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BRB GroupThink: Bill or Gary? Gary or Bill?

For this week’s edition, the Masthead gathers around the campfire and compares the Texans’ previous head coach to the current one.

Mario Williams Signs With The Houston Texans Photo by Bill Baptist/Getty Images

This weekend, Gary Kubiak is coming back to Houston as the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. In some ways, he’s already gotten his revenge on his former team by winning a Super Bowl in Denver with Peyton Manning and Wade Phillips and unleashing [NAME REDACTED] upon the NFL, which eventually led [NAME REDACTED] to Houston, but regardless, this weekend Kubiak will look to beat his old franchise once again.

Who do you think was the better head coach in Houston: Gary Kubiak or Bill O’Brien?

These are the Masthead’s responses:

BIGFATDRUNK:

Gary Kubiak was a perfectly cromulent NFL head coach. He had his shortcomings, sure, but it was Matt Schaub’s meltdown, and lack of planning for it, that really led to his ouster.

Where Kubiak excelled was finding players built for his system. He had an incredible draft in 2006, picking up stalwarts such as Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Eric Winston, Owen Daniels, and David Anderson. He picked up Mike Brisiel as a UDFA in that offseason. He traded two second round picks to the Falcons for Schaub in 2007. He traded a sixth round pick to the Broncos for Chris Myers in 2008. Then there was that pickup of Arian Foster in 2009.

But there was a plan, and that plan was to run an outside zone running game with a ton of play action. At times, it was brutally effective and efficient. Kubiak (along with Rick Smith after 2006) got guys who fit the system and fit it well. Sadly, Frank Bush existed, so there were plenty of missed opportunities.

Bill O’Brien thinks every quarterback is like Tom Brady, and he has no plan for his offensive scheme. The lack of offensive coherence has been maddening. BOB inherited an immensely talented team from Kubiak, so it’s not like he got a bunch of scraps. Plus, it was Romeo A. Crennel and that defense that covered the offense’s woes for years.

This contest is like me running for Miss Teen Texas, and I’m Marvin 3’Brien.

MIKE BULLOCK:

If we peel back the moments of bad moves by Houston, from trading DeAndre Hopkins, to not repairing the defense in the 2020 offseason, to paying Jadeveon Clowney to leave, to not repairing the offensive line during the 2019 offseason (esulting in losing far too many draft picks), to signing [NAME REDACTED], it seems the wheels came off the bus when Gary Kubiak was fired. Bob McNair should have parted ways with Rick Smith back then (due to the alleged dysfunction between Smith and the coaching staff) instead of Kubes. McNair should have given the Kubiak offense another shot with a different GM (and different QB).

Never once did Kubiak fail to have a play ready for 4th and 1. As BFD mentions, the final season of the Kubiak era was shot dead by Matt “Mr. Interception” Schaub as much as anything else.

Now, we’ve watched J.J. Watt’s career wasted, and the first four years of Deshaun Watson’s get wasted as well. O’Brien has lost to the Chiefs in the NFL Playoffs by a total score of 27-79 while Kubiak is sitting in Minnesota admiring his Super Bowl ring.

Kubiak was the best coach this franchise has ever seen. I have a hard time believing Bill O’Brien would still be around if Bob McNair was alive. Wade Phillips recently tweeted he’s looking for work, so maybe Cal McNair can take a page from his old man’s book and fire O’Brien, hire a real GM, and bring back Kubes and Phillips. If nothing else, it would be far more interesting than watching a team that didn’t install an offense until Friday evening try and figure out what was going on Sunday morning.

L4BLITZER:

In playing the game of comparing coaches, I am not sure that it is entirely fair to compare the completed tenure of one coach to that of the incumbent coach for a given team. We don’t know exactly how the current tenure will ultimately end. Besides, there is always the concern about nostalgia for the past, the whole “Well, it was better back then” when maybe it was not entirely perfect. There can also be a recency bias, especially looking at the Texans at the start of this season. If this question was asked during the nine-game winning streak of 2018, we might feel a bit different.

Comparing the Kubiak and O’Brien regimes, I think the biggest factor is where each started and where they went. For Kubiak, he took over in the midst of the wreckage of the false hope of 2005. He had to build up the team to move on from David Carr and put Matt Schaub into a position to lead a team. He also had to work with the team to teach them how to win, but it was a bit longer than hoped for, especially with all the 8-8 seasons, many due to recovering from a slow start. Then, 2009, the breakthrough of a winning season. 2010 had all the appearance of a 2005-esque slip, but Kubiak (or Bob McNair) brought in Wade Phillips to fix the defense, and Phillips did. 2011-12 were the contending seasons, but due to injuries and the limitations of key players (read: Schaub), the team could not go beyond the Divisional round. 2013 turned into 2005 redeux. Injuries, ineffectiveness, internal politics, even Kubiak’s health...a perfect storm of failure, By 2013, Kubiak’s system had also grown stale and it took on the approach of a marriage going bad. That is not to say that Kubes was a bad coach, and he proved what he could do in Denver, but his time with the Texans had to come to an end.

