JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Should a football coach be fired over one play? No.
Even if it is one of the worst play calls in a franchise’s history and so nonsensical that his players were openly critical of the move.
Gary Kubiak shouldn’t be sent packing after the 2009 season because he opted to have running back Chris Brown try to “lob” the ball into the end zone instead of directing quarterback Matt Schaub to throw it there.
Kubiak should be fired because over and over, through his nearly four years as their head coach, the Texans have made game-losing mistakes and failed to make game-winning plays.
Those were Gary Kubiak’s Texans on Sunday, doing whatever it took to lose in a 23-18 defeat to the Jaguars. The loss dropped Houston’s record to 5-7 and moved its playoff hopes from slim to next-to-none.
Needing wins in each of their four remaining games to post the first winning record in team annals, the Texans know that for the rest of the season they will have to answer questions about their coach’s future.
“I’ve been through it before,” receiver Andre Johnson said. “This is my second head coach. It is what it is.”
What it is is the Texans are the Texans. They are who you thought they were … but hoped they weren’t.
The ridicule Kubiak will endure for a failed halfback option pass that ended in an interception on first-and-goal from the Jaguars’ 5-yard line certainly will not help. Raggedy Lee — Stagger Lee’s 21st-century cousin — takes the lead as the lowlight of another disappointing season that finds the Texans staggering raggedly to the finish.
Johnson not part of play
Like the trick play Oilers coach Jerry Glanville called in a playoff loss at Denver in the 1987 season, this was an embarrassment. At least there were only 42,079 (perhaps) witnesses at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on this gray Sunday afternoon.
Johnson said he wants the ball in that situation. Quarterback Matt Schaub, who showed some serious grit in returning to the game after suffering a dislocated shoulder, said he would have liked the ball in his hands so the offense could “go for the jugular.”
But Kubiak tried some trickery.
“Man, I don’t know about that one. You’d think we’d ram it in from there,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “It’s frustrating.”
Frustrating is easily the most popular word among Texans veterans these days. Well, among the non-profane ones.
With a win over the Jags, the Texans would have been pulling hard for the Packers to beat the Ravens on Monday Night Football, which would have put Houston in a six-way tie for the final AFC playoff spot.
Hey, that’s as close as the Texans have ever been to the playoffs, so it would have been exciting.
Instead, the Jaguars are in the thick of the playoff race, and the Texans are about to be in the thick of a coach search.
This is a far more talented team than Kubiak inherited in 2006 — and he deserves credit for putting together a solid roster — but his playmakers sometimes don’t make plays. (And their coaches sometimes don’t put them in the right position to make plays.)
When the offense needs to put together a drive, it often fails to come through. Give them a gift of a muffed punt at the Jacksonville 16, and the Texans — trailing by two touchdowns — settle for a field goal.
When the defense needs to get it done, it often fails to come through. Put it on the field needing a stop to force a punt in the final three minutes, and it gets blasted by Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew for three straight first downs to run out the clock.
A tired cliché among players is that big-time players make big-time plays. Big-time coaches make big-time calls, too.
Kubiak hasn’t proved he is a big-time coach. His career record is 27-33. His team is in a four-game losing streak and doesn’t have Hurricane Ike to blame.
Would a four-game winning streak and resultant 9-7 record — an improvement over the last two years’ 8-8 — be enough to convince Bob McNair that Kubiak deserves to return? If not, one play didn’t do Kubiak in.
Heck, Glanville coached the Oilers for two more seasons after Stagger Lee. That was a far worse brain lock than Kubiak and offensive coordinator shared by asking Brown, who has been in the NFL since 2003 and had never thrown a pass in a game, to show off his arm.