AFC South: David Gibbs

Vance JosephKirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireNew Texans secondary coach Vance Joseph inherits the league's worst passing defense from 2010.
Good defensive backs should have short memories. Typically that cliched line is applied play-to-play or game-to-game. In the case of the Houston Texans, season-to-season would be good, too.

Houston had the worst pass defense in the NFL in 2010, yielding 267.5 yards a game. The Texans gave up single-game passing totals of 419, 403, 329, 305 and 301 yards.

Their plan to rely on young cornerbacks Kareem Jackson, Glover Quin and Brice McCain backfired.

“They are terrible,” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said of Houston’s defensive backs. Veteran safeties Eugene Wilson and Bernard Pollard could both be replaced.

“In fact, they are right there with division-mate Jacksonville as the worst secondary in all of football. The Texans' safeties -- who are terrible in coverage -- deserve a lot of blame, as does a pass-rush that could use upgrading," Williamson said.

[+] EnlargeSteve Smith and Kareem Jackson
Bob Levey/Getty Images2010 first-rounder Kareem Jackson, right, struggled through his rookie season.
"But I blame the secondary much more than the pass-rush. As for the cornerbacks, it is way too early to write off Jackson. I did like him coming out of Alabama and he has to get better in Year 2. But wow, he was pretty terrible as a rookie.

“I would classify Brice McCain and Troy Nolan as ‘just a couple of guys’ and they need to be down-the-line contributors. Glover Quin is the best of the group right now, but in the end, I like him as a No. 3 corner with Jackson as one starter [possibly] and someone to be determined as the opposite starter. As for adding a veteran [Champ Bailey?], I am all for it. Not only does this secondary need veteran leadership, but so does the entire football team.”

Surely the Texans will be players in free agency -- if and when there is free agency. If they add a superstar corner like Nnamdi Asomugha or Bailey, shift each corner the Texans already have down a peg, find better safeties and get a better pass rush out of the 3-4 being installed by new coordinator Wade Phillips, things could be a lot better.

But Vance Joseph, who after five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers replaces David Gibbs as Texans secondary coach, can’t depend on that big addition. He’s got to focus on who he has right now.

Joseph has met and talked with his young guys about having clean slates and about how they can develop.

As is the nature of football in February, Joseph is relatively upbeat.

“I’m aware of what they did last year, I’ve watched the film and I’ll tell you, it’s not as bad as everyone thinks,” he said. “You’ve got to play better. And until those guys go out there and play better, that’s going to stick to them. We’ve got to do a good job of protecting those young corners.

“Obviously getting some pass rush helps, having some scheme things tweaked where they won’t be on their own a lot helps. But you regain confidence by playing well. So until they play better, that won’t be the case.”

When a new position coach joins a team to help fix a problem area, I want to know what he sees early on that he believes can be changed. Joseph said he often saw guys in position who couldn’t make the play.

Joseph said while secondary guys always need to be wary of getting beat for a big play over the top, fear of that can really cost a defense.

Expect the 2011 Texans to be closer to pass catchers on shorter stuff.

“That’s the part I’ve got to get right, finishing and making plays and giving them tools to make and finish plays,” Joseph said. “…On early downs, it’s back-pedaling, staying square and challenging routes. In the NFL, [receivers] are going to catch balls, but you want to make them bang-bang plays. When they catch the ball, I want them tackled.

“That’s something we can help them with, playing more square from the line of scrimmage and not bailing as much. When you’re bailing, you’re conceding most routes. You say, ‘Hey, I’m not going to get beat deep but I’m going to give you a 20-yard comeback.’ We’re going to play square and we’re going to challenge routes.”

While Joseph hopes his group will be able to play a wide variety of coverages, he also believes it’s important that in times of crisis they can fall back on something standard.

Last season, the defensive backs rarely seemed to have that reset mode. Going forward, Joseph’s hope is they always can return to something they know they are good at that can help them get through a tough day with a good result.

Phillips’ new defensive system won’t affect the secondary like it will the defensive line and linebackers. But there will be benefits out of a more unpredictable front for defensive backs.

“The beauty, I think, of playing defensive back in the 34 is the disguise mechanisms,” Joseph said. “You’re going to start in a basic two-shell, then move into your coverages. When you’re a 4-3 team, they know the four rushers, they’re down with their hands on the ground.

