Finally, the Texans parted ways with head coach Gary Kubiak on Friday. It was a move that had to happen, and was probably two weeks too late.
Kubiak is a nice guy who simply never learned the art of game management. A good team covered a lot of his flaws. A bad one -- and rest assured, this is a bad team -- accentuated them.
Owner Bob McNair indicated he did not want to fire Kubiak, but did was was "best for the organization." It is hard to fire someone you like. It's also hard to admit you were wrong about someone. McNair finally did both.
It's also the best thing for Kubiak. From a health perspective he needs a break. He should take a year off, study the changes that have happened in the game and re-emerge as an offensive coordinator somewhere.
(It's probably appropriate that I heard the news while stuck in an elevator. Like the Texans under Kubiak, I was going nowhere).
Wade Phillips takes over as the interim head coach, but under no circumstances should he keep the job. His defensive failures are a big reason the team has been so miserable. He should not be retained as defensive coordinator.
The real list should include former Bears coach Lovie Smith, Denver DC Jack Del Rio, and the usual TV suspects -- Bill Cowher and John Gruden.
Of those, Smith might be the safest bet, although who he hires as offensive coordinator will be critical. A look at potential candidates:
1) Lovie Smith, former Bears coach. One of the best defensive minds in football, his teams always played great D and special teams. He struggled with the right offensive coordinators, so hiring a top-flight OC will be paramount. Maybe the best of the options out there.
2) Jon Gruden, ESPN. Gruden has indicated he would like to coach again but it would take the right opportunity. This might be it. He'll have a top draft pick to work with at QB and a roster that is not far away with some tweaks. Still, he wears on people fast, and he is hell on quarterbacks.
3) Jack Del Rio, Denver DC. Another former coach who had moderate success, Del Rio did it in Jacksonville with an awful roster. He's probably a cut below Smith, but there are worse coaches out there.
4) Bill Cowher, TV, former Steelers coach. Like Gruden, he will be a popular name, but he's also been out of the game for a long time and who knows if he still has it. Would not be a fan of this move.
5) Phillips. Nice guy but haven't we had enough of nice guys? Plus, this organization needs a culture change in a big way. Phillips is also probably too old for a head coaching gig and had his own health problems last year.
The hot coordinators:
1) Darrell Bevel, OC, Seahawks. Has done a terrific job with Russell Wilson, and might be getting a bigger better version in Teddy Bridgewater.
2) Todd Bowles, DC, Arizona. The Cardinals have been terrific under his guidance and he will be a hot name this off season.
3) Pete Carmichael, OC, New Orleans. Hard to say how good he is considering he works for the best play caller in the business, but he might be an interesting name. Plus, who wouldn't want a piece of that Saints offense?
The college guys:
1) Bill O'Brien, Penn State. He has done a nice job considering, and he was a big part of the Patriots success. Still, the Belichick coaching tree has been a disaster in the NFL, so you have to be concerned about that.
2) David Shaw, Stanford. A former NFL assistant, he is a hot commodity. He kept Jim Harbaugh's program operating at a high level.
The wild cards:
1) Tom Coughlin, Giants. If the Giants blow out Coughlin, the Texans would be foolish not to pursue him. A two-time Super Bowl winner, he also led the Jags to their only real success.
2) Rex Ryan, Jets. Foot fetishes and all, the man can coach. As with Smith, you would need to make sure he hires a good offensive coordinator, but Ryan could turn things around quickly and the Jets may be weary of his act.
Whatever direction they go, the Texans needed change, and they finally got it. The next three weeks won't really tell us anything, but at least the team decided not to wait. It should be an interesting off-season as the Texans seek just the third coach in franchise history.