- Your home for Houston pro football news, opinion, and fan-flavored goodness
The Goodness
Message Boards
Salary Cap
Support the Site
2008 Season
 vs. Denver
 @ New Orleans
 @ Dallas
 vs. Tampa Bay
Regular Season
 @ Pittsburgh
 @ Tennessee
 @ Jacksonville
 vs. Indianapolis
 vs. Miami
 vs. Detroit
 vs. Cincinnati
 @ Minnesota
 vs. Baltimore
 @ Indianapolis
 @ Cleveland
 vs. Jacksonville
 @ Green Bay
 vs. Tennessee
 @ Oakland
 vs. Chicago
Overall Record

November 17, 2008
Pitchfork and Torch Time Already?

by Keith Weiland

It 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.

Yeah, 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.

So 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.

But does all of that failure rest squarely on Smith’s shoulders?

Sadly, 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.

It 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.

A 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.

The 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?

What 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 second-guessing?

Hold 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 work?

Hoke 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?

The 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.

Taking 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.

A 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.

No wonder then that the players look confused out there. They have eight bosses, 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.

So file 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 witnessed.

Until 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.

PermaLink or

© Copyright 2008 ...In the Bullseye is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by the actual Houston Texans franchise. It's a non-commercial website for the enjoyment of football fans and is not intended for any other purpose. For legitimate content on the team, its operations and its actions, please visit its official site.