Houston Texans -- Dissecting Gary Kubiak's Press Conference
This is what I involuntarily remind myself every day with my myriad of fuck-ups, and what I try to willingly remind myself as I sit down to watch every Houston Texans game, assess the various tactical decisions made throughout the game, and come up with some sort of evaluation for the Monday (or in the case of this week, Tuesday) after the game.
I've never coached an NFL game. Hell, I've never even been on an NFL sideline, so admittedly I don't know what it's like to have to make dozens of personnel and play-call decisions with the proverbial bullets flying. That said, it seems like there are at least a couple points in every Texans game where Gary Kubiak leaves me scratching my head and asking myself "Why is he doing this?" Most of the time, it's a play here or a play there, or the time-honored Kubiak tradition "The Failed Replay Challenge" (deserving of proper noun status by now).
Unfortunately, against the Colts on Monday night the issues on the Texans sideline were far more damning.
Consider this post an epilogue to yesterday's. Each week, the afternoon after the previous day's game, Gary Kubiak meets with the media. The questions asked range from innocuous to slightly thought-provoking. By and large, Kubiak is the guy at the batting cages hitting off the softball-pitch machine on slow to medium speed.
But yesterday's press conference was one I was looking forward to more than usual because the issues on Monday night were not as much execution and play-to-play tactical issues as they were a complete misread on strategy and (likely) preparation. here are some of Kubiak's answers with my commentary.
KUBIAK on if he wishes he ran the ball more in the game
"As far as running the ball more, I think we would have. That was a comment I made after the game. Being 0-for-6 on third downs in the first half and then getting down by two touchdowns, to me, got us out of whack."
SEAN PENDERGAST: What Kubiak is failing to mention nor acknowledge is that is that (a) they were down by two touchdowns less than ONE MINUTE into the second quarter. There was still plenty of time to stay true to your running game -- a running game that ran for about 250 yards in the first meeting between the teams and to that point was running the ball well on Monday night (6 carries for 32 yards).
KUBIAK on playing from behind a lot in the second half
"It is confusing. I've spent a great deal today just going back and looking at that and looking at early in football games. We've actually moved that ball early in football games the first drive..."
SP: FACT: In the Texans first drive of the game for all seven games this season, it goes like this (starting field position in parentheses):
Week 1 - Indianapolis (IND 31): 5 pass, 3 run; FIELD GOAL
Week 2 - @ Washington (HOU 1): 3 pass, 0 run; INT
Week 3 - Dallas (HOU 30): 4 pass, 2 run; PUNT
Week 4 - @ Oakland (HOU 10): 4 pass, 2 run; TD
Week 5 - NY Giants (HOU 24): 4 pass, 0 run; PUNT
Week 6 - Kansas City (HOU 20): 1 pass, 2 run; PUNT
Week 7 - @ Indianapolis (HOU 32): 4 pass, 0 run; PUNT
So if you're keeping track, the Texans' first drives have consisted of four punts, one pick three plays into the game, a field goal on a drive where they started in field goal range, and one solid touchdown drive. Apparently, Kubiak left the words "in Oakland" out of the assessment; that's the only game the Texans can really say they moved the ball with any authority on first drives.
"...but we have not been effective scoring points. We've had a bunch of sacks in first drives of games like that and actually some of our biggest penalties offensively have been in the first drives of games."
SP: FACT again: The Texans' only penalty they've committed on an opening drive this season was a five-yard penalty on Rackers' field goal attempt in the season opener, which they had to kick again and Rackers converted on. "Some of our biggest penalties," Gary? Are you sure you have the right season?
KUBIAK on if he's looking at pre-game or once the game starts to determine how they start
"No, not routine or anything. I'm looking at what we're doing and how we're coming out in games, what we're asking them to do. How we do our first fifteen, those type of things, to see if that has something to do with that because we've been doing it for a long time. We've usually been a pretty good team early in games, but we have not been this year."
SP: ...aaaand all of a sudden, sadly, my wisecrack about Kubiak being sure that he's assessing this season has validity.
KUBIAK on if he knew he was going to go for the fourth-down conversion when they threw the ball on third down in the first quarter
"I can't say that hey, I know I'm going to go for it on fourth down. It's just my gut feeling during the game. You're right. If you know automatically that's something you're going to do, you may feel good about getting half of it, but I wasn't thinking that way. I thought we had a play to make on third down. We didn't make that play. We caught a blitz. We got man-coverage. We came back, tried a different play that we've had built in for man coverage and we still didn't get it done. At the time, I can't say I knew exactly what I was going to do then."
SP: By far the most damning quote, to me at least, of the press conference. The series in question is a microcosm of everything that went wrong on Monday, and after reading this quote maybe a microcosm for what's gone wrong at times this season. First, the Texans had gotten to midfield and a 3rd-and-2 situation behind the legs of Arian Foster, the same legs that torched the Colts for 231 yards in Week 1. Then Kubiak went with back-to-back attempts at quick hits to a smothered Kevin Walter. The question Texan fans raised was "If you know you're going to go for it on fourth down, then why not run it there?"
So the issues really are twofold -- first, I would argue, why would you not run it there even if you weren't planning on going for it on fourth down? Arian Foster clearly has his mojo working against that Colts defense. Second, and to me just a killer indictment of how Kubiak is a complete "checkers" thinker in a chess-player's job, Kubiak admits that he was merely looking at third and short without any foresight for "next play" scenarios in the one part of the field where you have to be thinking that way.
Coaches in general portray themselves, by and large, as film junkies and teachers of fundamentals. Grinders. And that's fine. But we'd like to think that underneath that exterior there are wheels turning on a higher level of thinking that goes beyond "We need two yards, use this two-yard play." Kubiak's game management in Indy is a glaring "tactical guy in a strategic role" red flag.
We'll see how it goes from here. I'm not ready to flush the Kubiak Era yet, but this Colts game peeled the onion back on some disturbing answers to this week's burning questions.
And yet, I'm strangely comfortable because at least we don't have Brad Childress coaching our hometown team.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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