With BO’B, he did not face the rebuild that Kubiak did. That the team resumed its winning ways/contention was no shock. However, we were limited by the lack of a QB. BO’B came in as a QB whisperer, but the prospects he brought in had a very limited ceiling. Then, we get Watson which, even with dealing with injuries, there was the sense that finally, we can really be a team that can legitimately win the Super Bowl.

At this point, we ran into issues that Kubiak did quite deal with, mainly upheaval at the GM position. While no coach would ever turn down the idea of control, BO’B also stepped into the role as general manager and head coach. Both jobs in the NFL are difficult; doing both at the same time is almost impossible. The challenges of being dual-hatted will define BO’Bs tenure, and the failures in one area can overshadow the failures of the other. There is recency bias here, but there is a danger that BO’B’s moves at GM will not only hamper BO’B the coach, but they could put the franchise into a worse state than the failed seasons of 2005 and 2013. Perhaps those moves will pan out, but Kubiak didn’t take on the danger of GM and HC simultaneously, which may improve his standing as time goes by.

Honestly, whoever is at the helm of the Texans’ first Super Bowl championship will be honored above all others. There is still time for BO’B to do this. Will he do it? We shall see.

CARLOS FLORES:

Listen, I would rather deal with the highs and lows of Kubiak than spend one more minute on this BOB treadmill.

Would Kubiak be able to adapt his offense to Deshaun Watson’s skill set? Probably not. However, I know that the run game couldn’t get any worse than it currently is.

BOB has singlehandedly managed to consolidate power and has done exactly jack squat with it. Kubiak would take years to build the team that fits his vision, but I’d gladly wallow through some 4-12 or 6-10 seasons if it meant that we’d find a cohesive offensive identity. BOB is wasting Deshaun’s bargain years. We’ve seen the result of character > talent, and it blows.

It doesn’t matter if Bill O’Brien wins the next 13 games straight. I have zero confidence in Bill O’Brien’s ability to advance in the NFL Playoffs. We could say the same for Kubiak. However, after watching these recent pressers, I think I’d rather give Charlie Weis a call than ever have to hear this man again.

UPROOTED TEXAN:

With Gary Kubiak, there was actual, factual evidence that his offensive system COULD work. In fact there was so much evidence that until Albert Haynesworth sat on Matt Schaub’s foot, the Texans could be out and out dominant with Kubiak’s offense and a competent defense.

We are in year seven (7!) of the Bill O’Brien experience and we still have no proof that his system works, irrespective of personnel. In fact, aside from those moments where Deshaun Watson pulls a rabbit out of thin air, there’s no real proof that BOB’s offense is even interesting. At least with Konserviak, you knew he was conservative, but you also saw some really interesting tweaks that he could add to the offense. Bill O’Brien has given us the J.J. Watt pass attempt and a crap-ton of plowing running backs into the pile whether or not they’re capable of moving the pile or getting through the holes.

I had my problems with Kubiak, I admit that. But I never felt the same sense of nihilism under Kubes that I do with Bill O’Brien.

Kubiak was the better coach not just because of his offense, but also because he knew his limits. He wasn’t arrogant/stupid enough to think he could be the general manager without having at least a Super Bowl appearance or win to back it up.

TL;DR version: I miss you, Gary Kubiak. I forgive you. Please come home. We can make it work again if we try.

MATT WESTON:

As the offensive genius behind the Houston Texans from 2007 to 2013, Gary Kubiak’s Houston Texans had multiple seasons where they had a top ten offense, all while being led by a backup quarterback turned franchise quarterback and an offense that utilized a scheme that had been run in Denver forever. Kubiak kept his part of the bargain, creating a beautiful outside zone play action offense that got the most of the players he had. With Kubiak has head coach, the Texans were a Super Bowl contender in 2011 until Albert Haynesworth showed up. They were again in 2012, before things fell apart. Those two seasons are exactly what Texans fans have been dreaming of under the Bill O’Brien regime. Yet every season, now in year seven, O’Brien has consistently failed.

Under Bill O’Brien, the Texans have had one positive DVOA season. They’ve consistently found themselves with a bottom or below average offense. The quarterback carousel was O’Brien’s fault. The most he got out of Deshaun Watson’s rookie contract, a cheat code most teams turn into conference championship game appearances at a minimum, was a 20 point playoff blowout in Kansas City. Year after year, the Texans have underperformed with O’Brien as the head coach. Now as the general manager, O’Brien has turned the Texans into a reactionary franchise. They are a bad team with a great quarterback instead of a great team with a bad quarterback.

The one hallmark most point to for O’Brien being a good coach is the 2014 season, where the 2-14 2013 team Kubiak coached turned into a 9-7 team in the span of a year. Dig deeper. The 2013 Texans were one of the unluckiest teams the previous decade, from the quarterback position, to injuries, to turnover differential, to one-possession record. O’Brien took that team, with cap space and a number overall pick, and turned what should have been a playoff team into a team that was on the outside looking in. From there, he carried the fumes from Kubiak’s previous teams into AFC South titles and playoff flameouts, and now here we are.

It’s not even debatable. Gary over Bill forever.

Poll

Who’s the better head coach?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Gary Kubiak
    (226 votes)
  • 40%
    Bill O’Brien
    (153 votes)
379 votes total Vote Now