AFC South: Johnny Holland
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We asked for your input earlier this week on who you think the Texans' best assistant coach is.
Here's a sampling of replies in the comments to the post and in my mailbag:
Chris in Austin: RE: Best Texans Coach Alex Gibbs is the obvious answer, but I have to go with Johnny Holland if you want to make it interesting. DeMeco Ryans is of course a great player - but he's done wonders with Zac Diles (7th-round pick), and he had Xavier Adibi playing very well for a guy of his age and experience level. I'm not ready to judge Kyle Shanahan's ability until he calls plays all of next season.
Stu in Austin/Houston, TX: I think Steve Slaton helps Gibbs be the obvious choice. When he got it going and showed everyone what a "3rd down back" can do with heart, I think that helped the entire offense especially the line. As a Texans fan it was pretty nice to see Slaton keep his feet going but getting more yards because of 3 or 4 linemen hitting the pile. Gibbs was the best assistant coach this year but hopefully an assistant on the defensive side of the ball is tops next year, thats the case, it could be a winning season for the Texans.
Kevin in Portland: Paul- How about Joe Marciano, Special Teams coordinator as the Texans best assistant coach? He doesn't get much credit, but the kicking game has been good, and the return game has produced an All-Pro Kick Returner. I can't recall seeing special teams cost the Texans a game, and I've watched them find plenty of ways to lose them.
Marvelous in Houston Heights: Greetings Paul - Given the Texans short history and the fact that there's really not been anything more noteworthy than what Alex Gibbs has done, I think it's kind of a no-brainer to say he's the guy. We're a season away from knowing if Kid Shanahan is the goods or garbage, and Holland kind of idled this past year. Here's hoping that Gibbs Jr and the other additions pan out and we are talking about who we are afraid of losing from our staff next year.
Buck in Portland: That may be a tougher question than you think. Alex Gibbs is the heavy favorite, but you neglected to mention Ray Rhodes, who is no slouch. It's tough to say what impact Rhodes has had on the secondary what with Slingblade calling the defensive plays last year, but suffice it to say he has an impressive defensive resume. But, I won't get too cute, Gibbs' influence on the offense can't be overstated. It has to be Alex Gibbs.
Nicholascursee: Honestly the texans have a collectively good staff of coaches, but we must not just look at this year as their breakout year. Actually last year was their break out year. And if you look at a position that has truly shined when the team was in it darkest hours, it was always the WR group. They shined last year even though Andre Johnson missed 7-games with a knee sprain, even when Matt Schuab and Sage Rosenfeld struggled to grasp the reigns of the offense, they were still being led by Kevin Walters and Andre Davis. But this year when Andre Johnson the offense went soaring to a #3 Total offense ranking. Much praise goes to Kubiak, Shanahan, but it should also go to Coach Larry Kirksey, Mike Mcdaniel, and Matt Lafleur. These guys did as much as work as the big two.
Texans Tradition: Another candidate when taking Alex Gibbs out of the equation is Assistant Defensive Backs Coach Ray Rhodes. The case for him would have to revolve around his vast experience in the NFL, especially on the defensive side of the ball. How about this for experience: He's been a head coach twice in this league, a defensive coordinator 5 different times, and been a specialist for the secondary 4 different times. He has accumulated coach of the year honors, a Super Bowl ring, and has engineered multiple top 10 defenses. How is that for a resume? Now, if only the Texans could get some more pressure on the QB.
I'm a little confused by those who point to Rhodes. This isn't a résumé contest, it's a discussion of who the best assistant coach is. Rhodes is a good coach with a wealth of experience, but the Texans defensive backfield was hardly a strength in 2007, and I can't see the rationale for selecting a secondary secondary coach -- as assistant defensive backs coach, Rhodes ranked behind Jon Hoke, who was fired.
The clear choice here is Gibbs, who helped change an offensive line mindset -- and an offensive mindset really -- while setting the stage for Slaton to break out as a rookie.
Texans owner Bob McNair spares no resources for his franchise. Whatever the team's shortcomings so far in its existence, it hasn't been for lack of trying or spending.
Which means coach Gary Kubiak has not lost out on any assistants because his offer wasn't good enough or because they didn't believe the team's management and facilities could produce a winner.
Kubiak just revamped a section of his defensive coaching staff.
So I'd like to hear from the team's followers on this week's question:
Who's the Texans best assistant coach?
I know Alex Gibbs is going to be a popular choice. The assistant head coach/offense coordinates the Texans run game, and with Steve Slaton as the featured back, the Texans made significant strides running the ball in 2008. And in his first season, there was little or none of the controversy that popped up in Denver and Atlanta over the cut blocks that are part of the approach.
Kyle Shanahan is an up-and-comer at coordinator and quarterbacks coach and has helped Matt Schaub develop, but with his offensive background Kubiak is always going to be very involved. Johnny Holland seems to have done good work with the team's young linebackers.
Are there any other contestants here on a very beefy staff?
Please chime in with comments or drop me a note in the mailbag, and we'll revisit the question by week's end.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Morning distraction: My background noise at the Jacksonville Marriott, Good Morning America, just informed me there is a workout pill that's replaced exercise for mice. Sign me up for the human trial. Also, a big undercover investigation revealed some smoothies are more fattening than you think. Shocker.
OK, while we anticipate the Jaguars' scrimmage Friday night, and hope the rain will be gone by then, we move on to our Good Morning AFC South look around the league.
- Dale Robertson talks with cornerback Fred Bennett about his 2007 top ranking among cornerbacks by K.C. Joyner, "Football Scientist."
- Meghan Manfull says Gary Kubiak feared losing linebacker coach Johnny Holland when Mike Sherman left the Texans staff to take over at Texas A&M. Kubiak's happy Holland stayed put.
- Manfull also gives us Kubiak's initial reaction to new running back Mike Bell.
- Mike Chappell informs us linebacker Gary Brackett won't play in the Hall of Fame game Sunday night because of a hip injury.
- It's not necessarily connected to Brackett's injury, but the Colts might consider re-signing Rob Morris.
- Darrell Reid is doing some double duty. The defensive tackle is also taking some snaps as a short-yardage fullback.
- John Oehser of Colts.com talked with offensive line coach Howard Mudd, who likes his group so far.
- Vito Stellino talks with Fred Taylor, who went to the Super Bowl last year. Taylor doesn't think he will do it again if the Jaguars aren't playing in the game.
- Tanya Ganguli writes that Jaguars rookie cornerback Brian Witherspoon claims he ran a 4.19 in college. Who was working that stopwatch?
- The Times-Union says John Henderson was a little testy Thursday night. I saw for myself -- when he gets hot, he stays hot.
- Jim Wyatt says receiver Justin McCareins prefers Nashville or the Midwest to New York. And Mike Heimerdinger says McCareins isn't tensing up before practice any more.
- Terry McCormick figured out that new Titans receiver Chris Davis and the receiving Chris Davis who was already on the roster actually played together as 8-year-olds on the Lakewood Junior Spartans in St. Petersburg, Fla.
- Gary Estwick looks at rookie defensive lineman Jason Jones' learning curve on interior handiwork.