As we continue to assess the fallout produced by the firing of Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, we now can begin to consider just who will take over as the Texans’ vacant head coaching position. Owner Bob McNair indicated the Texans would seek a coach with NFL experience, which narrows the field to a select few. So, who’s on the in, and who’s on the out?
The first name to come to mind is Wade Phillips, not because he’s the best candidate, but because Phillips is taking over as the Texans’ interim head coach, meaning he’ll have three games to impress McNair and general manager Rick Smith. Phillips has an outside shot at the job, but it’s likely the Texans will go in a different direction. If someone else is hired, the new regime will have to decide whether to hang on to Phillips as the defensive coordinator or to cut him loose.
The favorite to claim the Texans’ top job appears to be former Bears head coach Lovie Smith. Smith has a career head coaching record of 83-61 in the NFL, and he was able to turn the Bears into a contending franchise after years of mediocrity. Still, the Bears were never able to win the big game, and that ultimately cost him his job.
A less favored option available to the Houston Texans would be Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Del Rio has gone 71-72 in his head coaching career, most of which came with the Jacksonville Jaguars. From 2005 through 2007, the Jaguars were a contending football team, but roster mismanagement derailed any chance the Jaguars had of continuing their short success, and Del Rio was eventually fired after a few consecutive poor seasons.
In addition to the aforementioned candidates, Ken Whisenhunt is a perfectly valid option, although it’s believed the Texans will hire a defensively minded coach, and we’ll likely hear rumors that the Texans will try to lure Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher to town. Whisenhunt, as an active coach, is a legitimate candidate, but Gruden and Cowher may never coach again. Don’t expect them to jump all over the Texans’ job opening.
Lovie Smith may be at the top of the Texans’ wish list, but it’s likely that other teams that are cutting their own coaches loose may be looking at bringing Smith into their own camps as well. If he’s unavailable, the field becomes considerably more limited. Jack Del Rio may be the dark horse in the Texans’ job hunt. He has extensive experience, and prior to the Jaguars’ collapse following the 2007 season, Del Rio’s overall record was considerably above the .500 mark.
By moving early on firing Gary Kubiak, the Texans have given themselves a head start on any other teams entering the head coaching. Because they’re first to the show, they may be able to take their pick from the candidates available.