The Texans started the year with talk of playing for #1. Playing for #1 is exactly what they’ll get this Sunday. Instead of facing the NFC Champ in the Super Bowl for the Lombardi trophy, they’ll be facing the Jacksonville Jaguars at home for the #1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft…or current positioning for the right to do so.
Gary Kubiak has had a tough year. We all know that this is just a game and a man’s health is first and foremost the top priority. I, like most human beings wish Kubiak a happy, long life with great health. That being said, this is a business and from a business standpoint the time for Gary Kubiak to be dismissed from his duties, has come.
We all hear the names of Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, etc…anytime the fans start talking about replacing a current NFL coach. Instead of a mainstream retread, I’ll list my top 5 coaching candidates, a couple of honorable mentions, and 1 wildcard.
Honorable Mentions:Age in parentheses
Greg Roman (41) – Coached tight ends(’02-‘03) and quarterbacks (’04-’05) with the original Texans’ teams from 2002-2005. He’s coached under Dom Capers, George Seifert, Brian Billick, & Jim Harbaugh. Roman led the 49ers’ offense to several NFL records. His offense had a game in 2012 in which they were the first team in NFL history to rush for 300+ yards & pass for 300+ yards in the same game. In 2011, his offense only committed 10 turnovers which tied for 1st in NFL history for the least turnovers in a season. Roman was the QB coach in Houston when David Carr had his best season, in 2004. Carr had a 83.1 QB rating that season. Roman played as a defensive lineman in college, he’s been a defensive assistant in the NFL and he’s coached tight ends, quarterbacks, and offensive line specifically to go along with his experience as an offensive coordinator. He’s well-rounded for a head coach candidate.
Vic Fangio (55) – He’s coached under Dom Capers, Jim Mora, Brian Billick, and both Harbaugh brothers. He too coached for the original Texans, back from 2002-2005 as the defensive coordinator. Vic has built a complete defense that can shut down the passing attack and the run game. In 2011, his defense held opponents to 0 rush touchdowns in the first 14 games of the season (NFL record). When he was with the Texans in 2004, his defense had 22 interceptions and returned 5 of those for touchdowns. They also had a period of 13 straight quarters in which they didn’t give up a touchdown (tops in the NFL that season). It’s not just in San Francisco where he’s built a dominant group of linebackers, in Carolina he built a group consisting of Lamar Lathon, Sam Mills, and Kevin Greene. That defense in 1996 broke the 1985 Bears’ record for second half points allowed by a defense. Their record of 5 second half touchdowns and 56 points allowed in the second half for a season hasn’t been broken since.
Jay Gruden (46) – A hot name in front office circles. He was highly sought after last year when several head coaching positions came open. He chose to sign an extension in Cincinnati and passed on those other opportunities, but he’s less likely to do so again after this season. He has the coaching bloodlines. He got his first NFL experience on his brother, Jon’s staff in Tampa, after finishing his Hall of Fame career in the AFL. He’s mentored Andy Dalton and has built a dynamic offense around the kid from Katy, TX. The Bengals look to be headed to their 3rd straight playoff experience with a young core of offensive players, including Dalton who is only in his 3rd season. He can relate to any young quarterback that the Texans draft or mentor Case Keenum. The reason he doesn’t crack the Top 5 list is due to his personality and how it could turn off the more reserved Texans’ owner, Bob McNair. The Texans have also made a name for being a morally based organization and usually stay away from players with off-field issues. It would be contradictory to ink a head man, that has a DWI arrest.
Dowell Loggains (33) – He’s the baby of the group. He’s younger than me. His age and lack of experience are a big concern. The fail rate on these younger guys are high. Josh McDaniels, Lane Kiffin, these guys scare you away from a man in his low 30s. Loggains can relate with the “new” NFL and will build an offense around what’s in his players best interest. Jake Locker was set to have a breakout season, if he could have stayed healthy. The question isn’t if he can do that somewhere else, it’s can he oversee the whole thing, offense, defense, special teams, personnel, timeouts, challenges, etc. When Loggains took over the Quarterbacks for the Titans in 2010, Kerry Collins had his 3rd highest QB rating of his career, Vince Young had the highest QB rating of his career, and the next season, Matt Hasselbeck had the third highest passing total of his lengthy career. Sports Talk 790’s co-host of “In the Trenches” and Arkansas Razorback alum, Greg Koch will probably be all for this fellow Razorback getting the job.
Top 5 Houston Texans’ Head Coach Candidates:
5) Mike Zimmer (57) – Experience as a coordinator is definitely not a question for Zimmer. Mike has built one of, if not the best defenses in the NFL. In the previous 18 years before Mike Zimmer took over as defensive coordinator for the Bengals, they had only ranked in the top 10, once. They have now done it in 3 out of the last 4 years under Zimmer. Mike has coached top 10 ranked defenses when he’s used a 3-4 scheme and a 4-3 scheme. This could help his transition to a 4-3 or if he decided to stay in the current, predominantly 3-4 scheme. His son, Adam is currently on the Bengals’ staff with him as an assistant linebacker coach.
