12:00 AM EST, December 12, 2013
The Sports Xchange
NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - INSIDE SLANT
After Houston Texans owner Bob McNair fired Gary Kubiak, he disclosed his criteria for finding the team's next head coach.
McNair said he prefers candidates with head-coaching experience as well as NFL backgrounds. That's his preference, but he also made it clear that he would look at others if he failed to find a suitable replacement in that pool of candidates.
A lot of Texans fans reacted negatively to the idea of hiring a coach who had already been fired, but that's preposterous.
Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Andy Reid and John Fox were fired. Now their teams are a combined 42-10 and headed for the playoffs.
Tom Landry, Paul Brown, Marv Levy, George Allen and Mike Ditka were fired. What else do they have in common? All are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bum Phillips, Marty Schottenheimer, Dan Reeves and Jon Gruden are on the long list of successful coaches who were fired.
There are 16 teams with winning records this week. Looking first at the division leaders, including co-leaders in the NFC North, Belichick (New England), Fox (Denver) and Carroll (Seattle) were head coaches who had been fired.
Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis), Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati) and Jim Schwartz (Detroit) were defensive coordinators.
Sean Payton (New Orleans) was an offensive coordinator.
Marc Trestman (Chicago) was a long-time NFL assistant who was the head coach at Montreal of the Canadian Football League when the Bears hired him.
Chip Kelly (Philadelphia) is the only division-leading head coach with no NFL experience when the Eagles hired him from the University of Oregon.
Of the division leaders, coaches who meet McNair's criteria are Belichick, Fox, Carroll, Reid and Trestman.
McNair mentioned last week that he thinks defensive coordinators have been a tad more successful than offensive coordinators as NFL head coaches, but that's not going to sway him when making the final decision.
McNair's first coach, Dom Capers, was a defensive coordinator who had been fired as Carolina's head coach. His second coach, Kubiak, was the offensive coordinator at Denver for 11 years when he was hired by the Texans.
A look at non-division leaders with winning records: Reid (Kansas City) was fired. Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco) was Stanford's head coach who had NFL experience as a player and as an assistant.
Joe Philbin (Miami), Bruce Arians (Arizona) and Jason Garrett (Dallas) were offensive coordinators. Ron Rivera (Carolina) was a defensive coordinator when he was hired as a head coach.
John Harbaugh (Baltimore) was a special teams coordinator.
Of these 16 coaches, Belichick, Payton and John Harbaugh have won Super Bowls.
Reid, Fox and Jim Harbaugh have been to Super Bowls - just like Lovie Smith and San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who's another candidate.
In other words, successful coaches come in all shapes and sizes and from different destinations. The key, of course, is to find the right one. And McNair has a long way to go.
SERIES HISTORY: 24th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 19-4, including 0-11 at Indianapolis. The Colts won 27-24 at Reliant Stadium on Nov. 3. They split the series the last three seasons. The last time a team was swept was in 2009 when the Colts did it for a third consecutive season.
NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - NOTES, QUOTES
--Interim coach Wade Phillips says secondary coach Vance Joseph will make the calls on defense against the Colts. Phillips can overrule him, of course.
Phillips has made every call over the last three seasons except when he missed a game in 2011 because of illness.
"Vance will do a good job," Phillips said. "I think he'd make a good defensive coordinator. He's been involved in everything these last three years."
--Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison will call the plays, and he'll continue to work from the coaches booth in the pressbox.
"That's the way we've been doing it," Dennison said.
--Rick Dennison refuses to comment on Gary Kubiak's firing. They've been friends since 1984 when they played for Denver.
When Dennison was asked about Kubiak, he spoke about Sunday's game against the Colts two different times. In other words, he wasn't going to say anything about what happened to Kubiak, who hired him from the Broncos.
--Rookie strong safety D.J. Swearinger got two costly 15-yard penalties in the last loss at Jacksonville. After the game, he called it a "learning experience." He was blasted by fans and media.
Interim coach Wade Phillips was asked if he's going to send a message to Swearinger, the second-round pick who has played well this season.
"He's already been given that message," Phillips said. "He knows that message. If you get aggressive penalties, that's one thing. But after the play, that's hurting your team and you're teammates, and players have to know that.
"I think the guy that can tell him the most is (defensive end) Antonio (Smith), hurt his pocketbook, too. You finally learn after some point that you're hurting the team and not just getting back at somebody else."
BY THE NUMBERS: 54.0 -- Percentage of passes opponents have completed against the Texans over the last three seasons. That means the Texans rank first by allowing the lowest percentage in the league.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know. I guess he hurt it sitting on the bench." - Coach Wade Phillips, when asked how third-string quarterback T.J. Yates suffered a back injury.
NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Since 2008, Andre Johnson averages a league-high 7.8 catches and 116.1 yards a game. During that period, he also leads the league with 23 receptions of at least 25 yards as well as 107 first downs.
--QB Case Keenum has been told he'll start and finish the last three games. Unlike two times during his seven starts, he doesn't have to worry about being benched for Matt Schaub.
--DE J.J. Watt leads all NFL defensive linemen with 41 hits on the quarterback. He's also tied with St. Louis' Robert Quinn with 17 tackles for loss.
--P Shane Lechler has punted 1,081 times in his career. Second is Buffalo's Brian Moorman with 965.
--RB Ben Tate is averaging 4.7 yards a carry over the last three seasons, sixth-best in the league.
--LG Wade Smith (knee) didn't participate in practice but will start at Indianapolis.
--FB Greg Jones (knee) didn't participate in practice but will play at Indianapolis.
--TE Garrett Graham (hamstring) didn't participate in practice but will start at Indianapolis.
--TE Jake Byrne (illness) didn't participate in practice and will probably be inactive at Indianapolis.
--FS Shiloh Keo (illness) didn't participate in practice but will start at Indianapolis.
--WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) was limited in practice but will start at Indianapolis.
--ILB Darryl Sharpton (wrist) was limited in practice but will start at Indianapolis.
--RB Ben Tate (ribs) was limited in practice but will start at Indianapolis.
Nobody knows what to expect under interim coach Wade Phillips, who's overseeing the offense, defense and special teams. The wise strategy would be to do something about Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. In the first game, the Texans led 21-3 at halftime when former coach Gary Kubiak suffered a mini-stroke and didn't return. In the second half, Luck threw three touchdown passes to T.Y. Hilton to help the Colts escape with a 27-24 victory. The Texans would like to control the ball with running back Ben Tate and the short passing game to keep Luck anchored to the bench.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Texans RT Derek Newton, who's struggled for much of the season, vs. Colts OLB Robert Mathis, who has 15 1/2 sacks.
In the first game, Newton played his best game. He got help, and Mathis didn't record a sack. Mathis moved to the right side and went against left tackle Duane Brown on eight plays. Again, he wasn't successful at getting to the quarterback. Mathis is too good to be shut out again, and the Texans must minimize his pressure on quarterback Case Keenum.
--Texans OLB Whitney Mercilus, who tied his career high with six sacks, vs. LT Anthony Castanzo, who protects quarterback Andrew Luck's blind side. Mercilus has been an inconsistent pass rusher.
The coaches want him to be quicker off the ball and more relentless to the passer. He needs to improve his closing burst because he's coming close too many times without hitting the passer. Castanzo is a 6-7, 311-pound three-year veteran with a wide power base. He won't give up the bull rush, but he'll have to be prepared for Mercilus to beat him around the corner.
Copyright © 2013, Reuters