Headlines don't lie
Perhaps the headline (right next to a picture of tight end Owen Daniels in a three-point stance) of yesterday's Tailgate Times should have told us everything we needed to know about how Sunday was going to go:
"Owen Daniels Back better than ever"
About 45 minutes later, in the press box, we were handed the list of inactive players for the game yesterday afternoon. Chief among them on the Texans side of the page: "81 TE Owen Daniels"
Back. Better than ever. And inactive. It was all downhill from there.
Gary Kubiak entered yesterday's game against the San Diego Chargers with a career record of 35-36 as a head coach. The Texans entered the game yesterday with a 4-3 record on the season. Win, and Kubiak's career record rises to .500; lose, and his 2010 record falls to .500.
In other words, Gary Kubiak was guaranteed to be a .500 coach one way or the other yesterday, either in his career or this season, and maybe that speaks to ultimately how unimportant yesterday's game with San Diego was.
Forget about how perfect a microcosm the first six minutes of that game was for both teams' 2010 season -- San Diego's Jacob Hester running a kickoff out of bounds inside his own five-yard line which led to the Texans blocking a punt and a subsequent one-play, Arian Foster touchdown drive, only to have the Texans give it all back just a few minutes later with Chargers wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu (who may or may not have been working the gift stand at a Dave & Buster's last week) putting the first set of Sunday's griddle marks on Texans rookie corner Kareem Jackson's back (with an assist from Eugene Wilson) by making a 55-yard touchdown that would have looked like a warm-up toss if there weren't eleven blue jerseys standing around.
Forget about Philip Rivers completing the most efficient 17 passes you'll ever see in an NFL game -- for the record, he completed them for 295 yards and four touchdowns, two to the nondescript Ajirotutu -- with a surrounding cast of backups, castoffs, and practice squad crumbs.
Forget about the Texans' reverting back to 2009 form when nut-cutting time rolled around. No clutch plays this Sunday, just ineffectiveness (and incompetency, more on this in a minute) on short-yardage situations followed by the final dagger -- Andre Johnson bouncing a catchable ball off his knee and into the waiting arms of Charger safety Paul Oliver.
Because even if all of those things went the Texans way and they raised their record to 5-3, history tells us they'd go into Jacksonville this weekend and get dumped on their collective ass to fall to 5-4 on the season. They've never been three games over .500 in the history of the franchise; why would next Sunday all of a sudden be the breakthrough?
The popular question each week is "Which Texans team will show up?" We seemingly ask that question before every game without taking a step back and looking at the big picture, and that is this -- the fact that we have to ask that question each week is unto itself the answer to the question.
The Texans are an inconsistent, maddeningly average team that can't get out of their own way enough to be anything more than that. They're not good enough to beat really good teams, they're not bad enough to lose to the few really bad teams (the Dallas loss notwithstanding).
The Texans are a .500 team, and even if they'd beaten San Diego Sunday, they would have found a way, especially against the upcoming schedule, to find their way back to 5-5 or 6-6 or 7-7 eventually.
Because that's who Gary Kubiak is. He is average.
He is a decent offensive coordinator disguised as a head coach. He is a linear thinker with a roster that begs for someone who thinks spatially. He admitted to not thinking two plays ahead on third and short at midfield against the Colts last Monday, a sequence that led to the Texans turning the ball over to the Colts, and the beginning of a complete abandonment of Arian Foster in the running game.
Even worse, Kubiak is a thinker whose decision-making acumen is inversely proportional to the chaos surrounding him. And lately it's getting worse. Two weeks ago against the Chiefs, he had his offense huddling down 10 with six minutes to go in the game and a Jeff Spicoli-like sense of urgency. Yesterday, Kubiak decides to run a "hurry up" down six with four minutes to go, capped off by an inexplicable, hurried Matt Schaub sneak on fourth and two that put the Texans comeback chances on life support.
In between, on Monday night in Indianapolis in the latest edition of the Most Important Game In Texans History, he apparently forgot that he had the leading rusher in the National Football League on his roster, deciding that more Matt Schaub and less Arian Foster was the recipe to beat the Colts, even though the exact opposite had made a pretty nice meal in Week One.
And the replay challenges...oh, the replay challenges. Against San Diego, Kubiak outdid himself, apparently challenging something that may or may not have been challenge-able in the first quarter. If there were a March Madness for instant replay challenges, Kubiak would be a sixteen seed getting his ass kicked by Duke on the first Thursday afternoon.
In three short weeks, Gary Kubiak has gone from an average guy safely driving a Toyota in the middle lane of the highway to an oblivious, swerving mess whose negligence is seriously endangering his passengers. It's one thing for coaches to make decisions that are wrong in retrospect; it's another thing for coaches to make decisions that draw a collective groan and frantic screams as he's making them.
Some coaches thrive when surrounded by the proverbial flying bullets. Lately, you get the feeling, Kubiak would barely be able to direct traffic in front of an elementary school. "Yeah, sorry about those two cars crashing into that bus. That's on me, and it's something I got to go back and look at and get corrected."
But above all else, how do I know yesterday's game meant nothing, that the Texans are destined to be a .500 team on Kubiak's watch? Because he doesn't change anything. NOTHING.
This Sunday the Texans will play the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville. Defensively, they will continue to trot out Amobi Okoye, Kareem Jackson, Eugene Wilson, and a bunch of other guys who have been scorched the same way, week after week after goddamn week. Frank Bush will have his defense sit in the same coverages with the same amount of blitz-free inertia and by 3:00 Central Time Mike Sims-Walker and David Garrard will be the fantasy football studs of the day.
Along the way, someone will get hurt and he'll be replaced on the roster with the next anonymous, nondescript, shitty player with ties to the Denver Broncos or Purdue University. The Texans will head into their final two games needing one win to get to .500 or go 9-7 and miss the playoffs, and they'll finish out at home with a win against Jacksonville.
Why? Because Kubiak is 4-0 in meaningless season finales as Texans head coach. It's been enough to keep him employed, but last I checked the fans don't pay big money for a post-game ceremony of Kubiak raising his W-2 over his head like the Lombardi Trophy.
No one is getting any satisfaction. Texans fans have never been able to feel good about this team for more than a week or two at a time. It has to stop. No more post-game press conferences of "It's on me. We gotta go fix it. We gotta get that corrected." It's time for Bob McNair to have a press conference where he talks about fixing things, and then goes and fixes them.
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McNair doesn't need any film, he just needs a game program. Propaganda doesn't cover up the numbers. The Texans are 4-4; Gary Kubiak is 35-37. It's not going to change, because Kubiak won't change. He's a .500 coach. The Texans are a .500 franchise.
That shouldn't be good enough. It can't be good enough.
So yeah, the Texans played the Chargers yesterday. They lost. Big deal. See you at 8-8.
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.