Texans coach Kubiak's job could be at stake down the stretch

HOUSTON -- When Gary Kubiak returned to his hometown in 2006 for his first head-coaching job, the Texans believed he was the one to turn around the franchise.

Now that the Texans are virtually out of playoff contention in Kubiak's fourth season, he is left to answer questions about how much longer he'll be in charge of this underachieving team.

Career in Houston
Years: 4

Record: 27-33

Best finish: 8-8

Houston (5-7) lost its fourth consecutive game last weekend to turn up the heat on the former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator who took over after a franchise-worst 2-14 finish in 2005 got Dom Capers fired.

Kubiak isn't surprised that he has needed to talk about his job security as the Texans' losses mount. He insists coaching in the place where he grew up doesn't make it any harder.

"It would be tough no matter where I was," Kubiak said. "It's just part of it. It's part of the job, part of the profession, a lot of highs and lows, and you've just got to stay positive in your approach and believe in what you're doing and keep going. It's very difficult, but we will stay positive. We will work through it."

Texans owner Bob McNair hasn't said anything that would indicate Kubiak won't be back next season. If the Texans can beat their last four opponents, starting with the Seattle Seahawks at home this Sunday, they will finish with a winning record for the first time.

McNair's policy always has been to evaluate coaches after the season, and that's what he plans to do this time.

The Texans' last four losses have come by an average of 4.75 points -- and two came when Kris Brown missed field-goal attempts of less than 50 yards that would have forced overtime.

The Texans' most recent defeat, 23-18 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, included a first-down halfback pass that was intercepted from the 5-yard line.

Quarterback Matt Schaub insists that Kubiak still has his players' support.

"We continually support him, so we've got his back," Schaub said. "We're all in this together. We're going to have his back until the end. We're going to fight through this thing. We have the utmost confidence in him and he in us, and we're just going to continue down that road."

Schaub came to Houston in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons in Kubiak's second year after a David Carr-led team improved to 6-10 in the coach's first go.

The Texans finished with a franchise-best 8-8 record in each of the last two seasons and were a trendy preseason choice to finally make the playoffs in their eighth season of existence. Instead, the Texans have failed to win close games and been slowed by a running game that has struggled with Steve Slaton mired in a sophomore slump. Slaton was lost for the season this week with a nerve problem in his neck.

Wide receiver Andre Johnson, who has been with the Texans since 2003, said people outside of the organization don't realize what a mess things were when Kubiak took over and how much he has done to improve the franchise. He has turned an offense that once was known for little more than Carr's repeated sacks into one of the NFL's top units.

"I think he's changed the attitude of the team because he's been on teams where they've won Super Bowls and things like that, so he knows what it takes," Johnson said. "He's just as frustrated as everybody else. He knows that we have the talent to go out and do things and get things accomplished, but it's just not happening.

"We're doing things to take ourselves out of good situations and not win games. He can't go out and play the game for us."

Kubiak certainly knows what it takes to win in the NFL. He joined the Texans after spending 11 seasons as the Broncos' offensive coordinator, a span in which Denver reached the playoffs seven times and won the Super Bowl twice with coach Mike Shanahan at the helm.

Kubiak has taken the blame after Houston's losses this season, and some wonder if he should be putting more responsibility on the players for the lack of success.

"It starts with me, (but) we all have a big responsibility," Kubiak said. "Fortunately, I'm the guy that talks to you all the most, so I've got to answer a lot of questions and move on. I'm going to tell you the truth, with what I think and what I see. If I'm disappointed myself, I'm going to give you the answer that I believe."

Johnson, who has blossomed in Kubiak's high-octane offense, said he would "hate" to see Kubiak go and still believes he's the coach to take the Texans to the next level. The Pro Bowl receiver knows Houston's performance in the next four games will heavily factor into whether Kubiak stays.

Johnson said he's playing for Kubiak's future.

"You never want to see anyone lose their job," Johnson said. "You have to go out and cut it loose for him. That's something I think about when I'm going out on the field."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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