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Where’s the Leadership for the Texans?

The best teams in the NFL are led by their coaches and impact players.  These leaders take responsibility for creating the big plays to change momentum and the outcome to their respective team’s games.  Whether it’s an offensive coordinator making the right call to beat a certain defensive front, or it’s the quarterback taking the team down the field with less than two minutes remaining to win the game; a team’s leaders can sway momentum and change the game with big plays and influential words of wisdom.

The Texans have a team full of talent ready to be ignited, but they’ve lacked leadership on both sides of the ball.  Head Coach Gary Kubiak needs to inherit the leader role for the Texans after last week’s loss to a statistically terrible team, the Cleveland Browns.  The Texans lacked leadership, and the Browns claimed the game in the third quarter. Yes, turnovers contributed to the loss, but turnovers have become the Houston Texans’ real identity.  They are a run first team that should expect turnovers (if they are going to happen like they have been all season long sending the Texans to last in the league in turnovers).  The Texans have given up 26 turnovers for 106 points this season.  It is their identity.  Turnovers cannot be completely avoided, but leaders can step up and influence the team game to new levels that can bring wins anyway possible.  Therefore, it’s up to the coaches to turn the leaf and create leaders on both sides of the ball.

Kubiak should be rightly under fire for the Texans’ loss to the Browns. The Houston media and sports radio criticizes Gary Kubiak on both offensive and defensive fronts.  Kubiak should game plan better for the weeks ahead, and his game plan can figure what defensive sets to put out and how to expect the opponent’s next move to beat the Texan D.  Kubiak was beaten by Browns HC Romeo Crennel in this aspect.  On WR Braylon Edward’s touchdown reception, he beat the Texans zone coverage easily with one move to separate himself between the zoned corner and safety.  TE Kellen Winslow had similar success against the Texans’ Zone D.  In fact, after the plays, Crennel looked as if he knew what he was doing.  He game planned against a set-in-stone Texans’ defense that hasn’t changed or masked much for its opponents.

Offensively, yet again, Kubiak, abandoned the run after RB Ron Dayne was producing big gains.  Dayne averaged 4.9 yards per carry but only carried the rock five times in the second half.  Kubiak said, “I thought we ran the ball effectively and probably got away from it too fast, and there was no reason to…” Schaub, who showed a lack of leadership with his head down on the Texans bench before and after his pick, showed he has yet to inherent the leadership role.  WR Andre Johnson can’t expand his leadership role until Schaub can get the ball to him consistently.  The Texans became a one-sided wrecking crew on their own legs while they abandoned the run looking for deep passes and big plays from their receivers in the second half.  Every coach knows the run opens the pass, and without the run they’re in for a long day.  Keep the defense honest and the offense can progress.

Defensively, Kubiak’s next criticisms involve his conservative blitz calling.  Kubiak is being pressured to blitz the QB to disrupt the opponent’s game plan and force turnovers.  It would be great to see more Texan blitzes work like the successful one against the Browns when Mario got his sixth sack of the season or like those from the Saints games, but there are reasons why Kubiak doesn’t send the blitz.  First, Dunta Robinson, the team’s #1 cornerback and defensive leader, is out for the season and the CBs filling the starting job is a rookie CB (Freddy Bennett) and an ex-S (Von Hutchins).  Yes these players are becoming better every game, and they look really good.  But the Texans cannot send the blitz and give their opponents the chance to beat them through the air them with a questionable coverage unit that relies on only zone coverages.  Secondly, blitzes do not win games.  Sending the blitz can be useful only when the opposing offense has no idea the linebackers or cornerbacks are coming.  MLB DeMeco Ryans does not know if the blitz is what the Texans need, but he said “I’m going to do my thing” and the team will hopefully follow his lead.  Ryans, last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, already looks like a veteran on the field but his smaller size does not allow him to take shed offensive linemen with blitzes.  Neither does Danny “the Assassin” Clark’s smaller frame.  OLB Morlon Greenwood provides more size but he’s definitely useful against the run to stop big backs like the Jamal Lewis-es.  Sending DBs would be a worse idea for the Texans D.  The CBs are playing zone and the safeties should be watchful against big play making receiver threats.  Becoming a blitzing D can only leave more holes open for the opponent to punish the Texans.

Although advice is helpful, Kubiak knows what he’s doing and he can lead this team if he can build leaders on the field in MLB DeMeco Ryans, WR Andre Johnson and QB Matt Schaub.  I do not expect Kubiak to listen to the media, me or anyone else’s opinion on the offensive and defensive play calling.  Gary still has the talent to ignite a fuse for a playoff run and great season finish.  But with more losses like those to Cleveland, Tennesse and Atlanta, the Texans’ players and coaches will be watching the NFL playoffs at home rather than from the sidelines.

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