AFC South: Ray Rhodes

Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

The Texans hired Vance Joseph to coach the secondary, learned that offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is staying put and saw Ray Rhodes retire, says John McClain. Joseph is a crucial guy who will be under great scrutiny.

The Texans need to focus on luring Nnamdi Asomugha to Houston, says Jerome Solomon.

Indianapolis Colts

Put the pitchforks and the torches away, says John Oehser.

Bill Polian plans to be ready for any scenario labor-wise, says Oehser.

What kind of chances do current Colts have at the Hall of Fame? Nate Dunlevy sorts through it.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars gave defensive coordinator Mel Tucker a new one-year contract, says Tania Ganguli.

A run-through of the Jaguars’ primary draft needs, from Ganguli.

Tennessee Titans

The AFC South is fertile ground for a turnaround, says John Glennon.

A.J. Green would be great for the Titans, but they have too many other needs to go that direction, says Jim Wyatt.
A clearly downtrodden Gary Kubiak just finished talking to the Houston press and I was able to watch online.

The predictable gist: Things need to change.

"There is no reason for [the defense] not to be improving somewhat,” he said. “There should be some progress... It's trending the wrong way."

Brice McCain rotated some at corner with Kareem Jackson. Jason Allen, claimed off waivers last week from Miami, will get worked in this week, Kubiak said without making his anticipated role clear.

Coordinator Frank Bush will continue to call the defense, with veteran assistant Ray Rhodes sitting right beside him.

Kubiak also talked about the need to find more snaps on offense, but better defense is one main street they can travel to that.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Texans are the first team since the 1970 merger to allow 24 points in each of their first nine games of the season.

Every time we discuss or talk about the offense -- and I think it can-slash-should score 30 a week -- let’s recall that defensive nugget. It’s hard to comprehend.

It creates a culture and atmosphere where things like the correct play by Glover Quin wind up a 50-yard Hail Mary touchdown that wins the game for the other guys.

“You can’t lose a game in that situation,” Kubiak said. “But we did.”
Titans offensive line coach Mike Munchak is a candidate for Houston’s offensive coordinator job. If Gary Kubiak retains assistants Alex Gibbs, John Benton and Bruce Matthews, that would be an awfully offensive line-heavy staff. Munchak and Matthews, the best of friends, would surely love to work together, though.

Houston Texans

The winning record heightens anticipation for 2010, says John McClain,

In addition to Kyle Shanahan, the Texans could lose Gibbs and Ray Rhodes, says McClain.

Richard Justice thinks Gary Kubiak should get an extension right now. I disagree.

Bill Belichick ripped the turf at Reliant Stadium as a cause of Wes Welker’s injury.

The turf was ranked fourth in the league by NFL players, says Alan Burge.

Franchise tagged or not, Dunta Robinson wants to return, writes McClain.

Could Rick Dennison replace Shanahan? Burge provides some rationale.

Why McClain is excited about next season.

The good and the bad of the Texans’ season from Lance Zierlein.

A look at offensive coordinator candidates, from Battle Red Blog.

Battle Red Blog isn’t that excited about Robinson’s desire to return.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts rest and wait to see which of three teams is heading to Indy for a divisional round game the night of Jan. 16.

Sam Giguere gave the Colts something to think about as they decide who to keep under contract for their playoff roster, says Phil Richards.

After a rough week in fan relations, Bill Polian spent a little time trying to butter them up: “The only people who can affect the game will be the people in this building – the players, the coaches, the administrators . . . and our fans.” John Oehser’s report.

The Colts are planning on business as usual, says Tom James.

Trying to get teams to play starters is an exercise in futility, says Clark Judge.

Who’s got momentum now, asks Deshawn Zombie.

Welker’s injury doesn’t vindicate Polian, says Stampede Blue.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are dealing with the fallout, writes Michael C. Wright. I delved into some of this earlier, here.

Players support Jack Del Rio, says Gene Frenette.

The Jaguars’ future depends on the draft, says Frenette.

Good to see Vic Ketchman back. And good stuff from him in reviewing the Jaguars’ season: “The bottom line is the season was not a failure and it revealed several bright spots."

Tennessee Titans

Vince Young is the starting quarterback going forward says Jim Wyatt.

Chris Johnson’s planning a busy offseason, say Wyatt and Gary Estwick.

Johnson’s basking in the glory of his accomplishment, writes Wyatt.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

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.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Gary Kubiak told Houston reporters he will take his time revising his defensive staff after letting defensive coordinator Richard Smith, defensive backs coach Jon Hoke and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin go.

Senior defensive assistant Frank Bush will be among those interviewed for the coordinator post.

Kubiak was complimentary of all three coaches. He said he wanted to give them an opportunity to find what's next as soon as possible and added that while the defense made strides late this season, there has not been enough progress in his three seasons.

Highlights from the press conference courtesy of the Texans' PR department:

On what is he looking for in a replacement:

Gary Kubiak: I'm going to take my time. With this league, this gets pretty crazy here over the course of the next few weeks. So, I think it's important that we just settle down right now and get some of these guys some time here next week. I'll begin to put together and list of candidates. Frank Bush will be one of the guys interviewed for the job and we'll get our group together, but we'll take our time getting that done and probably start our interview process not next week but the following week.

On if the replacements have to have a 4-3 background:

GK: Well, obviously we've got a lot of work put in in that area and would like to stay there, but at the same time, I think we're just going to do what's best for this team, find the best football coach and we'll do that.

On if he will replace defensive line coach Jethro Franklin and secondary coach Jon Hoke even though senior defensive assistant Frank Bush and assistant defensive backs coach Ray Rhodes are still on the staff:

GK: Well, I think we have see what's going to happen. Ray will definitely be here. He will help me in some way, shape or form after we decide on who is going to be our next coordinator. Ray will either be helping me, helping the DBs, helping assisting the coordinator; however we go about doing it. We'll decide his role once that decision is made. As I said, Frank will interview for the job. I think a great deal of Frank and his knowledge and his passion for this game. So, he's going to be a part of our staff and then (linebackers coach) Johnny Holland will also be a part of our future also.

On how he would expect a new defensive coordinator to come in and get some new, premier players in free agency:

GK: Well, obviously we have to get better. We're always looking to get better. I think we have some pieces in place that give us a chance to be successful. I think we've got more than two or three pieces. I think we've got some fine young players. It's up to us to find a way to get them better. But naturally, (general manager) Rick (Smith) and I have to give this coordinator, whoever that ends up being, the best chance to be successful. That's what's difficult to me today. I told Richard the same thing. I said, 'Richard, I hurt because I didn't do a good enough job of giving you the people or putting you in the position to be successful.' So, that starts with me. But we have to do a better job with this guy and surrounding him with the right people and do a better job with the people we have.

On if he prefers someone who is an experienced play-caller as a defensive coordinator:

GK: That doesn't concern me. I'm sure that I will end up talking to guys that have been coordinators in this league for a great length of time. I'm sure I will interview some guys who have not been coordinators that I think have a chance to be excellent coordinators. I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about finding the best fit for our football team and the guys that we have here.

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