Every big game comes with distractions.
It’s just the way it is. Whether it’s the pressure of advancing in the postseason or the latest coaching speculation, rumors and gossip accompany nearly every team’s weekly practice schedule.
For Houston, the distraction du jour comes in the form of one of its coaches, not head coach Gary Kubiak, mind you, but defensive coordinator and former head coach Wade Phillips. According to reports, Phillips will meet with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday to discuss their vacant head coaching position. The Bucs recently fired former coach Raheem Morris after the team finished the season with a dismal 4-12 record.
The possibility that Phillips could move on from the Texans has certainly been addressed by Kubiak, who said Monday his players wouldn’t be distracted with their coordinator’s impending interview. Yet, despite the potential loss, Kubiak also boasted that if Phillips were to earn a head coaching position - a position he’s quite familiar with - it would be a testament to how much success this 2011 Texans team has achieved.
Kubiak is certainly right to think that. Phillips, in his first season as Texans defensive coordinator, has been instrumental in turning around one of the league’s most historically poor units. In 2010, Houston finished 29th in the league in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed. This season, however, the Texans, under the tutelage of Phillips, are fourth in the league in points allowed and second in total yards. That extreme boost in production translated to the franchise’s first-ever postseason berth and now has them one game away from battling for the AFC Championship.
Phillips is no stranger to the head coaching position, either. After entering into the NFL as a defensive line coach with the then-Houston Oilers during the late 70s, Phillips eventually progressed to the head coach of the Denver Broncos in 1993. Since that time, Phillips has spent time leading the Broncos, Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills.
As for the possibility of Phillips leaving at season’s end, the 64-year-old did say he is content with his position with the Texans, though an 82-59 career coaching record suggests Phillips can still produce in the NFL. For now, though, he’ll continue to coach the Texans’ defense, a unit that must stop a fearsome rushing attack in Ravens running back Ray Rice.
The two teams will meet Sunday at 1 p.m. in Baltimore.