Posted December 06, 2013

Possible candidates to replace Gary Kubiak as Houston Texans’ head coach

AFC South, Houston Texans
If Jon Gruden is ready to get back into coaching, the Texans could offer him an appealing situation.

If Jon Gruden is ready to return to coaching, the Texans could offer him a great opportunity. (David Zalubowski/AP)

The Houston Texans fired head coach Gary Kubiak on Friday, one day after falling to 2-11 on the season. Kubiak’s replacement will be asked to navigate a quick turnaround for a team that entered this year with Super Bowl aspirations.

For now, Wade Phillips will take over as the interim head coach. He could be one of the candidates to fill Kubiak’s shoes eventually, depending on how he fares in his brief stint at the helm. Houston will be the sixth NFL team Phillips has led and the third as an interim.

But assuming the Texans opt to somewhat start from scratch after the 2013 season concludes, there already appear to be a number of candidates who could be of interest. Texans owner Bob McNair said that he would like to find someone with NFL and head coaching experience. Whether or not he would bend the rules for the right coach remains to be seen.

With that, a look at a few of the names that may be on McNair’s radar:

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Lovie Smith: McNair specifically mentioned at Friday’s press conference that he wants to speak with Smith, formerly the head coach of the Bears from 2004-12. Though the Bears missed out on the postseason in each of his final two seasons in charge, he posted an 81-63 record with three division titles and a Super Bowl berth.

Smith is also a Texas native (Gladewater), and the fact that he’s not currently coaching anywhere else could allow the Texans to get a jump start on the process.

Smith is known as a defensive mind, and the Texans could use some help there after slipping into the bottom third of the league in points allowed. An interesting subplot should the Texans go this route: Would potential soon-to-be free agent Jay Cutler consider following his ex-coach to Houston, where a new franchise QB is desperately needed?

David Shaw: The current Stanford coach was a bit of a hot name as far as NFL coaching openings went last offseason, and he should be again in the coming months. Shaw has an extensive NFL background — he was an assistant for the Eagles, Raiders and Ravens before jumping back to the college ranks — and he has had great success as a head coach, checking off both criteria McNair laid out as important for Kubiak’s replacement.

Since taking over for Jim Harbaugh in Palo Alto, Shaw has posted three consecutive double-digit win seasons and took his team to BCS bowls in both 2011 and ’12. That Harbaugh carried over his Stanford success to the pros should only help Shaw make his case if and when he’s ready to attempt the same jump.

Art Briles: A popular name in the state of Texas, Briles played college ball at the University of Houston, later coached there and now has built Baylor into a national power. His wide-open offense might be an intriguing fit for a Texans team that boasts Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, among others. Briles also recruited Case Keenum before leaving Houston, so he has a tie to the Texans’ current starting QB.

Briles, 58, has not coached at the NFL level, so that may stand as a strike against him in McNair’s eyes. This could, however, be the 2014 version of Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly home-run swing.

Mike Zimmer/Ray Horton: A pair of defensive coordinators overdue to get head coaching shots. Audibles’ Doug Farrar pegged them months ago as two of the NFL assistants most ready for a promotion, and neither has done anything to hurt his cause.

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Horton was in the mix for the Cardinals’ job last offseason; they hired Bruce Arians instead, and a disappointed Horton joined Rob Chudzinski’s staff in Cleveland as defensive coordinator. Zimmer, meanwhile, has been the Bengals’ D-coordinator since 2008 and has helped build one of the league’s better attacks.

Neither guy has head coaching experience, but both have prolonged and successful NFL backgrounds.

Kevin Sumlin: Another Houston-area college name, Sumlin replaced Briles at Houston and then moved to Texas A&M in 2011. All he’s done between the two spots is run up a 54-23 record with four (soon to be five) bowl appearances. With Johnny Manziel as his quarterback at A&M, Sumlin helped expand the spread/read-option look in the SEC — and really shocked the conference with an 11-2 record in 2012. In case you’ve somehow forgotten, Manziel likely will be available in the 2014 draft.

Sumlin’s lack of experience could work against him: He’s been a head coach for just five years with no NFL coaching background. But if the Texans opt to go the college route, Sumlin should be right in the mix alongside at least Shaw.

Jon Gruden: Does Gruden want to get back in the game? If so (and if the Texans will have him), he may not find a better situation than this one — the possible No. 1 overall pick, a team that won the division in 2011 and ’12 and superstars to build around in Andre Johnson and J.J. Watt.

Head coaching and NFL experience? Check and check, with a Super Bowl championship to boot.


50 comments
bullrun59
bullrun59

No thanks on Sumlin... Where has he ever been where he had a decent defense?  Answer: nowhere.

MikeSchultz
MikeSchultz

Everyone wants GRUDEN an he'd be amazing but not with the TEXANS, they should go for either Lovie Smith or MIKE ZIMMER who is as the Article says WAY overdue for a H.C. Gig. SHAW an SUMLIN won't be leaving plus I don't want a H.C. with Zero NFL Exp. even though my PHILLY EAGLES are the exception to that Rule.

