot went out of bounds with the ball still a half yard short. Also, the ref did not appear to give Bush the initial forward progress based on the spot. Without time for the cameras to give another angle, I can't say with one hundred percent certainty that the foot was out, but my inclination is to say this was a missed challenge opportunity. However, because of the time Kubiak had, the nature of the evidence (the coaches booth only has access to what we see on TV), and the risk involved in jeopardizing a time out based on said evidence, I can't kill him for it. I'd rate it a 2 on the decision scale for a mild fail.
What do we think? Did Kubiak miss a challenge by not throwing the flag? Since I can only add one poll, vote with your words below. 1 for utterly bad, 2 for mildly bad, 3 for neutral, 4 for mild goodness, 5 for Kubiak love.
1:06, 2Q. 2nd and Nine. Miami 10 yard line. Category: Jacoby Jones
A short pass to AJ to the Miami 10 yard line left the Texans with 2nd and 9. Kubiak had Schaub let the clock tick down to 35 seconds before calling timeout. Rereading the message boards, I saw that some people were cyber screaming for the team to snap the ball, but with all three timeouts remaining and only two more plays to attempt a touchdown before a potential field goal, this was clearly a good call to milk 25 seconds off the clock and leave Miami with no time on the other side. Not a move of genius, but if we're going to nitpick, we also have to give credit to good calls on the finer side of the spectrum.
Decision: Good clock management. 4 on the decision scale.
13:18, 4Q. 2nd and four. Texans 41 yard line. Category: Seinfeldian Debate
With the Texans only up six and the Dolphins in their territory, the game was still very much in doubt. In fact, I'm sure some of you were feeling rumblings of last year's evil twin defense rearing its ugly head. Henne arched a pass with nice touch to Hartline for 25 yards down to the 16. A beautiful job of getting his toes down by Hartline. Or was it?
Seeing it live, I thought a challenge was coming. Seeing the first replay, I wrote down "THROW THE FLAG!" with the full fury of anger caps. Kubiak again pulled out the flag while he made a decision. Miami again did a great job of getting the ball off, even if it resulted in an incomplete pass. So, was the catch good?
The announcers gave it their nod of approval. Days later, I heard Matt and Adam debating it on the Big Show on 790, each having a different opinion. Watching it again, I think that Hartline's right foot came down in bounds, then kicked the left one up before any part of the left foot could land. The first replay, the one from behind, best shows this. I don't think it was a good catch.
Was the play worth the risk of the challenge and possibly burning a second timeout, which could have been needed had Miami scored? Or was the play too inconclusive? I would say it was worth the challenge, because the play put the Dolphins in clear striking distance of the go ahead touchdown. While it might have eventually been deemed inconclusive, I think there also might have been enough evidence to overturn. The differing opinions afterward keep this criticism in the mild category.
What say you? Should Kubiak have risked the timeout on 50/50 evidence (50/50, I say, because . . . well, because I say)? Since I can only have one poll, well, you know the drill . . .
5:17, 4Q. 3rd and 1. Houston 41 yard line. Category: Jacoby Jones
With Houston up by ten, looking to ice the game, Ben Tate came out for a breather after four effective carries. On an important third down, Houston was facing the prospect of Steve Slaton running between the tackles or running a play action, which might have stopped the clock and given Miami the ball back. Instead, Kubiak called time out, allowing Tate time to catch his breath. Tate returned after the time out and quickly got the hand off, easily gaining the first down. In doing so, the Texans were able to burn an extra two minutes off the clock. Another seemingly minute decision with large consequences. Like every time I decide to go to Taco Bell.
Decision: Good clock management. 4 on the decision scale.
Early in the game. Category: Plato
On both of the opening drives, the Texans got the ball inside the five. The first time, they faced a fourth and goal from the five; the second, a fourth and two from the four. Some people don't like kicking ever from inside the five. The fact that the Texans needed only two yards for the first on the latter drive might add fuel to the fire. Again, I heard the call debated on The Big Show as well as in the message boards (evidently, I can hear typing).
However, I think this falls under the third category listed above—more of a philosophical decision rather than a game management decision. The fact that most likely every non-Belichick or Haley named coach in the league kicks in both instances makes it really hard to question the calls. I just can't do it here or add it as a questionable decision in the scorecard, but you're welcome to challenge that in the comments.
All in all, my take away from the Miami game is that Kubiak was conservative on the challenges, missing out on a couple of opportunities but perhaps using a mentality that in the long run will save some timeouts. As for timeout management, he had two good uses of timeouts, one involving a solid awareness for the clock. A solid if unspectacular outing in my opinion, much like the team's efforts and Kevin Walter's career.
What say the people?