“Now, we can hold our coverage and the offense doesn’t know where that fourth rusher is coming from …. It kind of helps protect corners. Until a ball is snapped, that quarterback won’t know what we are in.”

Young guys, in disguise, able to fall back on something they know they are good at, eager to prove they are better than 32nd in the league. It’s like a lot of offseason recipes, filled with hope and promise.

Shooting for the stars is fine, but the Texans' secondary doesn’t have to be filled with stars to alter its reputation and play winning football.

“We don’t need guys who are going to Hawaii every year,” Joseph said. “We’ve got to stress here that we just need guys who fit what we do and are capable of doing the job within the system.”

Coaching staff check-ins

January, 19, 2011
1/19/11
4:23
PM ET
Checking in on the coaching staffs around the division…

Houston Texans

Wade Phillips replaced Frank Bush as defensive coordinator. Vance Joseph replaced David Gibbs as secondary coach. Reggie Herring interviews today and is the top candidate to replace Johnny Holland as linebackers coach. Assistant offensive line coach Bruce Matthews is not signed for 2011 and is talking to Dallas.

Indianapolis Colts

Gene Huey was fired as running back coach after 19 years with the franchise. We’ve heard nothing about the potential for further changes or about who could be in line to replace Huey.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The staff remains intact as Jack Del Rio predicted it would, largely because the team declined to give St. Louis permission to talk with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter about the same post with a more secure deal. After they signed defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, the assistants have one year remaining, Jack Del Rio has two.

Tennessee Titans

Jim Washburn left to take over the defensive line in Philadelphia. Jeff Fisher, a lame duck, will now have to lure a replacement with just a one-year deal. Mike Heimerdinger is the only assistant under contract. Fisher hopes to have his staff together by week’s end. It’s unclear if there will be any further shuffling and no one will get a contract longer than his.
A look at potential coaching staff issues for AFC South teams.

Houston Texans

Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips are looking to fill position coach slots at linebacker and defensive back, and they are crucial hires going forward.

The linebacker coach who replaces Johnny Holland will need to have some experience in the 3-4 front that Phillips will install. The secondary coach who follows David Gibbs may have as many eyes on him as any assistant in the league when the 2011 season rolls around.

He’ll be expected to help fix a pass defense that rated dead last in the NFL.

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is a candidate for the top job in Denver. Kubiak has been the playcaller, so it wouldn’t be a deadly loss. But it would mean a third coordinator in three years for Matt Schaub. And Dennison could take an assistant or two with him.

Indianapolis Colts

Jim Caldwell said Sunday he isn’t expecting any staff changes.

“Don’t anticipate it, but certainly you know how things happen in this league and it is certainly a possibility,” he said.

I do not know the contract status of the staff heading toward the likely lockout. Caldwell is signed through 2012.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Because Jack Del Rio’s staff is moving forward as lame ducks, the team will grant permission for any assistant to talk to other teams about jobs.

A deal for more than a year will be attractive to anyone who can get one and Del Rio will have a hard time attracting a quality replacement because he can’t offer any long-term assurances.

If offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter lands Denver’s head-coaching job, he could pull a couple of guys with him as he'd be able to offer longer contracts.

Tennessee Titans

With only one-year contract extensions to offer, Jeff Fisher could see Hall of Famer Mike Munchak, his offensive line coach, and defensive line coach Jim Washburn leave for better offers with more stability.

The interior offensive line had issues this season and the defensive line wore down. But the Titans would be far better off with two staples of Fisher’s staff a part of the fix.

Only one member of his staff has a deal for next year. Fisher controls his staff. There are some rumblings about changes that would include some shuffling. It’s hard to predict what that could be now.
The Chronicle's John McClain reports that indications out of Houston are that head coach Gary Kubiak will be retained and Wade Phillips will be hired to revamp the defense, replacing Frank Bush. Defensive backs coach David Gibbs will also reportedly be gone.

[+] EnlargeWade Phillips
Patrick Green/Icon SMIFormer Cowboys coach Wade Phillips might resurface in Houston as an assitant.
It’s an understandable strategy though it’s not going to placate the majority of Texans fans.

Phillips can be a high-quality defensive coordinator.

