One can only imagine what Phillips must be thinking. - Bob Levey
Beating a dead horse can be fun! The Texans will always be one step behind the elites of the NFL while they are still hindered by poor special teams play.
It's easy to see why fans have been clamoring for the firing of the Houston Texans' first and only special teams coordinator. Most of the 2012 season was marred by poor special teams blocking, lousy coverage and TV remote-breaking penalties. Naturally, our reaction as fans is to hurl expletives at the man directly responsible for such frustration and call for his job. However, Joe Marciano has yet to be fired. The reasons for this become even more mind-boggling when we take a closer look at just one component of special teams: field position.
According to Football Outsiders, the Houston Texans have finished in the top-10 in average starting field position (LOS/DR) exactly one time -- in 2011, with a 30.36 average -- since 2006. Every other year since 2006 has seen the Texans ranked 15th or worse, including a league worst 25.8 average in 2010. That the Texans were the 4th best in converting possessions into touchdowns that year is a testament to the brilliance of Arian Foster's first year as a starter.
Let's look at defensive field position. The Texans ranked in the top-10 just twice in LOS/DR since 2006. Marciano's charges conceivably helped the defense in 2008 and 2009, with 29.04 (10th) and 26.83 (4th) LOS/DR, respectively. Otherwise, they have been near the bottom or mediocre in defensive field position every year of the Gary Kubiak era.
Seeing a pattern? Great field position can relieve a lot of stress on both sides of the ball, but how easy is it to consistently attain from year to year? No doubt having to deal with the massive turnover of rookies and journeymen on special teams makes it difficult to consistently field a top-notch squad. So let us compare Marciano's numbers to, say, the New England Patriots.
Since 2006, the Patriots' offensive LOS/DR has ranked out of the top-10 only twice and never below 13th. Defensively, they've never finished worse than sixth. Even more damning for Marciano and Kubiak is that New England maintained that consistency after hiring a new coordinator in Scott O'Brien after the 2008 season. Success like this only helps an already dangerous offense and bolsters a Patriots defense that has a reputation of bending but rarely breaking. Texans fans can only dream of that kind of consistency.
Of course, field position is one of many of Marciano's responsibilities. Football Outsiders' all-encompassing special teams DVOA rankings has him wildly inconsistent from year to year as well, making it even more confusing as to how he has has stuck around so long. Kubiak has shown he's extremely loyal to his staff-- many would say to a fault. Much like we saw with the hiring of Wade Phillips, it's likely going to take another Bob McNair mandate to force Kubiak to make a change. How frustrating and embarrassing it must have been for McNair and the Texans' front office to watch Trindon Holliday and Jacoby Jones have so much success after being ousted here in Houston. Unfortunately, it looks like that phone call from upstairs isn't coming this offseason, and we'll have one more year to get to know Joe.