Texans eye Ravens while Phillips mulls interview
Texans coach Gary Kubiak says his players won't be distracted by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' upcoming job interview as they prepare for this weekend's playoff game in Baltimore.
Kubiak confirmed reports Monday that Phillips will meet with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday to discuss their head coaching position. The Bucs fired Raheem Morris a week ago after finishing 4-12.
Houston (11-6) plays at Baltimore (12-4) in an AFC divisional playoff on Sunday.
''There's obviously a window where they have to ask for permission to talk to your guys, and then you try to make it work within your normal schedule,'' Kubiak said. ''There's nothing that will change about our schedule. We'll go through our normal week, and Wade will visit with them some time Friday evening, and so he'll still be working on Friday evening when everybody else is getting a little break.
''Nothing will change about what we do,'' Kubiak said, ''I want everybody to understand that.''
The 64-year-old Phillips talked last week about his credentials as a head coach, though he added he was content in his current position. He's still recovering from kidney and gall bladder surgery in mid-December, but still thinks he should be considered for a top NFL job. His record as a head coach is 82-59.
The Texans are in the playoffs for the first time, largely due to Phillips' revamping of the defense, which ranked as one of the league's worst in 2010. Fans called into Houston radio shows on Monday, criticizing the Buccaneers for courting Phillips while the team was still playing in the postseason.
But Kubiak said that the Buccaneers' interest in Phillips is a testament to the job done by Houston's players and the rest of the defensive staff, including linebackers coach Reggie Herring, secondary coach Vance Joseph and defensive line coach Bill Kollar.
''We're proud of any opportunity any one of our coaches would get,'' Kubiak said. ''It will not be a distraction. It's a compliment, and we'll get ready to go.''
The Texans have been coping with obstacles all season, most of them injury-related. For a change, they escaped Saturday's 31-10 win over Cincinnati without any players significantly hurt.
Right guard Mike Brisiel played ''about three quarters'' after missing three games with a broken right fibula, and tight end Owen Daniels hurt his right hand, but will be back at practice on Wednesday, Kubiak said.
Star receiver Andre Johnson looked like his old self against the Bengals, catching five passes for 90 yards, including a second-half touchdown. Johnson was on the field for about 40 plays, and Kubiak said he ''came out of the game fine'' after missing nine games in the regular season with injuries to both hamstrings.
One of the games Johnson sat out was Baltimore's 29-14 win in Week 6, in which Houston set season lows for points and total yards (293) that held up through the end of 2011. Matt Schaub was the quarterback in that game, not rookie T.J. Yates, and the Texans were playing for the first time without outside linebacker Mario Williams, who tore a chest muscle the previous week.
Houston still led 14-13 in the third quarter, before the Ravens pulled away in the fourth.
''Well, they closed and we didn't,'' Kubiak said. ''We had opportunities offensively and didn't make them in the fourth quarter.''
The Ravens held Arian Foster to 49 yards rushing in the first meeting, though Foster was also Houston's top receiver that day, with six catches for 52 yards.
If Baltimore can bottle up Foster again, the pressure will fall on Yates, the fifth-round draft pick thrust into a starting role after season-ending injuries to Schaub and backup Matt Leinart.
Yates is 1-1 two road starts, rallying the Texans past the Bengals in Cincinnati on Dec. 11, but then losing to Indianapolis 11 days later.
Kubiak has firsthand experience for what Yates can expect on Sunday. He was Denver's offensive coordinator in 2000, when the Broncos met the Ravens in Baltimore in an AFC wild-card game. The Ravens won 21-3 on their way to the Super Bowl.
''This will be probably the ultimate test from the standpoint of the noise and being there in a playoff game,'' Kubiak said. ''But it's our job as coaches, too, to make sure that we're doing things that give him the best chance to get in and out of the huddle and go play and to give our guys up front the best chance. He's done his part, and I think he continues to get better and gain more confidence.''