I am going to cut to the chase on this season’s eighth Unsung Hero of the Week – it is Houston Texans head coach Gary Wayne Kubiak.
/waits for the boos to subside
Yeah, I know this is probably the least popular of all the Unsung choices, but it is long overdue for the Aggie alumnus – plus Texas A&M needs some sort of victory to keep itself afloat as they drift into the Southeastern Conference.
/waits for the mix of laughs and boos to subside
Okay, Kubiak. Unsung Hero. Jump now to find out why he deserves it.
This season, it would be easy to fall into that same old mindset. Early season games against New Orleans and Oakland were lost in the fourth quarter as the injuries began to mount (by the way, the teams who have beaten Houston are a division leading 8-3, 7-3, and 7-4....#justsaying).
Shelley Smith, Kasey Studdard, Darius Morris, and Rashad Butler are all out and have left no depth in the offensive line. Dominique Barber and Darryl Sharpton are two special teams beasts who have to watch future Hall of Famer Bryan Braman tear down the field. Mario Williams and Matt Schaub, two of the team's captains, now wear t-shirts on Sunday. You can now add Matt Leinart to this list, which does not even include lengthy injuries to Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, and Danieal Manning.
Despite all of this, the Texans sit on top of the American Football Conference, and its Southern Division, with an 8-3 record. Houston has a two game lead over 6-5 Tennessee and holds the first two tiebreakers (head-to-head match-up and division record). Instead of their traditional midseason swoon, the boys in Battle Red have won a franchise-best five in a row. The Texans are captains of their own fate as they weather the onslaught of injuries.
Captaining that ship is someone who is certainly not a master of panic. For years, Gary Kubiak was plagued by bad decisions and bad defensive coordinators. There were cries for firing Kubiak while his supporters shrank in numbers. Amidst his best season as a coach, I hope no one is crying for him to be fired anymore.
The 8-3 record is very nice, but that is not what makes me say this is Kubiak’s best season as a coach. He has been nothing short of masterful this season. A lesser coach could not keep this team focused on the next game while player after player was placed on injured reserve. A lesser coach could not keep morale up as more teammates stand on the sidelines with casts, slings, and t-shirts. A lesser coach would have lost his team while bad luck continued to make wins bittersweet. A lesser coach would make excuses and try to save himself from any potential hot seat.
Yet, this team's resolve and mental toughness is to be commended. This team has become a physical, battlefightin’ club that refuses to make excuses or feel sorry for itself – much like their "it’s on me" head coach. Houston continues to find a way to win with the parts they have and is now able to grind out wins – whether it is against Pittsburgh or Jacksonville. This does not happen if the leadership panics, and the leadership in the locker room starts with Gary.
As he prepares his rookie third-string quarterback to take the reins of an all too familiar offense, it is past time we acknowledge Gary Kubiak as the eighth unsung hero of the season for the work and leadership he has provided during a roller coaster of a season.
I will close with this statement: If the Texans make the playoffs as AFC South champions, Gary Kubiak should be the NFL’s Coach of the Year. Jim Harbaugh has a nice story, Jim Schwartz is turning his team from joke to second-place bully, and Green Bay could go 16-0, but managing the extremely unexpected and keeping this team from going Titanic is worthy of such an award.