2009 was supposed to be the Houston Texans' season. The team showed all indications that it was a group ready to break through mediocrity into postseason glory. Last year may have been that year if it wasn't for the terrible defense and the tragedy of Hurricane Ike. So hiring a new defensive coordinator and praying for no more natural disasters seemed like the best recipe for success in 2009. All is not as it should be though. The Texans are now 2-3 after five weeks of the young season. Houston still has yet to garner a winning or losing streak this year, which is fairly indicative of another five hundred-esque season.
That pace is leading to more and more speculation that Gary Kubiak should not be head coach of the Texans starting next season. Jerome Solomon is the latest critic of the native Houstonian coach. Solomon points out that the team is 21-21 since December of 2006 and claims that Kubiak is destroying any chances of preserving his job by losing two games on goal line plays.
Just two plays to condemn a coach seems drastic, right? After all, if those plays would have worked out, the Texans might be 4-1. On first glance, the defense shows more promise but is still underperforming and the offense is as good or better than it has ever been. At the very least, the level of play seems better than that shown in the beginning of last year when the team was reeling from a brutal hurricane and its after-effects. Or is it?
After five games last year the team was 1-4. The offense averaged 22.4 points per game and the defense allowed 31.6 points per game. After that start, the Texans amazingly won 7 of their final 11 games. Gary Kubiak had an entire off season to let new defensive coordinator Frank Bush install his attacking defense and to help Kyle Shanahan fix the offensive problems.
The result--more of the same. The offense has averaged 23 points per game. Sound familiar? Not only has scoring remained the same, but the rushing attack, which was good for 115 yards per game last year, is now down to 75. At least the 7 turnovers lost is better than the 13 through five games in 2008.
Texans fans would probably assume that the defense has been just as bad under Bush than the first five games of last season, but surprisingly they're wrong. Average points per game allowed is down to 24 over the first five games, although to be fair that includes the Raiders. They have forced 8 turnovers, markedly better than the 5 through five games last year. Despite the statistical improvement though, no one would say that the defense is great or even good.
The problem for Kubiak is the complete lack of progress. The slow start last year was commonly blamed on the hurricane, but the 22.4 points per game in the five games in question is extremely close to the 22.9 point average for the 2008 season and the 23 point average this season. The defense is pretty close to last year as well with 24 points allowed, as compared to 24.6 for the 2008 season. Any time your defense is averaging around the same amount of points as the offense is scoring, you're going to have close, roller coaster games, just like the ones we've been seeing this year. So to lose on those two plays is bad, but the fact that the game came down to those plays shouldn't surprise you.
I've always been a Kubiak guy but time is running out for him. Solomon makes a good point that the only two coaches with a longer tenure in the NFL that have not won a Super Bowl are Jack Del Rio and Marvin Lewis. Kubiak and Rick Smith have continually been lauded for their drafts, so theoritically the talent gets better every year. Why is progress stagnant then? Eventually you have to look to the coaching staff.
I don't think we should fire Kubiak, but if the statistical averages and the winning percentage finish as close to last season's mark as they are now, it will be hard to make a case for him to stay. It's not that he's losing; it's that he's losing the exact same way. If 2008 and 2009 end being statistically equal, why would anyone believe that 2010 would be different?
I just hope that this whole article was a waste of my time writing and a waste of your time reading because Kubiak turns the team in a new direction. It will be hard though because they've been remarkably consistent since 2007. Just not in a good way.