Everyone is putting their two cents in about Gary Kubiak and his coaching performance last night, but none could be more perfect in my opinion than this. If I had a nickel for every time I read a text, e-mail or tweet last night with the phrase "Kubiak is getting too cute", I’d have a lot of nickels. Tim, tGC and Kerns all summed that up well. Watching what I believe to be the most frustrating coaching performance of Gary Kubiak’s career made me realize something. I am a football coward. And I don’t think I’m alone.
Every year the notion of whether Kubiak will keep his job or not arises, and every year his mad dash at the end of the season towards a .500 record gives everyone pause. We are wowed by an electric offense which makes every game seem winnable. We cheer when an unlikely victory in the last game of the season propels the hometown team to its first ever winning record, just to be crushed by the "bad luck" of games not going our way and failing to make the postseason, again. Why do we put ourselves through this cycle that is as painful as it is predictable?
To say that the Texans are mired in mediocrity does not do the situation justice. When I think mediocrity, I picture treading water; you’re not drowning but you’re certainly not comfortable, and you know that if your situation does not improve in a certain amount of prolonged time, you’ll go under. The Texans' brand of mediocrity is more like a riptide--you get sucked under every once in a while and get really scared, only to be released and realize that you’re not that far away from the shore. Often when faced with a situation such as this you’ll stay in the water. After all, how often do you get to go to the beach, and on the surface the conditions are so promising.
The problem is that football has been a cruel mistress to the City of Houston. My generation grew up watching Warren Moon and the Oilers and their own brand of mediocrity. Their version was better than the Texans’, given that the playoffs were actually involved, but one of my first mature NFL memories was of the game I am forced to re-live every time NFL Network decides to play "Top 10 Comebacks of All Time". For my brother’s and bfd’s (ancient) generation, it’s even worse; they at least saw an AFC Championship game. Their expectations are naturally higher after witnessing such a successful Houston football team.
Even though it was hard to rationalize an annual tradition of watching the Oilers lose in the playoffs, Houston still loved football. Then without much warning, football left. Four years seemed like an eternity to such a football proud town, and it allowed the first regime of the eventually awarded expansion franchise a lot of leeway. It took four years, 46 losses and the worst record in football for Houstonians to turn on Dom Capers and Charlie Casserly, which coincidentally wasn’t even enough for many of us to see the truth about David Carr.
I didn’t bring all of this up in a shameless attempt to sell more of our latest sponsor, Captain Morgan. Going through these eight years of football cruelty, which ranged from watching our stolen franchise, which was rebuilt the last few years in Houston, go to the Super Bowl, to annual top 10 draft picks and the seasons that produced them, took its toll on everyone. Some gave up at different points along the way. They abandoned their city and became Cowboys or Titans fans or lost interest in the NFL all together. Of those of us that remained, many became scared of the absolute misery eight years of fail can produce. It is this fear that I became aware of sometime last night or this morning.
I have in private and on this blog been an adamant supporter of Gary Kubiak. He seems to be a great person who is comfortably familiar because he was born and bred in our city. His and Rick Smith’s blue collar mentality of building through the draft has always seemed wise, and they picked players easy to root for. Players on the team love playing for him and stick up for him regularly to the media. Most importantly, when his offense is at its best, there isn’t a better one in the league. My fear, however, precluded me from seeing the flip side of that coin.
He has failed miserably at picking, developing, and removing in a timely fashion when necessary, defensive coaches. He has a terrible track record of let-down games, occasional bouts of predictable play-calling and coaching challenges. Somewhere between his scheme and player selection lies the reason the Texans are unable to perform against physical teams. These are all things I refused to admit to myself, much less write in a public forum.
It wasn’t misplaced loyalty that blinded me. It was misplaced logic. Fail, as I stated before, is what I and Houston football fans have been conditioned for. Mediocrity is greater than Fail. This, however, is no way to go about fandom. People stay dedicated to a team in order to see that team achieve extreme highs, i.e., championships. In that pursuit, you have to be willing to accept risk, even if that risk is the most extreme of lows.
The Texans and Gary Kubiak could make me eat my words. They could respond with a typical bounce-back as you’re ready to write the season off. They could theoretically extend that bounce-back to defy a tough schedule and get into the playoffs. After my realization, I won’t allow that possibility to stop me from stating my opinion of the situation. I will gladly take any and all ribbing that would be directed at me for talking about the necessity of firing a playoff coach midseason.
Here’s the rub: The goal of an NFL team is not to make the playoffs; the goal is to win a championship. Who amongst you believes that if we managed to sneak into the playoffs that a championship would be possible, considering it would require four straight games playing at the highest level against the best teams in the league? The reaction that I have to my own question is unacceptable after five years of a regime. What’s your take?