Last week at work, I stared past my computer and into the ocean view that glittered like wrapping paper flickered by the light of a Christmas tree. In one tab, my internet browser outlined who to call and what to do, and the other tab had my Gmail open. I alternated between phone calls and peeks into my email, like a twelve year old girl plucking petals off a daisy, giddily whispering, "He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not," as I hoped for some type of hehehehehe, chuckling joke from BFD or Uprooted Texan. Instead, I was greeted by this email from Tim:
Kubiak is apparently meeting with the media at 11 a.m. CST today. It's almost surely nothing of importance, but can someone keep an eye on it and get a post up if necessary?
It was the usual news that churns out of the bottom of the 24/7 information machine. I assumed this post-game conference would be even more of the same "hard hitting questions" by reporters followed by cliched Kubiakian answers, despite the fact this conference came the day after the Texans were swept by the Jaguars. Then abruptly I saw this e-mail that featured an embedded tweet from Will Grubb after I finished another phone call.
Podium isn't set up, no PR staff present, and we are running behind. Something appears to be up at Reliant. #Texans
As soon as I saw that, I knew that Bob McNair finally put Kubes out of his misery after spending the season staring into the abyss. Putting Matt Schaub in for Case Keenum in the third quarter of last week's game was the last straw for McNair. 2010 wasn't, the first loss to the Jags wasn't, ten losses in a row wasn't. It took Thursday night for McNair to finally end the Kubiak era after weeks of suffering since the red button was pushed months ago.
So now Kubiak will either retire from the game, take some time off and come back at a later date, or scour Teamworkonline.com or Monster.com for a new job. I don't see Kubiak not coaching next season, and I can just imagine him taking the offensive coordinator job for a team like the Raiders, where he could teach Matt McGloin how to throw bootleg play-action passes.
His legacy with Houston will be tough to decipher right away. Some will applaud him for taking a team that exemplified a skid mark on a pair of tighty-whities by turning it into a Super Bowl contender. Some will remember the play-action passes, the zone run scheme, the bootlegs, and the first playoff winning head coach with a smile on their face. Others will feel that Kubiak had a great roster that underperformed and will look with distaste at this season and the mediocre years in 2008 and 2009 with a sour "Yep, that milk is definitely bad..." look on their face. Regardless how you feel about Kubiak, you will never forget the blue pants on blue shirt fashion statement, the porcupine haircut, and the nearly eight years of Texans football he led.
Most will break Kubiak's faults down into three fatal components: an inability to make halftime adjustments, conservative play, and poor clock management. The problem is that no one has ever looked at the numbers, so those complaints are simply the same groupthink we all have heard a multitude of times yet has never been proved. Let's test the validity of these statements and see if Kubiak was actually horrendous in these situations so we can better understand his legacy in the future once the emotional smoke fades from the fire in the upcoming months.
Throughout Kubiak's tenure, this was described as his largest fault. He would not make changes going into the second half and would continue to do the same thing once the number sitting underneath QUARTER on the scoreboard turned from a two to a three. Thousands of times I have read and heard screams of people venting frustration about the Texans losing because they were out-coached in the second half. Nobody has ever looked up the numbers and quantified this idea.
There are a few ways we can look at this aspect of Kubiak's career. The first is by looking at the splits in passing, rushing, and points scored in the first and second halves. Since 2006, here are the differences in passing yards in the first and second halves.
|1st Half Passing||Cmp||Att||Cmp%||Yds||TDs||INTs||Sacks||Y/A||Rating|
|1st Half Total||1364||2119||64.36||16260||92||56||124||7.6||90.55|
|2nd Half Passing|
|2nd Half Total||1364||2104||64.82%||13986||78||63||121||6.6||85.8|
As you can see, the passing numbers in the first half and the second half are nearly identical. The only difference in the aggregate is that Houston completed passes about a yard less in the second half than the first. Really what is striking between the two is the difference in 2013.
Houston has been atrocious when it comes to throwing the ball in the second half this year. They are 148-256 with a completion percentage of 57.8% for 5 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while being sacked 21 times. Most of this can be attributed to Case Keenum. As we have seen all season; Keenum has struggled in the second half when defenses stop the long passing game, bracket Andre Johnson, and blitz heavily. He is abysmal at reading a defense before the snap, and when the pressure comes, he does not step up in the pocket or throw to the hot route. Instead he turns his shoulders and runs outside the pocket, only to be brought down by a hastier defensive end or a blitzing linebacker.
