Houston’s horrid season gives Texans No. 1 pick

The Houston Texans thought they would be preparing for a deep

run in the playoffs.

Instead as the new year approaches, they’re looking for a new

coach and have the No. 1 pick in the draft after a stunning

collapse cost coach Gary Kubiak his job and left them with the

NFL’s worst record.

Their 2-14 mark ties the 2005 team for the poorest mark in team

history. But this one seems much worse because of the expectations

entering this season.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips took over as interim coach

when Kubiak was fired. Houston ended the season on a 14-game skid.

Phillips, who dealt with the death of his father, Bum, during the

season, was ready to put this rough year behind him.

He walked into his last news conference Monday with a plaintive

plea of: ”Let’s wrap up the season – please.”

Kubiak, who was in his eighth season in Houston, had a

mini-stroke at halftime of the Texans game against Indianapolis on

Nov. 3, but returned to work just 10 days later. Phillips also

filled in for Kubiak in the one game he missed because of his

illness.

Phillips is one of three candidates, along with Penn State’s

Bill O’Brien and former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, who have

reportedly interviewed to be Houston’s next coach. Phillips, last a

head coach in Dallas, said he would like to be a head coach

again.

”In certain circumstances, like here,” he said. ”Tampa Bay

wanted to talk to me two years ago and I declined that. It would

have to be the right situation. There aren’t many right

situations.”

Houston safety Danieal Manning, who played for Smith in Chicago,

said he’s talked to him about his interest in returning to

coaching, but not specifically about this job.

”I’d love to play for Lovie again,” Manning said.

The Texans were coming off back-to-back AFC South titles and

were favorites to contend for a Super Bowl in 2013. Things looked

good early, with Houston starting 2-0 before the trouble began.

But even in the wins cracks began show in the play of

quarterback Matt Schaub, a Pro Bowler a year ago. He threw three

interceptions in the first two games combined, but Houston was able

to overcome his miscues for victories.

He struggled in the next two games, both losses, before things

got really ugly in the n against San Francisco. He tossed three

interceptions, including one on the third play of the game which

was returned for a score in the 34-3 loss. Schaub started one more

game before he was injured and replaced by Case Keenum. Schaub was

healthy a week later, but the Texans chose to stick with Keenum, an

undrafted free agent.

It was quickly apparent the record-setting University of Houston

quarterback wasn’t the answer as the losses piled up. Schaub got

spot work in two games after his benching before starting the final

two games after Keenum was injured.

It seemed fitting in this dreadful season that he threw an

interception on Houston’s last offensive play Sunday to seal the

loss.

The quarterback woes have many predicting Houston will use the

top pick on a QB. Top quarterbacks likely to be available are

Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny

Manziel of Texas A&M, and Fresno State’s Derek Carr, younger

brother of Houston’s first-ever draft pick, David Carr.

But Schaub’s rough season was far from Houston’s only problem

this year. It dealt with several season-ending injuries to key

players.

The first came when tight end Owen Daniels broke a bone in his

leg on Oct. 7, and Manning went down a week later with a knee

injury. Star linebacker Brian Cushing was lost the next week when

he sustained a second straight season-ending injury to his left

knee.

Running back Arian Foster played eight games before being placed

on injured reserve and undergoing back surgery. He finished with

542 yards rushing to end a streak of three straight seasons with at

least 1,200 yards on the ground. Backup Ben Tate broke four ribs

just before Foster’s season ended, but continued to play until

another injury to his ribs sidelined him with two games left.

Along with the injuries on defense, the unit was also hurt by

the ineffective play of veteran safety Ed Reed. The Texans signed

him to a three-year, $15 million contract in the offseason thinking

he could be the piece to help Houston reach the next level. But he

missed the first two games after hip surgery and made just 16

tackles with no interceptions before he was released Nov. 12.

About the only bright spots for the Texans in this dismal year

were defensive end J.J. Watt and receiver Andre Johnson. Both

players made the Pro Bowl after Watt had 10 1/2 sacks and Johnson

finished with 1,407 yards receiving for his seventh career

1,000-yard season.

”The team didn’t do well, but they did well and did some

amazing things,” Phillips said.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org