The biggest issue I see is one that was pointed out to me by a reader (sorry, I can’t find our exchange to give you proper credit): It will leave the team headed by two guys with “Aw, shucks” personalities.

That trait -- which would be shared by Kubiak and a new, powerful defensive coordinator -- wouldn't solve one of the team’s primary issues: its lack of a strong identity and anything resembling a killer instinct.

Those are traits that can trickle down from the top men when a team takes on the personality of a strong, forceful head coach.

It’s not how it will work in this setup.

So if this is how things play out in Houston, I think Kubiak and Phillips will need to work hard to find ways to strengthen the team’s backbone. They shouldn’t pretend to be people they aren’t, but they can change to a degree -- and will need to.
NFC West blogger Mike Sando was anti-social at our recent meetings in Bristol, in part because he was working on a story connected to this post.

I thought you'd want to see Sando's chart of NFL Coaches Association team reps as the group considers unionizing.

First Gary Kubiak lost his offensive coordinator, now he’s lost his offensive line coach. Alex Gibbs is joining Pete Carroll's staff in Seattle, our Chris Mortensen reports.

Fortunately for Kubiak, he's got a deep depth chart at offensive line coach.

Seriously.

John Benton’s focused on pass protection in the two years that Alex Gibbs has been with the team but technically carries the offensive line coach title. Frank Pollack is assistant offensive line coach. Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews just completed his first season as an offensive assistant.

I recall in training camp last year marveling at the coach-to-player ratio in the individual period where the offensive linemen worked.

Rick Dennison, who could be Kyle Shanahan’s replacement as coordinator by day's end, has an offensive line coaching background.

Kubiak may not even have to hire to replace Gibbs. But it will be interesting to learn if the team will stick entirely with Gibbs' zone blocking scheme or become more of a hybrid.

Recovering from assistant coaching losses could be a bigger issue than Houston wants to believe.

And will there be another? Gibbs’ son, David, is the Texans' defensive backs coach.

Midseason Report: Texans

November, 11, 2009
11/11/09
12:03
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Bob Levey/Getty Images
Running back Steve Slaton's sophomore season has not fulfilled the promise shown in his rookie year.
Power Rankings: Preseason: 19. This week: 13.

2009 Schedule/Results

Where they stand: The Texas, at 5-3, were two games over .500 at the midpoint of the season for the first time in their history. But Sunday’s penalty-riddled loss at Indianapolis knocked them back a bit. Still, they are in position to post a mark better than 8-8 for the first time and could earn a spot in the AFC’s playoff field.

While they need better offensive balance, Matt Schaub’s been outstanding leading the NFL’s third-ranked passing offense. And after a shaky start, the defense has improved. Narrow losses to division foes Jacksonville and Indianapolis could be ones the Texans are left to regret the most.

Disappointments: Running back Steve Slaton was electric as a rookie and seemed to be a solution to run-game woes. But he’s regressed with a rushing average of 3.1 yards a carry and major fumbles that got him benched early in a game in Buffalo and still have him playing a reduced role.

Chris Brown, who was supposed to fill the role of the big complementary running back, proved he’s not the right man to get the ball when the team needs a tough yard. That wasn’t his strength when he was with the Titans, either.

Surprises: Since Gary Kubiak became coach in 2006, the Texans have rolled through starting strong safeties and always seemed unsettled at the spot with unreliable positioning and unsure tackling. But Kansas City castaway Bernard Pollard, with an endorsement from Houston’s new defensive back coach David Gibbs, was signed. His insertion into the lineup has coincided with a real defensive renaissance.

Rookie strongside linebacker Brian Cushing has been a solid player from the start, helping upgrade the front and combining with DeMeco Ryans to be a formidable linebacking duo.

Outlook: Injuries have hurt, with starting guards Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel and standout tight end Owen Daniels all lost for the season. Even without them, the Texans have enough firepower to be a factor in the AFC wild card race. But after the sloppy showing in Indianapolis, where the Texans still could have forced overtime but for a missed 42-yard field goal by Kris Brown at the end, there is still a sense from the outside that there is something missing.

If they can figure out what it is and add it, the Texans finally might fulfill their expectations.
 
 Bob Levey/Getty Images
 Bernard Pollard has shored up the strong safety position for the Texans, who haven't had a steady presence at the position during Gary Kubiak's tenure.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky

Since Gary Kubiak became head coach of the Houston Texans in 2006, he’s deployed seven different starting strong safeties.

