Houston Texans - Jobber To The Stars

"You just keep playin', you work hard in this business...keep workin', believe in what you're doin', keep your chin up, and keep pluggin', somethin' good will go our way." -- Gary Kubiak, 11/21/10 (but truth be told, he's said some variation of this each of the last four weeks)

Back in the 1980's, there was a wrestler in the WWE (which was called the WWF back then) named S.D. "Special Delivery" Jones. An affable, smiling African American fireplug, Jones was a moderate fan favorite based largely on his charming grin and cool nickname. Certainly not his won-loss record, which was so bad you'd think he was a Houston team in 2010.

Jones' signature was that he could beat all the lower level no-namers on the WWF roster, and was highly competitive with some of the biggest heels (wrestling parlance for "bad guy") of the time.

But ultimately, against the big boys, as S.D. would administer a left and a right and then a head butt, pushing monsters like Big John Studd and Sgt. Slaughter to the brink of defeat, the same thing would happen each week -- he would whip his opponent into the corner, pick up a head of steam, and charge at them with seemingly no plan other than a lot of violent contact. Ultimately, Studd, Slaughter or whoever the heel du jour was would take one step to his left and Jones would go flying head first into the turnbuckle and within ten seconds S.D. was pinned on his back. 1-2-3.

This same tragic ending happened to S.D. Jones literally every week on WWF television.

Sound familiar? It should. Because the Houston Texans are S.D. Jones.

In wrestling, the term "jobber" is used to describe the flabby dudes that get fed to main event guys for thirty second matches in order to make them look good. A jobber loses all the time -- think Carolina Panthers with Brian St. Pierre at quarterback. The next level up from "jobber" is "jobber to the stars," someone who is good enough to beat all of the jobbers but loses in excruciating fashion to every mid-card and main event talent on the roster.

Like S.D. Jones. Like the Houston Texans.

The Texans are one collective "jobber to the stars." If they're playing any of the truly, talentless scrub teams in the NFL on a given weekend, lock it in. The Texans will win those games, sometimes convincingly. But against the main event stars on the NFL roster -- like, say, Rex Ryan and the New York Jets on Sunday -- they have just enough in the tank to take us on a crazy ride, but ultimately just when they have the Jets slumped in the corner waiting for the kill shot, the Jets move out of the way, Glover Quin careens head first into the ring post, Santonio Holmes slaps him in the Santonio Stunner, and the entire Texan team is left on their backs staring at the clouds.

1. 2. 3. Ding. Ding. Ding. 30-27, Jets.

This is what "jobbers to the stars" do. They give you hope, they suck you in, and then they leave your hopes and dreams splattered against the ring post.

Has there ever been any more damaging stretch to the Texans franchise than the fool's gold run through the end of the 2009 season? A classic JTTS run with the Texans getting fat on a vacant Seahawks team, a frisky but undermanned Rams squad, an average Dolphins team, and a Patriots team that had already clinched a post season berth.

The problem was that 4-0 run was good enough for 9-7, which in most right-thinking cities, four years into a coach's tenure, would have been enough to at least make the owner issue ultimatums or exert some level of discomfort and/or consequences for failure in 2010. In Houston? Well, it was the exact opposite -- 9-7 four years into the Kubiak regime was cause for reward in the form of a two year extension for the head coach.

Pressure? No sirree, Bob. A situation begging for everyone to play and coach with an uncomfortable sense of urgency, instead was was told "this is fine, you're doing great!" A regime that had treated prosperity like a case of the clap, was treated prosperously. A group that only played to its potential when the world was about to cave in had its world reinforced.

Why? Because they were "only a few plays away from being a playoff team."

A play here, a play there, when isolated to a single incident or game is something that balances out for the good teams. At this point, self-inflicted wounds are beyond being a trend with the Texans; it's their identity. When you lose two games in touchdowns in the last ten seconds in back-to-back weeks, this is who you are.

And if this is who your franchise has become, and you're Bob McNair, don't you divorce yourself of the whole regime? In some sense, the buddy-buddy, Denver Bronco parochialism that has built this milk toast, aw shucks, punching bag makes change rather convenient, doesn't it? They're all joined at the brain, so off with ALL of their heads -- Kubiak, Rick Smith, Frank Bush, David Gibbs, everyone. Clean them out.

In the meantime, there are still games left in 2010, and it's Gary Kubiak's job to fix what ails his team. How do we know this? Because he reminds us every week that it's up to him to do so. The problem is that his solutions are as empty and non-existent as his accountability is admirable.

"You just keep playin', you work hard in this business...keep workin', believe in what you're doin', keep your chin up, and keep pluggin', somethin' good will go our way." -- Gary Kubiak, 11/21/10 (but truth be told, he's said some variation of this each of the last four weeks)

So the solution is to just keep working, huh? To just "keep workin'" and change nothing, to go in and grind every day and hope that things will just turn. That's what people who work in the same cubicle for twenty years at the same company do. It's what worker bees do. That's not an insult, the world was built on the sweat of people who have a "just work" mentality -- the problem is that Kubiak is not in a "worker bee" position; he's in a position of leadership, a position requiring vision and the ability to see one or two steps ahead.

This is not Kubiak. Hell, he can barely manage three time outs per half properly right about now.

Kubiak thinks that if he works and grinds and works some more that the football gods will decide that this is the week Glover Quin actually bats the ball to the ground instead of into Mike Thomas' waiting arms. Can you imagine Bill Parcells, Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden not only tolerating an historically bad defense but having the gall to say the person coordinating it is doing a good job? Can you imagine any of them hoping that if you just work hard this week and keep on plugging, that the result will be different next week when, in fact, it's been the same result all season long?

Kubiak defaults to hard work as his solution because, five years in, we now see that's largely all he's capable of. Wake up Monday, put an offensive game plan together, delegate the defense to a very mediocre coordinator, take up for his "kids" each day, go play Sunday. Nowhere in his arsenal does the ability to think outside the box exist -- not in his play calling, not in his hiring, not in his rhetoric.

Same. Same. Same. Lather, rinse, repeat. 8-8. Mediocre.

In the NFL, there's a word for someone who immerses themselves into their work and doesn't have to make visionary, franchise-defining decisions -- coordinator.

This is what you paid nearly a billion dollars for, Bob McNair? More importantly, this is what your customers paid for? There's a reason S.D. Jones never fought in main events -- because he's a fun little sideshow, but ultimately, people don't pay to watch someone lose, no matter how exciting the ride.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 PM weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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