The only thing that has become more predictable than the Houston Texans' collective performance each Sunday (or random Monday or Thursday) is Gary Kubiak's weekly "day after game" press conference, not surprising since the content for the latter is a direct descendant of the former.
The same maddeningly suicidal result each week explained by the same beleaguered, downtrodden individual -- especially one like Kubiak who isn't all that creative nor dynamic -- will yield that.
The script for Sunday's episode of Texans Creek was...well, predictable. Oh sure, there were a few unforeseen plot twists, like the Texans winning the toss and choosing to suck in the second half as opposed to the first half and like Jacoby Jones borrowing Andre Johnson's beast mode for a day, but if you didn't think that this episode was going to end with the Texans' defense serving as the kindling, lighter fluid and spark for the resurgence of Tim Tebow's acolytes telling us how he's going to save the world...well then clearly you haven't been watching Season Five of Texans Creek: The Kubiak Years.
For the record, Sunday did very little to change my opinion on Tebow, which is to say that I still don't think he will ever be an "upper half of the league" NFL quarterback. He made a couple plays in a two-touchdown LOSS to the Raiders and then shredded a Texans defense that literally everyone not named Rusty Smith has skewered all season long.
Like his first start against the Raiders, on Sunday against the Texans, Tebow completed around half of his passes and a majority of those completions were various low-risk screen passes that the Texans defended with all the resistance of Paris Hilton on her prom night.
On the bright side, I missed mass on Christmas Eve, but based on the number of Tebow jerseys and the zealot-like fervor with which Bronco Fan defends his or her rookie savior, attending the Bronco game in Denver (which I did) should hopefully fulfill my church attendance obligation to some degree. I attended worship at the altar of Tebow.
In the end, chapter one of the NFL Testament of the Book of Timothy was written. And the Texans' season added their own next chapter. It was a lot like the previous nine chapters.
As pertains to the Kubiak Era and its hopefully tenuous existence, it ceased being about the results of these games a few weeks ago, when consecutive last-second meltdowns against the Jaguars and the Jets functionally ended the team's season and crushed the fan base's collective soul.
So with all due respect to the questions Monday that my fellow media members asked Coach Kubiak about Darryl Sharpton's shoulder injury, Jacoby Jones' breakout performance on Sunday, and the decision to go away from running Arian Foster (all things that should be asked about if you think the games still matter), there are only three questions for Gary Kubiak whose answers matter to me. 1. What have you changed about your approach the last nine weeks? Gary Kubiak's pat answer to the inevitable "Okay, what now?" question that gets asked each week after a loss is to reassure everyone that the team will work hard and that they "sure as hell" haven't given up on the season, something to that effect -- as if the nobility of attacking the same exact grind of "film study, practice, walk through, lather, rinse, repeat" will somehow convince the football gods to smile upon the good guys for a change.
This answer is no longer good enough.
In any walk of life, when you are being paid handsomely and failing miserably, every part of your process is open to scrutiny. It is fair to ask specifics about Gary Kubiak's process because it is defective. It doesn't work. Moreover, as outsiders looking in, it hasn't changed. Personnel groupings, game plans, weekly agenda, to us it all looks the same.
If there's some sort of cauldron of creativity and ingenuity behind the scenes that we're not seeing, Gary, show us. But right now your answer to "What would you change?" is chilling for a Texans fan:
Any time you're not successful, you go back and there are a lot of things you'd change and do differently. I'm sure when I go back and take a look over it again, which I've taken many looks over, I'm sure I'll come up with a lot of things that I'd like to change.
The bottom line is we lost too many close football games and haven't made plays in some critical times. We're all responsible for that. That's me making calls, players making plays. That's the case.
A visionary leader would have bristled at this question and listed all of the things he has attempted to fix through proactive change during the season (putting in new guys because someone gets hurt doesn't count, by the way). A person whose coaching ceiling is "coordinator" talks about all of the things he'll probably see on film in February.
If Kubiak were to ask for a list of things he's started doing differently during this losing streak and he can't come up with three immediately, Bob McNair should walk into the press conference, end it early, and fire him on the spot.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result, I get the sense that Bellevue should be arriving at the Kubiak house any time now.
2. What would you do if you were Bob McNair? Do we know what Kubiak's answer is going to be? Probably. If he's half the fighter that an NFL coach should be, he'll try to defend himself and keep his job, even if he sounds like a complete lunatic in doing so. For Gary Kubiak to at least give an answer to the question would show that he can step outside his "film rat, laminated play sheet toting" skin for a second and think like an executive.