A secondary in need of a steady physical presence didn’t get great consistency out of Glenn Earl, Jason Simmons, C.C. Brown, Brandon Harrison, Nick Ferguson, Dominique Barber or John Busing. Injuries prompted some of the changes.

But in Bernard Pollard, whose insertion into the lineup has coincided with improved defensive play, perhaps Kubiak and the Texans finally have found their man.

In October, the Texans were the fifth-best defense in the league based on yardage surrendered, and 10th in scoring defense. The defensive improvements from the first three games to the last five are remarkable, as you can see in this handy chart the team provided.

Houston's defensive improvement, 2009
Category First 3 games Last 5 games Difference
Rush yards/game 205.0* 58.2** -146.8
Pass yards/game 231.7 202.2 -29.5
Total yards/game 436.7* 260.4 -176.3
Points per game 28.7 16.4 -12.3
* Worst in the NFL.
** Best in the NFL.

All these defensive developments are wonderful for a team with the third-ranked passing game and eighth-ranked offense. Defensive consistency is a major boon for any team keyed around a potent and efficient passing attack.

What has Pollard brought?

“I take pride with my tackling, I take pride in being in the right places,” he said. “I watch games around the league and you see guys get interceptions. I wish that could happen with me. But I don’t have time to try to bait quarterbacks, because when you try to bait, things happen. Some guys get away with it.

“I’m not that player. I am a player if you expect me to be wherever on the field, that’s where I am going to be. If that makes the quarterback go to another read, then that’s going to be a coverage sack or he’s going to go somewhere else. But I take pride in tackling, I take pride in coming in with high intensity and trying to get my teammates around me to get pumped up.”

Pollard was initially a 2006 second-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs out of Purdue, selected 54th overall. In 2008, he delivered the hit that ended Tom Brady's season, carrying himself with grace after the accident.

The Chiefs’ new regime made him part of its roster turnover and released him on Sept. 5. But David Gibbs, the Texans' new defensive backs coach, had come to Houston from K.C. He helped facilitate adding Pollard to Houston’s roster.

Pollard has not solved the Texans' troubles by himself. He has been a positive influence in exemplifying the theme that’s so popular around the league: Do your job while trusting that the guy to your right, to your left, in front of you, and behind you will do his. He said he’s seen that trust grow, and with success comes additional confidence.

Now he will try to help slow Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts' offense Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in a game that’s fair to rate as the biggest in the Texans’ history.

A win would put the Texans at 6-3, three games over .500 for the first time ever. A victory will keep them in range of the AFC South-leading Colts, who would be 7-1. A rematch at Reliant Stadium on Nov. 19 looms.

One of Manning’s biggest weapons, tight end Dallas Clark, said the Texans' defense starts up front, but that Pollard’s on his radar.

“Their two ends [Mario Williams and Antonio Smith] and their linebackers, that's the strength of their defense,” Clark said. “The safeties and the corners, a lot of the things they do is because of the pressure and [the ends] getting the quarterbacks to make bad decisions. Still, they're there to make the play, which is what their defense needs. But I think everything they do well starts up front …

“[Pollard] is a big safety. He's a guy who loves to hit and loves to make plays. As a receiver, you have to make sure you know where he is.”

Tackling was a major issue early this season, when, for example, Tennessee Titans halfback Chris Johnson accounted for 284 yards against Houston. Sixty-nine of them came when he lined up wide to the left uncovered. Kerry Collins got the ball to him immediately, and the Texans didn’t even have a chance to miss tackles. It was Barber’s mistake, and he was benched for it with Busing replacing him.

Now concerns over such matters are much smaller.

“He’s done a nice job of coming in and kind of taking up what we are teaching, our concepts, our program,” Texans defensive coordinator Frank Bush said of Pollard. “He’s brought a physical presence to us first of all. The kid’s a big [6-foot-1, 224 pounds] and physical football player, he enjoys the contact. He seeks it. He’s the most physical presence in that secondary and all the guys try to emulate what he’s doing.”

“He’s smart, he takes good angles to the ball, he tries to keep himself out of harm’s way as far as angles on running backs and then he brings a load to the party when he hits you.”

