"If there's a way to solve the problem without it being so traumatic -- and if you do it in a traumatic fashion, I believe it sets you back two years. So is your situation so bad that you think there's no other recourse and the only way you can solve it is to tear up your organization and set it back two years? That's one consideration. And if that's what you have to do, then fine, you do it....On the other hand, if you think you can isolate it and it's not that severe, it's like the guy going into the doctor with a headache. Is he going to give you aspirin or send you in for brain surgery? You have to determine what's really needed under the circumstances." -- Texans owner Bob McNair, Sunday night 1/2/11
The question as to whether the Texans were suffering from a minor headache or a malignant tumor, at least in the eyes of Bob McNair, was answered swiftly and decisively on Monday afternoon in Gary Kubiak's final weekly Monday press conference of the 2010 season:
The defense was a migraine and pink slips for Frank Bush and a handful of other defensive staffers was one giant tablet of Advil. (Look for some over-the-counter Wade Phillips Antibiotics, coming to a Texans pharmacy near you very soon!)
The question is will this be enough for Texans fans?
For most of them, if their hearts were some sort of emotional nightclub, then all Bob McNair (and Kubiak and Rick Smith, I guess) did on Monday was pay the cover charge, the absolute bare minimum to allow them to hang around -- firing Frank Bush. Even McNair and Kubiak, two guys who avoid change like a scorching case of herpes, probably knew that the moves made Monday were long overdue.
Hand-wringing over Kubiak's return in 2011 is a bit pointless now. It's done. He's coming back, and if you're a fan of the Texans you need to process that for 2011 however you see fit (whenever the 2011 season gets here, lockout looming). That's on you.
We know what Kubiak is at this point -- a pretty good offensive mind, a guy who is accountable, who the players really like, who is kind of shaky sometimes in terms of game management (really shaky at times this season), and a guy whose hiring track record looks a lot like Larry King's "Personal Life" section on his wikipedia page (lots of marriage fail). That's pretty much it. Is he a great motivator? First-half performances throughout the second half of the season indicate "not really." The players I talk to say otherwise.
The bottom line -- Kubiak is what he is. If you're Bob McNair, you've hitched your wagon to him. Now you need to manage the rest of the situation accordingly. Because Kubiak has built an offense capable of being a quality playoff offense, this makes your defensive coordinator hire the most important one in the history of your franchise.
Hard for me, the radio host who got a job in a major market with no radio experience, to begrudge hiring decisions that an owner makes on spec as opposed to a proven track record and years of experience. As important as hiring is in being a successful executive (and it's far and away the most important thing), hiring what you think is the next rising star and hitting on it is probably a rush.
However, that doesn't mean you make both coordinators and your general manager and your head coach a bunch of first-timers. There's searching for the next big thing and then there's reckless negligence. McNair's ignoring experience as part of the criteria for every level of this regime was reckless. Like Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas reckless.
This next hire has to be (and, by all accounts, will be) an experienced defensive coordinator. Head coaching experience, if nothing else just to give Kubiak a sounding board that he doesn't have in Rick Dennison and didn't have in Bush, would be an added bonus.
To me, the bigger questions now lie with general manager Rick Smith and the owner himself, McNair.
McNair has failed on every high profile hire (head coach and general manager) he has made so far as owner of the Texans (Until the Texans play in a playoff game, I will categorize Kubiak and Smith as failed hires. In years six and five, respectively, merely extending their employment doesn't preclude that evaluation.)
Rick Smith's 2007 through 2010 drafts are so devoid of impact players, especially defensively, that everyone kind of shrugs their shoulders at blowing up that entire side of the ball as if it's just accepted that they've failed on virtually every pick over there for the last four years (exceptions being Brian Cushing, assuming he
starts juicing again regains his 2009 form, and possibly Glover Quin -- and I'm reaching a little).
And don't get me started on the Denver (and Purdue, to a lesser extent) ties to seemingly every player that's brought in off the street. If players with Bronco ties were hard drugs, Rick Smith's family would have dialed up all of his close friends and scheduled the intervention two years ago.
So these are the two guys, McNair and Smith (along with Kubiak), who are making this monumental hire, and Smith along with whomever they hire as defensive coordinator are presumably the ones shopping for the groceries on the defensive side of the ball.
Forgive me, but that's a bit chilling.
So I'll be the one guy who has called for Gary Kubiak's head the last couple months who is actually going to back off. We've scrutinized Kubiak, his strategy and his hiring of a staff enough. Apparently, it's been good enough for Bob McNair. Kubiak's staying employed is not his fault. It's McNair's.
Kubiak's taken bullet after bullet this season. Yes, if he'd done a better job, the press conferences wouldn't have been such a combat zone. After every loss he says "it's on me." Smith takes no heat for stocking the shelves with duds. McNair has just started to really feel a little heat for the first time because of his desire to keep Kubiak.
Five years into the Kubiak Era, we've crossed the line to where a 2011 failure should be put in Kubiak's lap. It's now McNair's fault for keeping Kubiak around to fail.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon-3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.