Gary Kubiak is one of the NFL’s longest tenured coaches, even though he had a losing record heading into this season. Those two facts speak volumes for Houston Texans owner Bob McNair’s patience and commitment.
“We had the first pick of the draft a few years back and that’s not a good thing, so I knew what we were facing,” Kubiak said during an interview with Packers media on Wednesday. “A couple of years back, we went 6-10 and took a step back; we lost a lot of close games. I believed in what we were doing. Thank God he did, too.”
Kubiak is now the coach of the only undefeated team in the AFC. The Texans are coming off a Monday night win in New York and they’ll likely be the featured team in Sunday night’s showdown with the Packers at Reliant Stadium.
“I’m not the only one around here that’s glad he had some patience that year,” Kubiak said of McNair and the 2010 season, when the Texans were coming off the first winning season in franchise history and expectations were high. Two four-game losing streaks sabotaged the Texans’ hopes and few expected Kubiak to be retained as Texans coach.
“I think he believed in what we were doing, saw what we were doing and stuck with the program. We’re very fortunate from that standpoint because sometimes in this business people make some very quick decisions. Fortunately, our guy hung in there and, hopefully, we can reward him in the future,” Kubiak said.
The reward for McNair’s patience is a team that would seem to be the class of the AFC. It has the league’s second-leading rusher and No. 3 defense. This Sunday’s showcase game is the coming-out party for which Houston has awaited since the days of “Luv Ya Blue.”
Defense has been the Texans’ calling card since Wade Phillips was made the team’s defensive coordinator last season. The arrival of Phillips and a draft-intense effort in acquiring talent on that side of the ball have produced a group as skilled at stopping the run as it is at rushing the passer and defending against the pass.
“If you can’t get there, it doesn’t matter how well you cover. It’s been our mentality since Wade’s come in here and it’s how we’ve tried to rebuild the defense,” Kubiak said, referring to the pass rush.
The Texans selected Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt in the 2011 draft and he burst into prominence during last season’s playoffs, and is currently the NFL’s leader in sacks with 8.5.
Meanwhile, Arian Foster is only 19 yards out of the league rushing lead, and he’s coming off a 152-yard effort in the Texans’ win over the Jets.
“You have to be committed to it,” Kubiak says of the run. “It’s so easy in this league with an injury or two or getting down by 10 points to abandon things. Our biggest thing is we’re committed to running the ball. It’s essential for our team to have success. We want to have balance.”
Quarterback Matt Schaub is throwing fewer passes but enjoying it more because avoiding injury, which Schaub hasn’t been able to do for much of his career, would seem to be critical to the Texans’ bid to win a championship.
“The thing we’ve done well as a football team is we’ve protected the ball and we’ve taken it away. This team is built a lot different than last year’s team. Time will tell what we’re going to be,” Kubiak said.
Houston is going to be without linebacker Brian Cushing for the remainder of the season, after losing Cushing to a torn ACL in the Jets game.
“Every team gets tested. You go through crisis in this league. That’s how I was brought up; expect them. How you handle them usually has a lot to do with what kind of season you have. We’re experiencing our first crisis in losing Brian. You have to instill confidence that you can overcome problems, because you’re going to have them,” Kubiak said.
The Packers, of course, are going through their own crisis, a 2-3 start to the season that is causing fans to wonder what happened to last year’s 15-1 team.
“They’re as explosive as anybody in football. They spread the field and make you play sideline to sideline. You’re talking about a world championship football team and we know we’ve got a big, big challenge ahead of us, and it’s a short week for us,” the Texans coach added.
Kubiak knows all about crisis and patience. Additional coverage - Oct. 10