Pitchfork and Torch Time Already?
takes a heaping spoonful of fail to outshine the late game collapses
of Sage Rosenfels, but defensive coordinator Richard Smith has been
shoveling the stuff into our living rooms for awhile now. In Sunday’s
loss to the Colts, his defense allowed 474 yards and 30 first downs
in 80 plays without forcing a single turnover. Yeowch.
it wasn’t pretty. Even on a day when Rosenfels committed yet
another game-ending turnover, Smith and the defense were ingloriously
ushered by the Colts on a guided tour of Lucas Oil Stadium, endzone
to endzone, in an ostentatious display of defensive ineptitude.
it goes without further flogging of this lifeless steed that the
Texans defense has largely underperformed this season, but what’s
worse is that the young players drafted by the team since 2006 have
not progressed beyond their rookie season; well, except for one
player, as defensive end Mario Williams would still be a freaking
badass even if Sasha and Malia were making the defensive play calls.
does all of that failure rest squarely on Smith’s shoulders?
that overflowing amount of suck floods more than just Smith’s
can of stink. The players themselves ought to be accountable of
course. And while there are certainly talent deficiencies at multiple
defensive positions, the burden after three years of developing
this unit falls on the entire defensive coaching staff.
also rests on head coach Gary Kubiak as well, and not just because
the buck stops with him. It rests on him because of how he has structured
his org chart of coaches.
little backstory is needed here. Kubiak originally had designs of
hiring Smith and Frank Bush as his co-defensive
coordinators in 2006. Both Smith and Bush were once co-workers
of Kubiak’s on the Broncos staff in the 1990s, but while both
have had lengthy pro coaching careers, neither had officially been
solely responsible as a defensive coordinator previously.
Cardinals, however, refused
to let Bush interview with the Texans, so Smith was given the job
outright. Kubiak then hired Bush a year later, though in the official
capacity of “senior defensive assistant”. It is a strangely
unassuming title, isn’t it?
sort of working dynamic exists between Bush and Smith? How does
Kubiak work with each of them, separately and together? How much
might Smith’s authority and decision-making power undermined
here, if not directly than through some internal, behind-the-scenes-type
that thought for a second. A similar set of questions also exist
in the secondary as well. Kubiak retained defensive backs coach
Jon Hoke when he was hired, but he also just hired Ray Rhodes, a
former (and accomplished) defensive coordinator, as Hoke’s
assistant, albeit on a somewhat limited basis. How does that
had been considered a desirable assistant, at least until this season,
but he has not overseen a truly effective Texans secondary in a
long while, if ever. The disappointing play of second year cornerback
Fred Bennett calls into question his ability to help talented players
reach the next level. Is he really forgetting how to coach, or might
the presence of Rhodes be cramping his style?
overlapping roles and experience are in play on the offensive side
of the ball as well, as Kubiak has Alex Gibbs to run the offense
(and Mike Sherman before him), even though Kyle Shanahan is actually
the offensive coordinator, at least in title. There are fewer clarity
problems here though, as Kubiak has taken a much more active role
in offensive gameplanning, something he has been reluctant to do
on defense from the beginning.
a step back, if you tried to write up an org chart of how this coaching
staff actually functions, it would better resemble a Rorscharch
test than any functioning business model. War isn’t football,
and comparing the two is an obvious slight to those fighting for
our country, but the parallels exist on some level, strategically,
mentally, and organizationally.
tight hierarchy is preferred by the military (and militant head
coaches) with strict chain of command, and the Texans are not following
this philosophy. It has caused confusion (remember those second
half timeouts against the Colts?), communication breakdowns, and
an overall paralysis in making the sort of mid-game (and mid-season?)
adjustments necessary to succeed.
wonder then that the players look confused out there. They have
eight. So that means when one of them makes a mistake, they have
eight different people coming by to tell them about it. Their only
real motivation is not to be hassled. You know, that will only make
a player work just hard enough not to get benched.
your petitions to fire Smith. Kubiak hired his friends to make
it easier on himself, but firing them is not something he will find
easy to do. Smith hasn’t
earned the opportunity though to keep his job in Houston for
a fourth season. And with the prevailing notion being that Kubiak
only has one more year to turn his squad into a playoff team, don’t
be surprised when the next coordinator is already someone on the
staff, someone not promoting wholesale changes to what we have already
Kubiak takes a clearer approach to how he structures his staff and
focuses their accountability – including his own – don’t
expect anything resembling the ’85 Bears or ’00 Ravens
out there on the field.
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