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By John McMullen, NFL Editor - Archive - Email
Time runs out on Texans' Kubiak
Gary Kubiak Gary Kubiak's final sin may have been the discipline of his team or the lack thereof.
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The bottom line of the ledger rarely has a column for empathy and Gary Kubiak found that out the hard way on Friday.

The veteran coach was shown the door after the Texans' franchise-record 11th straight loss against equally inept Jacksonville on "Thursday Night Football," a setback which plummeted Houston to 2-11 on the season, a dismal mark coming on the heels of two consecutive AFC South division crowns.

The trip to the unemployment line came just 33 days after Kubiak was stricken with a mini-stroke during halftime of the Texans game against Indianapolis on Nov. 3, and magnifies just how much of a bottom-line business the NFL really is.

"The last straw was losing (to the Jaguars)," Texans owner Bob McNair said. "We have a lot better talent than Jacksonville," We are so disappointed and shocked by what has happened. Gary accepted it and understands the situation."

There are two schools of thought when a coach is fired during the season. The first and far more conventional one is what's the point? Interim coach Wade Phillips certainly didn't improve things when Kubiak was out with his health problems and it's unlikely anything changes this time around.

The counter to that is the moving forward-mantra, and the fact that there are three games left to evaluate every remaining player and coach in the organization, along with the process which put Houston in the position it is.

The latter won the day and GM Rick Smith will get a head start in trying to assess the young talent in the organization without Kubiak, a guy everyone knew wasn't going to be there in 2014 anyway, mucking things up.

Kubiak's final sin may have been the discipline of his team or the lack thereof. Houston was flagged 14 times for a dubious franchise-record 177 yards against the Jags and Kubiak himself almost foreshadowed his exit after the contest.

"We had 14 penalties or something and it's just ridiculous," Kubiak said. "(The penalties) didn't give us a chance to win. There were huge penalties; down the field, pass interference penalties and those types of things. It's on me. I am the coach. It's discipline and it's just ridiculous. There is no way you should make that many penalties in a football game."

Or perhaps the real reason Kubiak got his pink slip was expectations. Houston came into this season as the two-time defending AFC South champions and considered a serious Super Bowl threat by many.

It's not Kubiak's fault that Brian Cushing got hurt again or Arian Foster went down and Matt Schaub certainly wasn't expected to hit the wall productivity wise.

But, that bottom line says one year ago the Texans were heading into Foxborough at 11-1 and on top of the AFC. Since that day they are 4-15 (including the playoffs) and it seems as if Kubiak's message was no longer resonating with a core group that has heard it for seven-plus seasons. Meanwhile, those Super Bowl dreams have morphed into visions of Teddy Bridgewater or Jadeveon Clowney.

"This has been a very disappointing year for the Texans organization," McNair said. "We started out with such high hopes, we started out with the best roster we've ever started a year with. And to have this string of losses that we've sustained is just totally unacceptable. It's not what this organization is about. It's about winning and accountability."

Winning and the accountability for it means that things like the lack of discipline or the failure to live up to expectations would have eventually been fatal for Kubiak after the year ended. They didn't cost him his final three games as pilot of the Texans, however.

Sticking by the guy who turned Houston from an expansion team into a conference powerhouse did. When Kubiak inserted Schaub back into the lineup late in the third quarter against the Jaguars in favor of the struggling Case Keenum, he was signing his own death warrant.

At 32 years of age Schaub has no future in Houston and most in the organization would like to see as much of Keenum, a popular second-year player out of the University of Houston, as they can down the stretch, no matter the hiccups.

Kubiak, on the other hand, just wanted to win a football game and felt Schaub was his best option to do that.

Those are diametrically opposing goals

To be fair Kubiak was right, Schaub, a four-time former Pro-Bowl selection, remains the Texans' best QB. Keenum connected on 16-of-29 passes for 159 yards, one touchdown and an interception in nearly three quarters of action before being replaced by Schaub, who completed 17-of-29 passes for 198 yards, one touchdown, nearly willing Houston to a win.

Schaub, though, tossed a game-sealing interception to Jacksonville's Geno Hayes just before the two-minute warning and compounded that by taking a sack on the last play of the game, reminding many why he had been benched in the first place.

Afterward Kubiak pressed his position and seemed to be laying the groundwork for Schaub to regain the starting job.

"To me, (Schaub's) been coming out every day with something to prove," Kubiak said when asked if Schaub would start against Indianapolis in Week 15. "Ever since we made the decision to play Case, Matt's been an unbelievable pro. In how he works, in how he goes about his business, in how he helps Case, in how he does everything.

"We've got a lot of time between now and the next time we play."

The Texans do have a lot of time. Kubiak didn't.

"I truly felt that (Kubiak) would be with us until it was time to retire," McNair said. "But we have to do what's best for the organization. We're here to have a winning culture, and this year does not contribute to that."