Texans' Kubiak, Phillips should receive credit they deserve

Texans coach Gary Kubiak can't win for winning.

After clinching the AFC South, Houston is headed to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history -- despite losing starting quarterback Matt Schaub, his backup, Matt Leinart and its top defender, end Mario Williams, to season-ending injuries.

At 10-4, the Texans' record is one of the best in the NFL and already the best of Kubiak's six seasons with the team. They could add another win to that total Thursday, should they knock off the Colts in Indianapolis.

Little praise will come Kubiak's way, though.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is going to get most of the credit. Can't say he doesn't deserve it, either.

In 2010, the Texans' defense was one of the league's worst, at times near historically bad -- it allowed Tim Tebow to pass for more than 300 yards. Phillips took over in January, and now the unit ranks in the top five in almost all major statistical categories. Phillips switched from a four-man front to a 3-4, and as a result, players like Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin, DeMeco Ryans and Johnathan Joseph have flourished.

It's Phillips' defense that's being credited for keeping things afloat with Schaub, Leinart and, for much of the season, All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson on the shelf. When Phillips had to miss a game as he recovered from surgery last week, Houston lost to Carolina 28-13, with the Panthers scoring the third-most points by a Texans opponent this year. Phillips' absence was cited as a reason for the defensive breakdowns.

To his credit, Kubiak hasn't tried at all to take the shine off Phillips. That's awfully big for a guy who had a playoffs-or-done hangman staring him in the face at the outset of this season. It's also pretty big for a guy who made sure to have his third-string rookie quarterback, T.J. Yates, prepared enough to take over an explosive offense without falling apart like Bears backup Caleb Hanie or Chiefs backup Tyler Palko.

Kubiak is undoubtedly one of the better offensive minds in the league and has crafted a balanced offense that can run and pass with equal proficiency. Along with general manager Rick Smith, Kubiak has stocked a stacked roster that, frankly, should have won the AFC South as easily as it did. Kubiak has grown as a head coach, showing a modest confidence that's reflected in his team's rugged yet understated style.

Entering Thursday, Kubiak's record is 47-47. Taking it over .500 against the Colts, the Texans' nemesis throughout their existence, would be extra sweet. It would also be somewhat ironic, because no matter how well the Texans do this season, their success will come with a caveat: Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning missed the season with a neck injury.

It would be a shame if the Texans are remembered as beneficiaries of Manning's absence and not simply as the best team in the division this year.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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