4) Aaron Kromer (46) - He’s now an offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He went to Chicago this year after several years in New Orleans. His specialty is offensive line play, with a hint of running back tutelage under his belt. The great offensive line play that Drew Brees has come to know and the comfort of having a stable of backs, like Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, and on and on are mostly to do with Kromer being on staff. Kromer’s line gave up only 26 sacks last season, 24 the year before, and 26 in 2010. He built the careers of Jermon Bushrod, Jahri Evans, and Carl Nicks. He has plenty of clay to mold in Brandon Brooks, Ben Jones, David Quessenberry, Derek Newton, and Brennan Williams. Aaron’s first year with the Saints, his offensive line only gave up 20 sacks and New Orleans won their only Super Bowl in their franchise history. The biggest difference in Chicago this year has been the offensive line play of the Bears. Rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills have developed quicker than anyone could have imagined. It also helped that he got his former pupil, Jermon Bushrod to come up to Chicago to play left tackle for the Bears. He’s an intriguing head coaching candidate, despite his record as an interim coach last year for the Saints.
3) David Shaw (41) - Another student of Jim Harbaugh. I love the toughness his understudies coach with. They all have that straightforward, win at all cost demeanor. Harbaugh has a way of making the tough decisions on not caring what anyone thinks. He’s not afraid to go all-in on his football beliefs, right or wrong. Shaw seems to have this same DNA. Stanford doesn’t seem to get the top athletes, recruits as your more prestigious schools, but he gets every bit of juice out of each player on his team. If he can do that when he’s limited on the personnel he’s able to get on his roster, how will that translate to an NFL team in which everything is equal? David is a coaches’ son. His father Willie would drag him around to NFL and college practices, camps and he was a sponge. One SI story quoted Shaw as saying this, “My father had a huge influence on me getting into coaching. My last two years (as a player) I was referred to as coach Shaw by the younger receivers because I was always the guy who was hard on them with their splits and their depth and their routes,”. Shaw has NFL experience as he was an assistant for the Eagles, Raiders, and Ravens. This is a guy to watch. It’s been said that he’s happy at Stanford and doesn’t want to head back to the NFL. IF he does depart for the professional ranks, I’d expect him to have similar success of that on par with Jim Harbaugh.
2) Darrell Bevell (43) - This one makes a lot of sense on several levels. When switching head coaches there are usually bumps along the way. If teams have to switch schemes on offense or defense, it will cause more needs on a team that could already have several holes to fill. Bevell leads a Seahawks’ offense that has the #1 rushing attack and it just so happens to be a zone scheme, similar to that of Houston’s. Pete Carroll has also said that Russell Wilson was “Bevell’s project”. One that he happily took on after scouting him at Wisconsin. Darrell was a four year starter at quarterback at Wisconsin himself. He may see comparisons in Russell Wilson to Case Keenum or Johnny Manziel. It could make the head coaching position in Houston more appealing to him. The question with Bevell would be, who would he bring in to run the defense? He could make the Texans’ offense the most elite in the NFL, but with all of the talent on the defense his decision on who would run it would lead to success / fail on his reign.
1) Ray Horton (53) - The Texans have been lacking for quite some time in the turnover department. That wouldn’t be an issue with a Ray Horton defense. Also, John Elway always said that you get paid in this league by what you do on 3rd downs. In 2012, Horton’s defense was 2nd in the NFL in interceptions and 3rddown efficiency. He was mentored by the great Dick LeBeau and runs a 3-4 defense. When he was in Pittsburgh the Steelers ranked in the top 10 in total defense every year. He had a lot to do with developing Troy Polamalu, Patrick Peterson, and the amazing season that Joe Haden is having this year. Horton’s defense last season held opposing quarterback’s to a combined passer rating of 71.2. That was ranked tops among defenses. In his almost 2 decades in the NFL, he’s made a lot of connections. He’s developed a ton of monsters on defense. I believe he’s earned a shot at running his own team and the Texans are the perfect team for him to take over. He turned Calais Campbell into the next best thing to JJ Watt at the 5 technique. What would he turn JJ Watt into? He developed Daryl Washington into Patrick Willis. He’s making Joe Haden the next Darrelle Revis. It should be exciting for Texans’ fans to think of what he could do to the talent on the defensive side of the ball. What about the offense? All of those relationships he’s made in the NFL, I’m sure he’s got the right guy to come in and take over a top draft pick and an offense that has Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Garrett Graham. The question would be with the running game. Does he stay with the zone system or switch to a power scheme? Most of the lineman are made for a zone system and disciplined for that type of work. Arian Foster may never be Arian Foster again and he’s the only running back on the roster that fits a zone scheme, with the exception of newly signed Edwin Baker on the practice squad.
This is my “hot” list, but as it stands Gary Kubiak is still the head coach and it’s all just speculation until Uncle Bob makes a decision for 2014 and beyond.