That’s a pretty good addition when you sign a guy after the season’s under way and he quickly becomes a player others are looking to follow. Bush was surprised to get such a quality player at such a time.

Pollard appears to be a solution at what has been a questionable spot.

“He’s kind of shored it up for us and let us feel confident about what we want to call. He’ll go out and execute our program,” Bush said.

After being part of two miserable seasons in Kansas City where the Chiefs were 6-26, Pollard said he’s thrilled to be on a 5-3 team that’s got reasonable expectations of a playoff berth.

But he’s not yet sure he’s a long-term answer for a team who’s been searching for a solution at his spot.

“I hope I ended it,” he said. “Nothing’s settled until you actually sign a long-term deal and you know you are in this city for a certain amount of time. So no player gets that gratification until it’s actually done. I am very happy with what I am doing, where I am. And I hope that I prove myself. It’s still a long season and things can happen.

“Do I look for them to happen? No. I’m going to prepare myself to bring my A-game and to get my teammates, and for them to get me, hyped as can be to play football at a high level every Sunday from here on out.”

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky


It’s a subtle change, and I am not sure how much of a bearing it will have on the Texans’ pass defense this season.

But when Dunta Robinson, Fred Bennett, Glover Quin and whoever else lines up at cornerback for the Texans start to track Jets receivers Sunday, take note of how they move. You won’t see them backpedaling.

New defensive backs coach David Gibbs has altered the style of his group. Watch them shuffle three times instead of employing a backpedal.

“We don’t backpedal here at all,” said Quin, a rookie in line to work as the nickelback. “You shuffle, shuffle, run. We didn’t do that in college, it was three steps backpedal, then break. This technique we’re using now I think is a lot easier, I think it gives you a better opportunity to make plays. You’ve got your hips open, you can run or break.

“Champ Bailey uses it a lot and Coach Gibbs coached Champ in Denver. That’s where the technique came from, and Champ let it be known that it can be played and it’s skyrocketed from there. It’s more natural. It’s pretty simple. If you do everything right it can be the best technique. It’s like a backpedal except you’re already open. You’re really doing the same thing but you’re ready to run. You slow your shuffle down, you can break either way.”

That’s how it works if a corner is off. If he’s pressing, he simply jams the receiver, then runs with him, Glover said.

I had a chance to talk with defensive coordinator Frank Bush about the approach as well.

He emphasized it’s not an all-the-time thing. So either Glover overstated or Bush understated.

Bush said the shuffle technique isn’t used a whole lot elsewhere.

“It’s a big change, because most guys teach backpedal, most college players are backpedallers and that’s kind of the way it works around the league,” Bush said. “Coach Gibbs has a little system that he likes that gives a guy a chance to have his eyes on the football. There is some good and bad involved in that so you really have to hone in on the technique.

“It’s rare. It’s starting to be hit or miss throughout the league. We still backpedal, but in certain techniques we’d rather have them shuffle out so they can see the quarterback in some of our different coverages. Teams do it, but it’s rare. More people are still just traditional backpedal-type people.”

Take a look Sunday and see how often a Texans corner shuffles versus how often he backpedals. See any difference in how they break or run? In their success breaking up a pass? Perhaps it’s something we can revisit.
 
  Getty Images
  While the Texans made some expensive offseason additions to their defense, they did not add any high-profile competition for Nick Ferguson and Eugene Wilson, their presumed starters at safety.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Defensive upgrades were to be the theme of the offseason for the Houston Texans.

They grabbed defensive lineman Antonio Smith with a big-dollar free-agent contract. They drafted linebacker Brian Cushing with the No. 15 pick overall.

But outside of adding fourth- and sixth-round cornerbacks and a seventh-round safety/special-teamer in the draft, the Texans didn't add anyone of note to their secondary.

What does that say?

Either the Texans liked what they had enough to believe it will work better with an upgraded front seven, or they didn't like the options in free agency or the high value spots in the draft. Perhaps both.

"We have some quality guys back there, that if things are going correctly, they can contribute and make plays for us," said defensive coordinator Frank Bush, who took over as defensive coordinator for Richard Smith, whom Gary Kubiak let go. "Of course it's all tied together. Hopefully the front seven can do some things that are going to ease some of the pressures on the back end."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

You ask, I answer. I'd like to make mailbags a regular Saturday feature during the offseason, but can only do so if I get a steady flow of entries in the mailbag. Especially good questions, of course, often result in a blog entry all their own.

