With O’Brien, firing Kubiak early worked

With O’Brien, firing Kubiak early worked
December 31, 2013, 10:45 pm
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John Harris on SNC to talk about Bill O'Brien

Black Monday was the beginning of a race.

But the Texans already had a three-week head start.

This past Monday – dubiously dubbed Black Monday by media types and NFLers alike – four NFL head coaches were fired. Another was fired the previous night. That meant by Monday evening, there were six vacant head coaching jobs in the NFL.

But on Tuesday night, the Texans jumped first and got their guy early when they reached a deal to make former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien the franchise’s third head coach.

Think that extra time didn’t help? Think again. The Texans interviewed O’Brien before the regular season ended, before those other teams even had vacancies.

Because O’Brien and Lovie Smith weren’t under contract with an NFL team, the Texans were allowed to talk to them before the end of the regular season and they took full advantage.

How’s that for getting a jump on the competition?

When the Texans fired former head coach Gary Kubiak on Friday, Dec. 6, some questioned the move, even after owner Bob McNair said it was made to get a head start on the search. After all, didn’t Kubiak deserve more? The Texans had never had a winning season before he arrived in 2006 and he led the franchise to its greatest success.

And Kubiak's dedication? Unquestioned. He even came back this past season during a colossal losing streak after he had a mini-stroke on the sideline at halftime of the Colts game.

Didn’t he deserve more?

Well, yeah, he probably did.

He probably didn’t deserve to be let go during the middle of the season. He probably didn’t deserve to be let go just because the Texans lost their second game of the season to the lowly Jaguars or because of his devotion to quarterback Matt Schaub.

But firing Gary Kubiak early wasn’t about Gary Kubiak. It was actually about Bill O’Brien. We just didn’t know it yet.

And that early firing worked. The Texans got their guy on Tuesday night before he could be wooed away by some other NFL team.

Now, that just means firing Kubiak early was the correct decision; it doesn’t mean anything about O’Brien. We won’t know if hiring O’Brien was the right choice for the Texans for some time.

No one really knows if O’Brien will end up being a better coach for the Texans than Smith or Wade Phillips – the other two we know they interviewed – would have been. No one knows if Ken Whisenhunt, who is in the playoffs with the Chargers, would have ultimately been the best fit.

But on Tuesday night, before the ball dropped on 2013, the Texans had their guy. They got their head coach. That aggressiveness paid off.

The Texans made it to the finish line; the rest of the NFL just started the race.