Dunedin51
Dunedin51

I know Cowher will be automatically mentioned, but is he really interested any more, the longer he is out of the game with a good TV gig the less likely he will want to come back. Does he want the stress

Derek Smalls
Derek Smalls

I'm a Redskins fan and I vote for Shanahan.

6marK6
6marK6

The made up list of names of guys that nobody has actually confirmed are legitimate targets. Briles? Are you serious?

AggieMike
AggieMike

Sumlin's new contract states that he can not talk to nfl teams for 3 years

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

This writer is an idiot.  McNair said the coach has to have NFL experience, not be a former player and have head coaching experience.  4 of these candidates do not qualify.  What a joke to mention them. 


Cowher and Bill Obrien are the top candidates based on what the Texans are looking for and neither of them are on this list. 

Centennial
Centennial

Dan Quinn the SEAHAWKS DC may be worth taking a look at. Bright, intelligent articulate guy coaching the #1 defense in the league.

Chris10
Chris10

Hire Gruden just so I can watch MNF again

Enough is Enough
Enough is Enough

I'd grab Gruden and Zimmer from Cinci...once Cinci tanks, again in the post-season. Gruden needs to get out the booth...and please ESPN, can Tirico while you have a chance... and let Gruden show his skills on offense and drop the "Dungy's team" garbage once and for all. The man can coach and is wasted talent on MNF.

sportsGuy12
sportsGuy12

is there like a mandate that requires Jon Gruden's name to come up on every NFL head coaching vacancy?

Action
Action

We all know that it's going to be Lane Kiffen.

MatthewEugeneHaag
MatthewEugeneHaag

Honestly if I were to be the person in charge of finding a new head coach my top three are Zimmer, Gruden, and Phillips.  Mike Zimmer has put together a heck of a good D in Cincy and Gruden was pretty good before Tampa's collapse.  Phillips is only there cause he has an NFL head coach experience PLUS he is the current D Coordinator so that gives him a leg up.  His work in Dallas would hardly inspire confidence but those are the three I think I could get.  Lovie made a superbowl but couldn't win it.  Also the fact that he never had more than a pop gun offense would give me pause.  The others are all major college coaches.  None of them have played for a national title yet.  Not that this is a prerequisite but I would think many of them would like to achieve that milestone before moving up.  Could be wrong but in my mind Sumlin lacks XP, Briles would be great but who knows how the offense would translate, and Shaw would be interesting but he's only really been a head coach of a major program for three years or so now?  Out of the college ranks I would look at honestly Briles.  Not sure many other big good names will be out there.  Mack Brown?  Maybe?  His game would translate better to a slower NFL than to the college game which is getting increasingly faster.

TL1961
TL1961

Lovie Smith could take that aggressive D and soften it up and stop attacking.


And who in their right mind would suggest Cutler would follow Smith to Houston? What did Smith ever do for Cutler or any offensive player in Chicago? 


Offense was/is an afterthought to Lovie.

Dumptruck
Dumptruck

If we're just spitballing here, how about adding Bill Cowher or Tony Dungy or even Brian Billick to this list? At least they have even said that for the right circumstances they'd go back to coaching, unlike Gruden who seems to be happy in his gig- although I'd bet ya my pension check that he'd go Miami in a heartbeat if they'd make him coach and GM and dump Ireland who is killing the team...

DaM
DaM

While Kevin Sumlin does not have NFL coaching experience it may greatly benefit the Texans to take him and use their probable #1 overall pick to also take Johnny Manziel. I believe this could be of an enormous benefit given the coach and QB already work together and understand each other.  While not a head coaching job, Pep Hamilton as the OC in Indianapolis having worked with Andrew Luck at Stanford, both as OC and QBs coach, has been a great hire for that team.  It may work out the same in Sumlin's case if Houston can pair him with his QB. 

jhymas25
jhymas25

Lovie Smith is a Tampa 2 guy, which is played out of a 43 base defense. The Texans have the best 34 defensive end in the game. While I would guess that J.J. Watt would do well in any defensive scheme, it seems like an unnecessary risk to make him do so. Also, that transition usually takes a couple seasons to get a team stocked with the right players. So if the Texans want to win now, it seems a 34 coach would be a better fit. Same goes for Gruden, right? (I don't remember much about his coaching honestly). Both seem like strange fits. Not saying the coaches couldn't change schemes, just not a natural fit for either. 


Also, lol at Cutler following Lovie to Houston. Cutler had to be tired of being sacked 50 times a season by the end of Smith's term in Chicago, I don't think he'll want that again.

Ray1950
Ray1950

I hear Rex Ryan will be available :)

UrsaMajor
UrsaMajor

I like Lovie Smith, but he definitely has no affinity for the offence.  He's gone from the Bears because he and his coordinators could never build an offence to match the defence.  The Texans don't have a quarterback and Andre Johnson is on the wrong side of 30.  Lovie is not the guy to fix that.

Owl
Owl

Jerry Jones might look at it if he could also keep his current job and hire the cheerleaders

Jeff79
Jeff79

Sumlin hasn't signed the contract extension

Action
Action

@AggieMike I was going to post the same comment, but you have to wonder if that would just mean he'd have a bigger buy out if that's what he decided to do.  For the right price, i assume an NFL team could get Sumlin.