And away we go...

Kevin from Portland writes: Paul- In my haste to write you after the Bush signing, I failed to recognize that Marinelli had signed on to coach for the Bears. Is there any other candidates who would be a good for this posistion for the Texans? Also, there is talk of hiring Alex Gibbs' son as our devensive backs coach. What knowledge do you have of his performance as a coach in the past?

Paul Kuharsky: The son, David Gibbs, could be great. I've heard good things from some people who know him. But I do think there is a great, big football world out there beyond one's staff, people tied to the place one used to work and relatives of people on one's staff. I touched on a lot of that in this column.


Colby in Augusta writes: Hey Paul, Love the blog this year, good stuff. My question revolves around the growing concern about the upcoming "uncapped" year in 2010. Are the owners going to be able to agree on a new CBA before 2010, and if not, can we expect them to try to make sure that 2010 is the only uncapped year and reach a new agreement after 2010?? And how exactly does this effect the smaller market teams (ie. Titans), will they still be able to put forth the money necessary to sign who they need?

Paul Kuharsky: I appreciate the kind words.

The uncapped year is a poison pill intended to make the sides reach a new agreement before it comes into play. The prevailing opinion is that if it ever gets to an uncapped year, the players will never sign on to a return to a cap. That's not good for anybody, but certainly not for small-market teams like the Titans.

I don't expect the league or the union will let it get to that point.


Jeff in Jacksonville writes: Paul I was talking to a friend of mine about Jacksonville's Huge Drop off from 07 and we starting talking about what teams next year have the possibility of being the Jags 08. Our two teams where the Bucs (Old Defense, Lost of DC, Firing of HC/GM), and Baltimore (Old Defense,Possible Lost of DC). Do you think our choices are legitimate, and if no what other teams do you see going from a Playoff team in 08 to having a losing season in 09, It happens every year so who are your candidates.

Paul Kuharsky: I think you make two good choices, though if Joe Flacco makes a nice second-year jump that could set the Ravens up for good things on offense if they draft well.

I don't assume a new coach and GM will be a bad thing in Tampa.

Two more I see as possibilities -- the Vikings could easily be a third-place team in my eyes. I just don't love anyone in that division. The Peppers stuff with the Panthers could be divisive and Delhomme's future is iffy.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The theory says there are just six degrees of separation between each of us and anyone else on the planet, that in only six steps we can be connected through common acquaintances.

It's only natural in a league of 32 teams that had about 556 assistant coaches in 2008 that the degree of separation among them, if there is one at all, is usually one.

 
  Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire
  Gary Kubiak's defensive staff in Houston will have a new look heading into next season.

Let us consider that as we attempt to prejudge the promotions and additions Gary Kubiak has made to his staff in Houston. Frank Bush, promoted to defensive coordinator, and David Gibbs, hired as defensive backs coach, each have extensive experience with the Denver Broncos on their resumes.

In a recent, scathing column in the Houston Chronicle, Richard Justice made fun of the franchise for its propensity to lean on people Kubiak and GM Rick Smith know from their previous NFL lives in Denver.

Justice wrote that Smith might not have trusted two staff members who were let go after the Texans' season ended -- strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley and head trainer Kevin Bastin -- "because neither worked for the Denver Broncos, had enough friends with the Denver Broncos or changed planes in Denver."

The strength and conditioning coach job is still open. But Kubiak's staff is otherwise complete and now includes eight assistants with Denver ties and 11 without them. (Relevant aside: Of the four coaches Kubiak let go, defensive coordinator Richard Smith was connected to the Broncos while defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, defensive backs coach Jon Hoke and Riley were not.)

Now, of the team's four most powerful assistants by authority and title -- assistant head coach/offense Alex Gibbs and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Bush and new assistant head coach/defensive line coach Bill Kollar -- only Kollar has no Broncos connection.

That certainly leads some to say, "Hey, coach Kubiak, there's a whole, big football world out there that extends beyond Denver, especially considering that your mentor and the head man out there, Mike Shanahan -- also your offensive coordinator's dad -- was just fired."

Kubiak isn't concerned with perception outside team headquarters, but he was willing to outline how he looks at people he considers hiring or shifting upward.