What the numbers show is that the Texans have thrown the ball at the same level in both halves. Until this year, when the wheels exploded off the quarterback wagon into a million little fibers. There's really nothing different in the basic stats. The only other thing you can see is how Houston fell behind early and often in 2008 and 2010 and had to spend the entire second half throwing to catch back up. The opposite can be said of 2011 and 2012 when Houston went up big and ran the ball in the second half to put teams away.
|1st Half Schaub||967||1500||64.50%||11816||72||40||75||7.9||93.5|
|2nd Half Schaub||927||1420||65.30%||10802||50||33||79||7.6||90.2|
Schaub is nearly identical in the first half compared to the second half. There is nothing different, other than he throws more touchdown passes in the first half. That's more a result of game situations than performance.
Rushing yards are a little more interesting to look at because they vary much more from half to half.
|1st Half Rushing||Att||Yds||Y/C||TDs|
|1st Half Total||1903||8154||4.28||58|
|2nd Half Rushing|
|2nd Half Total||1904||7204||3.78||66|
The reason the production differs from half to half this much is because of how football works, not because Gary Kubiak is terrible at making adjustments. Teams that go up in the first half run the ball more often to kill the clock, and teams that are down at the half throw to catch back up. Weird, right? What is cool about these numbers is we can see how horrendous some of the years of the past were. From 2006-2010, Houston ran the ball 212, 213, 217, and 223 times in the second half because Schaub had to throw the ball continuously to try and bring the team back from a deficit. When they morphed into a very good football team, they ran the ball 60 more times in the second half than they had in 2009 and 2010.
The most interesting thing to gain from this table is what we see this year. The Texans have run the ball 245 times for 512 yards, which equals 3.53 yards a carry. This is the reason why they get blown out and lose leads in the second half. When they had a lead, they lost it because they are unable to pick up anything on the ground. As a result, they give the opponent more touches and chances to come back .
This idea that halftime adjustments are the reason why Houston has blown games in the second half this season is completely untrue. If someone says this, look them deep in the eyes, point a finger right in their frumpy face, and tell them, "No, sir. You are incorrect. The reason why Houston has played poorly with a lead is because they have only 512 rushing yards in the second half and average 3.53 yards a carry. They simply can't close teams out and that is why they have blown games in the second half." Speaking of this year, here are the Texans' numbers when leading at halftime this season:
|1st Half||2nd Half|
When we take the totals, Houston has been outscored 92-24 in the second half after going into the half with the lead. This is an astronomical difference and is quite amazing. If Houston won four, or even three, of these games, they would be in the playoff picture, with the #6 seed being a possibility in the sewer that is the AFC. The main reason the Texans have played poorly in the second half is because Houston can't run the ball and they can't rush the quarterback. As I talked about earlier, the poor run game leads to more possessions for the offense, and when you add this to a pass rush that has only accrued 11 sacks in the second half, we get quarterbacks that get to play 7-on-7 football to take advantage of Shiloh Keo, Brandon Harris, Brice McCain, Darryl Sharpton, Joe Mays, and D.J. Swearinger covering the middle of the field. Throw all of this together and we get the horrific second half team the Texans are this year. This can be attributed to the talent on the field, not to Kubiak being outwitted in the second half.
I hate to use yards to measure anything football related (or length related, for that matter) after doing this research, but it does give us a baseline. However, yards don't mean dinking diddly do unless a team puts points on the board.
|1st Half||TDs||FGs||2 Pt||INTs||FUMs||Sacked||Points Scored|
|1st Half Total||144||111||0||56||36||124||1341|
|2nd Half Total||144||93||13||63||36||121||1300|
The points scored are a little funky because again it depends on the situation. For example, in 2010, Houston scored 88 more points in the second half because the Texans had the worst pass defense in the world and gave up 228 points in the first half. This led to Matt Schaub throwing the ball the entire second half in garbage time. On the flip side, the 2011-2012 Texans scored 50-60 less points in the second half because they would jump out to early leads and run the clock out in the second half. The most harrowing issue seen in the table has nothing to do with the splits, but in the TD to FG ratio.
In 2012, the Texans kicked more field goals than they scored touchdowns and have only scored one more TD than FG this year. Cue the groans of 27 yard Shayne Graham field goals from last season. So far, this is the first example of any type of second half letdown that could be the result of halftime adjustments. However, this is probably the result of a team being up at halftime and choosing to be more risk averse in the second half. More on this tomorrow.
