Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.
Before the season started, I wrote a thought-piece on Gary Kubiak that laid out exactly where I hoped Kubiak would lead the team. Back then we were all jonesing for some football. Football season is in full swing now, and we have a pretty decent sample size from which to judge Gary's performance so far, so now is as good a time as any to look at that piece in light of what has happened so far this season and maybe take a stab at what to expect for the remaining ten games.
How about we do some double-dutch and hop across the jump, mmmkay?
Way back in July, I came up with six things I wanted to see Kubes do this season that would move me out of the Fire Kubes camp and onto the I Want To Name All My Kids Kubes (Even The Girls) bandwagon. I'll go ahead and recap them here:
1) Be more hands-on with the defense.
2) Don't be afraid to mix it up.
3) Don't mash square pegs into round holes.
4) Learn how to coach with a sense of urgency today, tomorrow and forever.
6) Stop finding new and cruel ways to lose.
So, how did he do? Let's go down the list:
1) Be more hands-on with the defense. After considering this item for approximately 1.98620897908765 seconds, I have concluded: No. Not just no, but hell-to-the-sweet-droppings-of-Durga no. I think it's fair to say that the only possible, realistic evaluation of this item terms it nothing short of a complete pile of stinking, festering, gangrenous failure. Am I being too mild here? Fortunately for me (and my delicate constitution) this topic has been beaten to death by other members of this board and I will leave it at that. Except to say that our defense makes me feel enough hatred that, if I were a Jedi, I would have joined the dark side and pillaged a thousand planets after watching Matt Cassel put up a passer rating almost 50 points higher than his career average against us. Ok, I'm done now.
2) Don't be afraid to mix it up. As much as I think Kubes failed on number one, I have to give him decent marks on number two, at least on the offensive side of the ball. In fact, perhaps we're guilty of mixing it up too much, such as when we tried consecutive run plays on second and 20 and third and 20 deep within our own territory or tried to throw it on third and two. Nonetheless, we haven't seen nearly as many bizarre decisions in the red zone (i.e., handing the ball to Chris Brown three straight times) and our red zone offense is pretty good as a result. Having Arian Foster helps too, of course, as does having Derrick "Melting Glacier" Ward.
On defense, however, I think we've again failed to do this enough. Defensively we did some good things against the Colts, to the point where Peyton had to burn timeouts to get his play call right. Unfortunately, we kind of fell off after that and resorted to more vanilla schemes. It got so bad that quarterbacks could simply close their eyes and throw a somewhat lofted ball to the soft spot in the zone (you know the one, about fifteen yards downfield right by the sideline) or, in case the receiver headed that direction fell down or had hysterical laughing fits at the thought of being covered by Kareem Jackson, take a deep breath, count to 73, and hit the tight end as he came back from his massage and dragged across the middle of the field.
So, like so many things about this team, I give our offense a good grade and our defense... the finger.
3) Don't mash square pegs into round holes. Other than trying to turn a rookie cornerback into Darrelle Revis or Tim into a Chimay drinker, I suppose we haven't been too bad at this. Oh, except for that one time when we thought that FRANK BUSH COULD ACTUALLY FUNCTION AS A HALFWAY DECENT DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR1111!!!!!!!ELEVENTYONE!!11!
4) Learn how to coach with a sense of urgency today, tomorrow and forever. The record shows that the Texans have four wins and two losses. I think it is very clear that of the four wins, three of them came in large part because the Texans came out intense and turned that intensity into focus, with the Oakland win being a function of the fact that the Texans were simply far superior to the Raiders. Two of those victories (Washington and KC) came about because Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson didn't really feel like losing at that particular moment in time and the defense decided to show up just enough to allow the offense to win the game for us. And a certain amount of luck as well.
Our two losses, on the other hand, happened largely because the Texans just didn't show up. So it's fair to say that the team has gotten better at playing with a sense of urgency, but could still stand to improve considerably in this aspect.
5) Beat the Colts and Jags at least once and go Voldemort on the Titans. So far, so good. We'll see what the Monday Night Football game at Indy brings, but I'm not optimistic that we're going to beat Peyton in his house, Dallas Clark or no. Additionally, we cannot take one single division game for granted. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that we lose every single remaining game. You think I'm kidding? The Jags are looking like cellar dwellers yet again, but they swept us last year when they finished last in the division. And Tennessee is looking scary good right about now, what with that
cheapshotting gnarly defense, literate (and occasionally sober) quarterback and a wide receiver that apparently can catch passes thrown to him (that kind of wide receiver always seems to give us fits). Good thing their running game sucks, huh? Oh wait...
6) Stop finding new and cruel ways to lose. So far so good on this one. Our two losses have been pretty mild as far as Texans losses go, meaning no puppies in my neighborhood have been kicked, all of our crockery remains intact, and no one has showed up at my house with a straight jacket. I give Gary an A+ for this one.
Where does that leave us? And what the hell is that damn poetry doing at the top of the article?
The point of the poem (full text here) is that the destination is less important than the journey taken to get there. To make it about football, just substitute the words "Super Bowl" for "Ithaca." Now there are some circumstances in which I think this is incorrect. For example, I would take 16-0 and a Super Bowl victory if it meant our offense sucked but our defense was so good that we won each game in a boring 3-0 crapfest. In that context, the destination is more important than the journey.
However, the team that I just described is not your 2010 Houston Texans. As DisplacedTexan put it in a chat last week, this team is a team that is going to give us amazing highs and disturbing lows, and we just have to accept that about them. A team that has the potential to put points on the board in a way that few NFL teams are capable of but that also has the potential to allow a Pop Warner team to score on it. We're not going to dominate many, if any, teams this year. But we will most likely win our share of shootouts because we are fortunate enough to have one of the top quarterbacks in the game throwing the ball to the game's best receiver.
Our defense isn't going to miraculously get better like it did last year once we added Pollard and Cushing came into his own. It's going to vary between being earth-shatteringly sucky to being just plain horrible. And if our offense decides to take the day off, we'll have more games like we did against the Cowboys and Giants. But when our offense decides to dominate, we're going to see more games like we did against the Redskins and Chiefs.
And in the end, when we finish the season, we're either going to be witness to the first Texans playoff team in history or not. I really don't know if the Texans will get there this year (my gut says we won't, but it's been wrong before. By the way, anyone want to buy 1,000 Betamax players?) but I do know that we should never expect them to blow a team out. We should, however, expect them to give us a hell of a ride.
Are y'all strapped in?