"This is important and I've been doing it long enough to have coached with a lot of football coaches," he said. "And having some familiarity with how a guy coaches, how a guy teaches, him knowing what you expect and what you stand for, that's is important to me. I can't speak for everyone else out there. At the same time, when you're interviewing coaches that you haven't worked with or you don't know personally, I start pulling from guys I do know that may have worked with them, guys who know their work habits, know what type of person they are.

"In this business, coaches bounce around and we all kind of know each other one way or another."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Greetings from AFC South central.  What looked to be a quiet week has found a few story lines. Here's what I found this morning.

Houston Texans

New assistants on the defensive side of the ball, Bill Kollar and David Gibbs, promise to help raise the intensity and aggressiveness, writes John McClain.

McClain says Kollar's got a drill sergeant mentality.

Indianapolis Colts

The departure of defensive coordinator Ron Meeks leaves the unit's philosophy in limbo, writes Mike Chappell.

Another look at Meeks' departure, from Justin A. Cohn.

The cap won't allow for any sort of defensive overhaul, blogs Phillip B. Wilson.

Colts followers might enjoy this piece on Edgerrin James by Charles Robinson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Secondary coach Donnie Henderson confirmed to Scout.com that he's no longer with the Jaguars, writes Vito Stellino.

Tennessee Titans

Kerry Collins is a late Pro Bowl addition, writes Jim Wyatt.

Another look at Collins-to-Hawaii, from Terry McCormick.

Keith Bulluck is not sure about his long-term future, says McCormick. 

Kollar the Texans' new D-line coach

January, 20, 2009
1/20/09
2:42
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The Texans have announced that Bill Kollar is their new assistant head coach/defensive line.

That leaves just one remaining hole on Gary Kubiak's staff -- at strength and conditioning coach.

Kollar and new defensive backs coach David Gibbs will speak at a news conference later this afternoon.

Background on Kollar, who spent the last three years in the same post in Buffalo, from the Texans:

Kollar has 20 years of experience coaching in the NFL, including the last 19 as a defensive line coach. Prior to his stint with Buffalo, Kollar coached the line in St. Louis from 2001-05 and spent 11 years in Atlanta from 1990-2000. He began his coaching career as a defensive assistant/special teams for Tampa Bay in 1984. He has made two Super Bowl appearances in his coaching career with the Falcons in 1998 and the Rams in 2001.

Kollar, 56, spent a year as a graduate assistant at Illinois in 1985 following his year in Tampa Bay. He was promoted to defensive line/special teams coach for the Illini in 1986 and spent two years in that position. Kollar assumed the same role at Purdue from 1988-89 before returning to the NFL.

Kollar was an All-America defensive lineman at Montana State and earned the Most Valuable Player award at the 1974 Senior Bowl. He was selected in the first round (23rd overall) of the 1974 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and played eight seasons for Cincinnati and Tampa Bay.

Gibbs is in as Texans DB coach

January, 15, 2009
1/15/09
8:21
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Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

David Gibbs is the Texans' new secondary coach. He has a deal and things will be finalized by next week.

It's no big surprise as coach Gary Kubiak basically indicated at the recent press conference announcing Frank Bush's promotion to defensive coordinator that Gibbs had an offer.

Now he jumps from Kansas City to Houston, where he replaces Jon Hoke. He's likely to get some new personnel to work with through the draft and free agency.

Cornerback Dunta Robinson is a free agent and the team's top in-house priority. Several other defensive backs are set to become unrestricted free agents on Feb. 27.

The Texans will look to upgrade at safety and corner as well as for defensive line help for Mario Williams.

Gibbs' dad, Alex, coordinates the Texans run game as assistant head coach/offense. It's easy to make cracks about keeping it in the family, but I am told the younger Gibbs is a respected coach who understands how to make the back end of a defense work. He's got seven years of NFL experience with Denver and Kansas City.

However, the Texans still have openings for defensive line coach, strength coach and head trainer, and it would be good if the hires are not related to anyone on the staff and have no connection to the former lives of Kubiak and GM Rick Smith as part of the Denver Broncos.

The only candidate to interview for the D-line job so far that we know of is Rod Marinelli, the recently fired coach of the Detroit Lions. He's since been hired in Chicago as assistant head coach/defensive line.

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