Gary Kubiak stood in front of his players Saturday night and sliced open his soul. He dug down deep, into places he probably doesn’t go that often.
He spoke of his love of football, of his players and of this Texans franchise. He told his players he hoped they appreciated the gift they’d been given and that they’d never take playing in the NFL for granted.
“I talked probably longer than I’ve ever talked,” Kubiak said.
He didn’t pretend these are normal times. These last four games probably will decide his future with the Texans, and he let his players know he wasn’t going down without fighting for both himself and them.
“It definitely hit me right between the eyes,” quarterback Matt Schaub said.
Kubiak isn’t comfortable making things about him, but this month is about him. This isn’t his usual mode of operation. After bad games, he accepts the blame. After good games, he deflects the credit.
Now things are different. Maybe he subconsciously wanted to make his fight for survival their fight. If so, it worked. The Texans jumped Seattle hard during a 17-point first quarter and rolled to a 34-7 victory Sunday afternoon.
Stars step up
They played with purpose and focus, dominated both sides of the ball, and, when they got control of the game, never let go. Kubiak’s big players — Schaub, Andre Johnson, Mario Williams, etc. — played big.
For one afternoon, the Texans showed a glimpse of what they can be. Forget that it was against an opponent they were supposed to beat.
The Texans have lost a bunch of games they were supposed to win. Winning is winning is winning. First, there was Saturday night.
“I talked about the game and how important it was to me and how important it is to the coaches,” Kubiak said. “And I let them know how important I thought it was to them. (I wanted) to stop everybody and make them stop and think about what our job is.”
These are the kinds of games that test coaches in all sorts of ways. Out in the real world, some have already written Kubiak off. His challenge was to get his players to shut out the noise and give a good effort when there might be nothing except pride on the line.
If there was a message in Sunday’s game, it was that the Texans respect their coach, appreciate him and want him to stick around.
“What he said is how I felt,” Johnson said.
When coaches get fired, the reasons usually are obvious. They’ve either run a team into the ground or stopped getting a good effort from their players. In this case, neither is true.
Kubiak is a good coach and possibly on his way to being a very good coach. Making the decision tougher is that he’s an even better man. Everyone who knows him is rooting for him.
But this is his fourth year, and the Texans are 6-7. Kubiak acknowledges it’s time to win, time to turn those losing plays at the end of games into winning plays.
In this most negative of weeks, Kubiak got the Texans to put a four-game losing streak in their rearview mirror and keep going.
“You see the passion, and you see the fire in him,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “He wore his heart on his sleeve last night. He gave it to us. I really believe players understand.
“He continued to come in the last few weeks saying it was his fault. No, it is not his fault. We run the ball, we catch the ball, and we make tackles. He doesn’t do it. He just puts us in position. It’s on the players to go out there and play. The coaches don’t tell us to go out there and hold. The coaches don’t tell us to go out there and hit a guy late.”
Some of you have already decided Kubiak should be gone because the bottom line is the Texans should be better than 6-7. Sometimes, though, the next step is the toughest.
The Texans are dramatically better than the group Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith inherited, and now, in this fourth season, they’re on the threshold of being what we’d all like them to be.
This victory was significant because the effort was still there, because the Texans have kept fighting. Teams that have quit on their coach don’t do the things the Texans did Sunday.
“We’ve got the right guys,” Schaub said. “We’ve got the right veterans and leaders in the group. You’re going to face some adversity and tough times in this business, but if you just keep your men together and don’t let negative things influence you, anything is possible.”
The Texans won just one game Sunday afternoon, and they’ve shown they’re capable of backsliding at any moment. But there were smiles and a glimmer of hope and some reborn confidence. All in all, a good day.