Make a case, Gary. How much do you understand about the figuratively global fallout from your failure? Truly what pros and cons do you think your boss sees in your leadership? And if the answer is "Gee (first name of media member), ya know, heck, that's not for me to decide. That's Bob's decision. If he wants me back, I'll be back, but I got a game to go win," then we're all screwed.
The games don't matter to us any more, Gary. The empty seats this Sunday will tell you that. We want to know why your episodic tragedy should be renewed for a sixth season. 3. What is your policy on curfews for your coaching staff? I ask this quite simply because I was out in Denver late Saturday night before the Broncos game at a very respectable local establishment, enjoying a few beverages with friends, and your defensive coordinator Frank Bush was there until close (around 2 a.m.), just like me. To be VERY clear, Bush didn't appear to be doing anything Deadspin-worthy, he was just socializing with people and appeared to be enjoying himself. Like the rest of us.
However, he's not like the rest of us. He's the defensive coordinator for your team and the game is in twelve hours.
So that's why I'm asking you, Gary -- is this normal? Is it okay for coaches to be out the night before a game (even drinking a club soda) until two in the morning? If it is, then Frank Bush wasn't doing anything wrong according to your rules. If it's not, then the guy you've taken bullet after bullet for all season long was very publicly breaking your rules.
This is not meant to stir controversy, I truly am curious if this is acceptable. Are NFL teams good with coaches going out the night before one of the sixteen biggest days of the company's year as if they're traveling for pleasure? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.
Regardless, something is seriously wrong, Gary -- either with your rules if they allow for this, or with Frank Bush's adherence to them if they don't. Seriously wrong, and let me tell you why.
Let's pretend I'm a Texans season ticket holder (and, in fact, I was at the bar with people who are season ticket holders). I spend three or four grand a year on my seats to see a product that has been severely flawed for virtually its entire existence. This season the defense is performing at an historically terrible level to the point where, if you had to create a Mount Rushmore for Houston Texans Franchise Failure, then Frank Bush's face would be etched alongside David Carr, Charley Casserly, and Brian Cushing's attorney.
And when I say "historically terrible," I'm saying so with nary a hint of hyperbole. The passing yards allowed, the late-game comebacks surrendered, this defense is a punch line. It's not the only reason that 2010 has been a colossal failure, but it's easily the biggest reason. And said failure by the defense has infected the psyche of the city, and put people's jobs at risk.
Hell, it's put you at risk, Gary. It's a joke.
So again, pretend I'm a Texans season ticket holder, and twelve hours before kickoff I'm closing out my bar tab simultaneously with the guy who coordinates my team's defense. Forgive me, but even if he were just there drinking water (which he may have been), this would piss me off. I can tell you, it pissed off the actual season ticket holders sitting with me.
Frank Bush should be doing one of two things at 2:00 a.m. in Denver the night before a game -- sleeping or figuring out a way to stop the Broncos. Gary, at 5-10, if your system allows for anything other than that late at night before a game, I think it's broken. Badly.
Some will argue (and some have actually argued with me over the last two days) that there have been plenty of us who have been out too late the night before work. My response to this? Fair enough, but if any of us were performing our jobs as poorly as Frank Bush, we'd have been fired at the bye week.
Also, comparing a random sales call or a morning radio show to an NFL game is comparing apples and bowling balls. The self-esteem of your entire city and the welfare of your team and indirectly several other businesses (sponsors and sports bars, to name two) ride on YOUR performance, Gary. You and your staff. There are EIGHT road games a year in the NFL -- this is a night that Bush has to go out? He can't hold off for one of the 357 other nights this year?
Is it out of line for me to draw a correlation between the judgment of someone who doesn't understand the perception of a team leader being in a bar twelve hours before kickoff and the judgment of someone coordinating the 32nd-ranked pass defense in the NFL? Someone whose defense allowed one of the least NFL ready rookie quarterbacks in recent memory to throw for over 300 yards? I don't think it is.
I'm only asking because, as a fan (and every fan I've spoken with about this agrees), I would draw the same correlation for a head coach whose rulebook allows the latitude for their staff to be out that late and a 5-10 record.
So which is it, Gary? At 10-5, I really wouldn't care. What you're doing would be considered "working." But you're 5-10, and like it or not, all of this scrutiny is fair. All three of my questions are fair.
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Your system is broken, Gary. The process is a mess. Your team gravitates to failure. And now there are signs that your staff lacks either self-awareness or discipline.
And you hired all of them.
You want to stay for 2011, Gary. But we need answers.
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.