Here we are again. It seems like just last week that I was evaluating Gary Kubiak's performance in light of my analysis from earlier in the season. After last night's game (or this morning's game, if you live in GMT+3 like I do), the calls for his head are rising to the sky like horseflies from the stinking carcass that is the Texans' 2010 campaign.
Exaggeration? Maybe so. In fact, probably so. But it shouldn't be. Gary Kubiak is exactly what his record indicates: a .500 coach. This is clearly a huge improvement over his predecessor, but after five seasons in charge in Houston, I think it's a fair question to ask whether or not Kubiak will ever be more than that. After all, his record after 68 games at Reliant is 34-34. Isn't this enough of a sample size to judge him by?
I know a lot of us are pretty bummed out about this loss, but rather than doing anything rash and heading for the nearest bridge, tall building or freeway overpass, why don't you make your only jump of the day your move across the one below?
I know a few people (such as TexansDC) are more disappointed in this loss than in any in recent memory. I'm not, and that's mostly because I fully expected this. How many times have we seen this before, in this season or in seasons past? Calling the defense sieve-like is an insult to sieves everywhere (and yes, I know that we held Manning, who was playing mostly with backups, to a mere 268 yards, but if this counts as our best defensive performance of the season to date, then it's pretty clear that we have a defense of absurdly shitty proportions on our hands).
Getting a turnover out of this defense is like watching a statue cry--an incredibly beautiful and moving event that almost never happens, and when it does, is more likely the result of divine intervention than good defensive play. Show of hands: How many of you out there watch the defense hoping that we'll get some kind of lucky turnover to stop our opponents' drives because you know our defense can't do it without the kind of help from the gods that usually turns up in Greek mythology?
Ok, sure, the defense sucks. But what about the offense? The offense this year is a strange thing. It is capable of some amazing feats and Matt Schaub, foolish interceptions aside, is an elite quarterback. But in order for us to win, our offense needs to be perfect. Every game. When the defense is busy allowing Matt Cassel to exceed his career quarterback rating by 50 points, you can't afford to have offensive lapses.
The problem, though, is that we do. We have far too many. We've won four games, and with the exception of the season opener, our offense has yet to play two solid halves of football. And with our schedule shaping up to be very tough, our offense is going to have to come up big the rest of the way if we're going to make the playoffs.
This, of course, means a smart game plan by Kubes. Gary, if you're reading this, pay close attention:
If you've scripted out the first fifteen plays of the game, and the first four of those do not involve the league's leading (by DYAR) rusher at all against a porous run d, you may have the wrong script. In fact, scripting plays is probably overrated anyway. Also, Rhonda's rash may or may not be caused by poison ivy like she told you. Just sayin'.
This team simply cannot afford to start off slow in any games. Matt Schaub can't continue to pull rabbits out of Andre Johnson's ass if we want to make the playoffs. If we had, say the Steelers' defense, then we could afford to have the occasional bad series. Hell, if we had the Cardinals' defense, we could afford to do this. But we don't. We have a NCAA D-III defense.
So, what happens now? For all of my criticism of Kubiak, I must admit that while his teams have an amazingly frustrating ability to lay big fat turds, they also have the equally frustrating tendency to rebound from terrible games and go on a tear. It's as though once their backs are up against the wall, they come out firing and win. And that's exactly what this team is going to need to do now. Because this team, especially on the defensive side, will have to win in spite of their coaching. Not because of it.
If we're going to continue to run the same easily exploited defensive schemes, then our defensive linemen are going to have to play with a chip on their shoulder and pressure the quarterback with some consistency. This means that Bob McNair is going to have to get out in the media and question Mario Williams' desire (because Mario himself has admitted that this is the best way to get him to play well). It means that Antonio Smith is going to have to hide Amobi's Miley Cyrus CDs again. It means that someone is going to have to tell Antonio that shaolin has burned and he is going to have to avenge his master. It means that Brian Cushing is going to need
better masking agents to get that cockiness that we loved last year back. It means that Troy Nolan needs to put LSD on Eugene Wilson's mouthpiece so he goes crazy and wanders off before game time. You get the idea.
Likewise, if we're going to continue to limit our offense's ability to play with wack play-calling, we're going to have to expect super human feats from Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and (if he should ever get the ball) Arian Foster. At least on this score, there is hope for optimism.
But ultimately, this team is going to have a bunch of shootouts. We will win some and we will lose some. But the end result is likely to be .500. Just like Gary Kubiak's career.