Following difficult losses, it’s easy to pick out which teams will bounce back and which teams are more likely to fold. After their own misfortunes Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans are both trailing in their conferences’ respective playoff races, but the two teams appear headed in completely different directions too.
After getting the San Francisco 49ers on the ropes, the Cardinals seemed unable to finish the job, ultimately burying themselves with mistakes and losing 32 to 20.
Following the loss, head coach Bruce Arians was visibly upset. He wasn’t ranting about the podium in his post-game presser. He was answering questions in short statements, pointing out his distaste for what had happened on the field.
“We only play to win. I don't give a damn about playing close.”
By contrast, Gary Kubiak was almost apologetic after the Texans embarrassing loss at the hands of the St. Louis Rams. It’s never been Kubiak’s style to come into a media event with his guns blazing, but where Arians seemed ready to fight, Kubiak seemed resigned to the Texans’ fate.
The difference between the two coaches is a stark one, and it exemplifies where these teams are likely headed. The Cardinals may or may not be a playoff team. Regardless, they’re a tough out for anyone, and it seems clear that anything less than winning football won’t be tolerated by Bruce Arians. There’s too much talent on the Cardinals’ roster to keep losing games due to self-inflicted mistakes, and Arians is well aware of that.
Gary Kubiak is a chronic underachiever as a head coach. The talent that exists in Houston should ensure the team’s postseason berth, but because of a few underachieving players and poor leadership, the Texans seem doomed to miss the playoffs, and in doing so, it should mean Kubiak will lose his job either during this season or at its completion.
Bruce Arians will be safe at the end of the season, regardless of where the Cardinals find themselves in late January. As a first-year head coach, he’ll be given extra rope to get his footing before being subjected to intense scrutiny.
Gary Kubiak, as one of the NFL’s longest tenured coaches, will not be given that rope, and he knows it. Following this weekend’s games, Bruce Arians looked like a man ready for a fight, while Gary Kubiak looked like a guy waiting for his pink slip. If those attitudes transfer to the teams the two men coach, it seems clear which team has a chance to bounce back and which team will be mailing it in from here on out.