Gary Kubiak Is the Greatest Middle Manager of All Time
Middle Manager Extraordinaire
Photo by Groovehouse
There's an old saying in business that the measure of any manager's (or, for our purposes, any head coach's) true value is in how similarly, in his or her absence, the business (or team) runs to how it would with him or her present.
In other words, if you've done a good job managing and coaching others, the business or team shouldn't collapse with you gone. Quite the opposite -- it should run exactly as it has with you there.
If that adage is true, then Gary Kubiak must be the best goddamn leader in all of sports, because by and large, since his leaving the Colts game in an ambulance a little over a week ago, it's been business as usual for the Houston Texans. The last six quarters, sans Kubiak, they've looked like the same exact team we've seen all season long.
Same defensive mistakes, same second-half offensive woes, same results.
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Houston Texans vs. Arizona Cardinals
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Seven losses in a row. Thud.
The Texans' tumble into the depths of football hell continued on Sunday afternoon, as they moved the ball fairly well in the first half behind the arm of Case Keenum, coughed up the lead in the second half and wound up on the losing end of a close one, this time again by a 27-24 score to the Arizona Cardinals (the same final score as a week earlier against the Colts).
While merely cutting and pasting previous Monday stories after Keenum's first two starts in Kansas City and against the Colts last week would seem to be moderately doable based on the similar final margin Sunday afternoon against the Cards, the game yesterday certainly looked different from Keenum's first two starts.
With all-out blitzes on seemingly every down, Arizona made Keenum finally look like a functional rookie for much of the afternoon. Statistically, it was easily his worst game so far as he completed barely 50 percent of his throws (22-43) for under ten yards per completion and under five yards per attempt. Additionally, while he still hasn't thrown his first career interception yet, he had at least a handful of passes that could have been picked off in dangerous parts of the field.
In other words, on multiple occasions, Keenum was dangerously close to joining CEO Matt Schaub and COO T.J. Yates in the company "Pick 6, LLC" a few different times against the Cardinals' suffocating defense.
As it was, Keenum did fumble on the first play from scrimmage on a straight drop back, a play that saw Matt Shaughnessy of the Cardinals scoop and score, and a play that saw the Texans keep alive the 2013 tradition of allowing a score off of a turnover in the first two minutes of a game taking place west of the Central Time Zone:
Week 1, at San Diego, 14:45 remaining in first quarter Week 5, at San Francisco, 13:30 remaining in first quarter Week 10, at Arizona, 14:46 remaining in first quarter
An odd and terrible tradition, indeed.
Two things here: First, did anyone think this Texans team would actually beat their record of 15 seconds into a game in allowing a touchdown on something other than a kickoff return? Second, has there ever been a first play from scrimmage for a season that has been more of a harbinger for how that team's whole season would go than Schaub's interception on the first play against the Chargers in Week One?
The only ironic part about Schaub's interception as a symbol for this season is how early it took place in the game, because chronologically the first play of the game is as far away as you can be from the second half of the game.
And make no mistake, the defining story of the Texans' 2013 (a season so flush with potential "defining stories" that you could sell a set of Texans Defining Story encyclopedias for 2013) is their complete and utter failure in the second half of games.
During this seven-game losing streak, here are the ugly numbers:
Week 3, at Baltimore: 3 points Week 4, vs Seattle: 0 points Week 5, at San Francisco: 3 points Week 6, vs St. Louis: 7 points Week 7, at Kansas City: 6 points Week 9, vs Indianapolis: 3 points Week 10, at Arizona: 7 points The Texans have scored two touchdowns total in the second half of games during this losing streak -- a garbage touchdown (on a 12-play, 47-yard drive) down 38-6 to the Rams and a five-yard touchdown drive yesterday that was bailed out by a spectacular catch by Andre Johnson, the latest piercing alarm in the wake-up call to the Texans' career misuse of Johnson that these past two games have been (another story for another post).
Also worth mentioning, the Texans' body count added one more prominent name over the weekend as running back Arian Foster learned that the pain in his back has been a bulging disk which will require surgery and end his 2013 season, continuing the team's Contract Extension Curse over the past two years. Since the offseason leading up to 2012, the Texans have extended four prominent players before they hit unrestricted free agency, and all of them have either suffered injury (Foster, Brian Cushing), performance backslide (Duane Brown) or a total implosion (Schaub).
For a team already perpetually cap strapped, the Texans are facing a handful of decisions this offseason that could make it rain with dead salary cap money if they indeed undergo a drastic facelift.
Of course, with any organization, management starts at the top, and "total facelift" has never been part of Bob McNair's vernacular. (Insert "Jerry Jones, total facelift" joke here.)
Not when it comes to the coaching staff.
Instead, frighteningly, with each injury comes another potential excuse for McNair, another opportunity to try to steer your focus away from the horrific results of the 2013 season and instead sell you on the tireless effort that Gary Kubiak and his staff invest week in and week out in preparing his team to....do....what exactly?
Go 2-7? Score as many second-half touchdowns in two months as the Jaguars scored in one day on Sunday? Turn Joe Marciano into a human participation ribbon?
If you don't think that a 7-9 finish (still doable) would somehow be spun by McNair into some sort of "bad run of luck in close games" that with "a few minor changes" we can get "some metaphorical animal out of a ditch," followed by a list of esoteric reasons why Gary is "his guy," then obviously you moved to Houston after January 2011 or don't live here.
Speaking of Kubiak, he was convalescing in Houston on Sunday, and should be back at work this week. Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, in his absence his football team operated exactly the same as it has all season long. That, friends, is taking on the personality of your coach. In clearer terms, that's a culture of self-inflicted turmoil indelibly ingrained in a group of players, so much so that their head coach can be healing 2,000 miles away and the machine runs the exact same way.
Sadly, like the Texans' 2013 season, the machine is irreparably broken. There is nothing good about what happened on Sunday in Arizona.
Unfortunately, I'm fearful Bob McNair disagrees.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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