John4
John4

@Centennial I'm not a Seahawks fan, but I have to agree with you.  The DC for the Seahawks should be strongly considered.

Starstruck
Starstruck

@CentennialThe defense was already top-rated in 2012 before Quinn got the job. What has he done to add significant value? 

 

John4
John4

@Chris10 The mute button is your friend.  It's the only way in the world to watch a Musberger game.  Brent is the worst announcer ever, by a wide margin.  That said, Gruden is not a good announcer.

JahliSuwaghaman
JahliSuwaghaman

I'd rather listen to Jon Gruden read a phone book than listen to Chris Collinsworth call a game.

6marK6
6marK6

@Enough is Enough Gruden is a good coach. HOWEVER, he makes horrible player personnel moves. Teams get real old fast under him.

Plainview
Plainview

@sportsGuy12 I think gruden is a valid option.  He took over in Tampa Bay and immediately won a super bowl, maybe he'll do it again. 

Plainview
Plainview

may that name never be mentioned again.  For any coaching position, ever.  I wouldn't have him coach a peewee football team. 

BosephHeyden
BosephHeyden

I was reading that and was confused as well.  Why would Cutler want to suffer through five more OC's?  Lovie had four OC's in his tenure as head coach for the Bears.  The first one was an awful judge of talent (Terry O'Shea, who convinced the team Jonathan Quinn and Craig Krenzel were competent NFL QB's), the second was an excellent OC so long as the goal of the offense was "Don't mess things up for the defense" (Ron Turner), the third was good once but couldn't adjust with the times (Mike Martz), and his last one was an offensive line coach (Mike Tice).


Not only would Cutler not want to go to Texas, but I doubt any good QB's would want to go there, either.

DannyVinson
DannyVinson

@TL1961"Offense was/is an afterthought to Lovie"  that implies Lovie has a thought which we know to be untrue.

JahliSuwaghaman
JahliSuwaghaman

As said above, Dungy is done.  He wants to spend time with his family. 

MatthewEugeneHaag
MatthewEugeneHaag

@Dumptruck Cause out of those three the only one likely to one day return is Cowher.  Dungy has been adamant about his being done and unlike No. 4 he hasn't played will I won't I.  Billick has been silent but has made no active statements in the years since his retirement and I can assume he has been talked to but the fact that his name never surfaces seems to indicate he's on a Dungy level of Retirement.  Cowher is the only name that seems to come up again and again so I can agree that might be an option too.

PWINGS
PWINGS

The problem with the Sumlin / Manziel scenario that you propose is that it will seem obvious that one is riding the other's coattails. Where it gets ugly is when people question whether Manziel is riding Sumlin's coattails or vice versa. If the locker room becomes convinced that Sumlin was only hired because of Manziel, Sumlin loses his ability to lead and you may end up with a split locker room or worse. In the eyes of many people, A & M already has that situation and I'm not sure that a pro team would want that.

John4
John4

@Owl Owl, your comment is idiotic.  It has nothing to do with anything, and makes you appear the fool.  Are you a fool?

PWINGS
PWINGS

Hail Jerra - Emperor of Texas! We, who are about to buy season tickets, salute you!

Centennial
Centennial

I'll get back to you after they win the superbowl.

Starstruck
Starstruck

@JahliSuwaghaman QBs will be disappointed if Gruden leaves MNF. Gruden thinks every one of them is all-world. 

Loch
Loch

@Plainview @sportsGuy12


There's a first time for everything but no coach has ever won the Super Bowl coaching two different teams. 

PWINGS
PWINGS

I don't think your peewee team can afford him! Monte either.

PWINGS
PWINGS

Cowher is patiently lying in the weeds waiting for Coughlin to retire from the Giants. I agree that Dungy seems sincere in his assertions that he's retired. Zimmer should get a long, hard look from someone because of his accomplishments but I'm not convinced that he's not another Wade Phillips, Rex Ryan for whom DC is his ideal role. David Shaw is the most intriguing of the college coaches because of his success at a school with such high academic standards and his NFL experience.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

Except Matthew Stafford.  His stats for 2012 don't count:  "They're always playing from behind, so those passing and receiving stats are meaningless."  


Must be Truth, 'cause Chuckie said so.

Michael85
Michael85

Maurice, he means Don Shula won 2 SBs with 2 different teams--Colts & Dolphins, trying to contradict Loch . However, he's wrong & Loch is right. Don Shula coached the Colts to Super Bowl III but lost to the Jets. By the time the Colts made it back to the in SB V, Shula was in Miami. 


Shula, Dan Reeves (Broncos & Falcons) & Bill Parcells (Giants & Patriots) are the only coaches to take 2 different teams to the SB. If Denver makes it then John Fox will join them.

Michael85
Michael85

But if you listen to Lane Kiffin, he's the greatest coach in history. It's the players' fault, or the AD's, or the GM's fault he doesn't win, not him sine he's never made a bad coaching decision.