With his coaching staff now complete, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak is feeling good about the group that’s in place.
Most of the coaching changes came on defense, beginning with new coordinator Wade Phillips, who was brought in to overhaul a unit that ranked 30th in the NFL last season.
“The key is, does Wade feel good about what we’ve put together on defense, and he does,” Kubiak said. “That’s the most important thing. We’ve got a lot of experience on our coaching staff right now, more than we’ve ever had. We’ve got to go back and fix a side of the ball and get our swagger back, so to speak, as a football team that we had entering last season and for six weeks last season. So I’m looking forward to doing that.”
When Kubiak hired Phillips three days after the season, he told Phillips that he’d get him the assistant coaches of his choice. He did just that with new linebackers coach Reggie Herring and defensive backs coach Vance Joseph, who both have extensive experience in Phillips’ 3-4 defense.
“That’s very important,” Kubiak said. “You can’t try to plug a square peg in a round hole, so to speak. We did interview a few people for the secondary position, but those two guys were Wade’s targets from the get-go. So I’m happy to get it done.”
Herring, 51, coached linebackers in Dallas with Phillips from 2008-10. Joseph, 38, spent the last six seasons in San Francisco’s 3-4 under two Phillips protégés, Mike Nolan and Greg Manusky.
“They’re both very impressive coaches,” Kubiak said. “Vance is a young coach who’s gotten very respected quickly in this league. The job he did in San Francisco with their secondary, all you’ve got to do is go back and look at it. I mean, he did a hell of a job.
“Reggie’s coached a lot of places. He’s been a coordinator. But really, this one boils down to he’s kind of Wade’s right-hand man. He’s been with Wade in Dallas. He basically can coordinate Wade’s defense for Wade, so that was a very, very important hire. Lot of energy. We need that on our defensive side of the ball.”
While Herring and Joseph joined the Texans’ staff, senior defensive assistant Ray Rhodes retired. A 30-year NFL coaching veteran and former head coach of the Eagles and Packers, Rhodes was with the Texans for three seasons.
“Ray’s been a friend of mine for many years,” Kubiak said. “I was just happy to have him around. He really helped me a lot as a head coach – not only what he did for the defense, but what he helped me with as a head coach. He’s a great person. He’s a legend in this business.”
One veteran coach the Texans won’t have to replace is offensive coordinator Rick Dennsion. He interviewed in January for the head coaching position in Denver, where he spent 24 seasons as a player and coach, but the job went to former Panthers head coach John Fox.
“He should’ve had an opportunity at that job,” Kubiak said. “He’s done a great job in the NFL. He should’ve been probably interviewed for some more head jobs. He’s ready to be a head coach, but that’s all about timing.
“Denver’s loss, in my opinion, is our gain. He did a great job for us last year. You can see how much we improved in a lot of areas. Rick brings stability. He’s a very class act, so I’m just happy.”
Last season, Dennison’s first in Houston, the Texans ranked third in offense. Dennison helped the Texans average 4.8 yards per carry, up from 3.5 in 2009, and improve from 12th to fifth in the red zone.
Had the Texans lost Dennison, Kubiak would have been searching for his fifth offensive coordinator in six years.
“I’ve been through a few coordinators – for the right reasons, because they’ve gotten great opportunities,” Kubiak said. “I would’ve been happy for him if it would’ve happened, but the fact that it didn’t, we can move forward.”
The only change to the Texans’ offensive coaching staff came with this week’s departure of Bruce Matthews. Matthews accepted the ’ offensive line coach position on Wednesday after two seasons in Houston as an offensive assistant.
Kubiak and the rest of the Texans’ coaches have now had a couple of weeks now to work with Herring and Joseph. The entire staff has been evaluating potential free agents this week and will begin looking at draft prospects on Monday.
Already, Kubiak has seen the benefits of working side-by-side with Phillips, who has spent the last 29 years as a defensive coordinator or head coach.
“It’s been very good,” Kubiak said. “It’s the first time I’ve had such a veteran defensive coordinator from that standpoint for me, so it’s a very comforting situation being able to just talk ball with Wade, and to talk head-coaching talk, it’s very comforting for me also. It’s a tough change for us, but it’s one that we had to try to make to improve things. I feel very comfortable about the guys we’ve got and it’s time to get to work.”