It's hard to remember a time when Gary Kubiak was not the coach of the Houston Texans. The year was 2005. The quarterback was David Carr, the coach was Dom Capers and the leading rusher was Domanick
Kubiak, fired by the team Friday, lasted eight seasons with the franchise. That's a remarkable run of stability for him and general manager Rick Smith, especially considering the team made the playoffs just twice over that span.
This was a mercy firing. There was no way Kubiak was coming back for 2014, and owner Bob McNair no longer wanted to wait around to plan for next season. McNair said the coaching search already is underway. This is a good job for any interested coach. It's a well-run organization with some talented pieces. But there will be challenges for the new coach and some big questions facing the organization.
Does Wade Phillips have a future in Houston?
Phillips will take over as the team's interim coach for the next three weeks. McNair confirmed that Phillips will be interviewed as a head coaching candidate, but it's hard to imagine him getting the job.
That raises the question: Would Phillips be open to sticking around as defensive coordinator with the next coach? And would the next coach be open to the idea?
This Houston defensive roster was built around Phillips' 3-4 scheme with considerable success. Defensive end J.J. Watt has been the best defensive player in football under Phillips. Linebacker Brian Cushing fit well in the system and cornerback Johnathan Joseph is a great player when healthy. (Big if there.) Guys like Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed were drafted as 3-4 outside linebackers.
McNair called this Texans roster the most talented in team history. We disagree. It's thin in a lot of parts, and life will be tougher for the next coach if he has to overhaul schemes on both sides of the ball. Speaking of ...
Do offensive pieces fit without Kubiak?
Kubiak, who learned under Mike Shanahan, has a very specific skill set he looks for in offensive linemen, running backs and quarterbacks. The next coach won't see things the same way.
Left tackle Duane Brown should excel in any system, but the rest of the offensive line might not be as effective in another scheme. Running back Arian Foster figures to stick around because of his talent and contract.
Does Case Keenum have a chance?
McNair indicated that Keenum will start at quarterback for the rest of the season. Matt Schaub will be cut after the season, and it's hard to imagine Keenum being taken seriously as a starter in the future. Keenum has limitations as a passer and fits Kubiak's system well. He could be in the mix to be a backup next season, but the Texans probably are starting from scratch at quarterback.
And they have a great chance to take Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater with the No. 1 overall draft pick.
Will GM Rick Smith pick the next coach?
It sure looks that way. Smith was at the podium to announce Kubiak's firing. McNair constantly talked about what a "talented" roster the Texans have. It looks like Smith is sticking around, and will pick his head coach. He was made general manager in 2006, the same year Kubiak was hired.
So what coaches could get a look?
McNair indicated he wanted a coach with previous NFL coaching experience. That seems to rule out college candidates like Baylor's Art Briles or Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin. McNair admitted that former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith will be a candidate.
McNair said that firing Kubiak gives the Texans an edge on starting the hiring process. The Texans don't see this as a rebuilding project, but they have a lot of work to do. Don't assume that this squad is the 2014 version of the Kansas City Chiefs.