Other than in 2009, the Texans' offensive points scored numbers are roughly the same or vary because of the in-game circumstances. If anyone has a reason why the second half 2009 numbers are so awful, let me know. Based on my memory, I think it is more of a reason why 2013 is the worst year of Texans football since 2009.
When we look at the defensive points scored, we see more of the same.
|1st Half||TDs||FGs||2Pt||INTs||FUMs||Sacks||Points Allowed|
It is amazing how horrendous the defense was in 2010. They allowed 228 points in the first half, which equals an average of 14.25 points. They were better in the second half, simply because the opponent hung out and ran the clock out while Schaub threw the ball over and over and over again. Man, that year sucked, but at least it led to J.J. Watt.
The other thing that is important to gleam about is what has happened to the team this season compared to years before. In 2011 and 2012, the Texans had 21 sacks in the first half and 23 sacks in the second half. This year, Houston has only 11 sacks in the second half, 11. This all goes back to the problems we have seen in the second half discussed earlier. I hope Rick Smith is reading this and does whatever he can to improve the pass rush and left guard this off season. If this happens, Houston will see a swing in one possession games.
So now that we have looked at the offensive and defensive numbers, let's compare them and look at the differentials.
|Year||1st Half Differential||2nd Half Differential
What we see here is that Houston plays roughly the same in the first half and the second half. There are issues with the numbers, but because of the large sample size of games we have an even mix of seasons to draw conclusions from. The only season with an enormous drop off in the second half is 2011; this is mostly due to a more conservative approach after having such a large lead entering the half.
The truth is that the Texans have a point differential of five points worse in the second half compared to the first half. This hardly seems like a coach who has trouble making adjustments. I would assume it would be more to the level of a head coach whose teams play average to good in the second half compared to the first. Still don't believe me because you aren't a fan of yards and points to measure teams? Let's look at the halftime splits in offense and defense by looking at DVOA, courtesy of Rivers McCown. Thanks again, Mr. McCown.
|Year||Off 1st Half||Def 1st Half||Off 2nd Half||Def 2nd Half|
|2007||0.5% (14th)||12% (27th)||2.6% (14th)||12% (29th)|
|2008||7% (12th)||8.8% (23rd)||5.3% (15th)||18% (31st)|
|2009||19.7% (7th)||13% (25th)||-.3% (16th)||18% (31st)|
|2010||5.9% (13th)||16.1% (32nd)||35.3% (2nd)||19.1% (30th)|
|2011||12% (9th)||-15.3% (6th)||4.3% (11th)||-4% (9th)|
|2012||6% (13th)||-19.3% (2nd)||-6% (21st)||-8.9% (7th)|
|2013||3.2% (12th)||1.2% (20th)||-26.7% (29th)||7% (22nd)|
DVOA removes all the problems we saw with yards and point differential we looked at earlier because it looks at how a team performs on every play and then compares them to the league average rate. Like I have been discussing for the last few thousand words, there is not much of a difference in the Texans' play while Kubiak is at the helm from half to half. The only two cases of a large difference is the offense's play in 2009 and this year. You can make the argument that Kubiak can be at fault in 2009, but not in 2013 because of Keenumania and the overall problems discussed earlier. Other than those two seasons, Houston played at a similar level in the first and second half.
Whether you look at yards, points, or DVOA, the results are the same. This idea that Kubiak is terrible at second half adjustments is anecdotal and a way to vent anger when losses occur. The only examples of mountainous swings are in 2009 and 2013. 2013 is the result of a poor second half run game, pass rush, and quarterback play. 2009 is the result of some factor that escapes my mind because I was a high school senior at the time who had yet to watch football with my thinking cap on.
If you want to make a case that Gary's teams perform poorly in the second half, 2009 is the only year where the data shows some truth to this statement. However, there are still six plus other years that prove otherwise. Additionally, the DVOA numbers are roughly similar half to half, and Kubiak's point differential is only five points different when comparing the first and second halves. Now, I'm not saying Houston plays better in the second half, but I'm saying that they play at a similar level throughout the entire game. The truth is not that Kubiak is a benign strategist, but that we have all succumbed to the demon known as groupthink.
***All data is accurate up to Week 14.***
Check back here tomorrow for Part II!