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.