Cards, Texans adjusting without Kubiak

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
8:15
PM ET
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's not just the Houston Texans who'll have to adjust to a new head coach and a new defensive coordinator on Sunday when they play the Arizona Cardinals.

Without head coach Gary Kubiak, who suffered a mini stroke at halftime of Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Texans aren't the same team. Interim coach Wade Phillips will continue to run the defense from the sideline but now offensive coordinator Rick Dennison will take over the play-calling duties. But it goes beyond the coaching personnel.

"Once you have a different playcaller, that's a change," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "There are no tendencies. You have to throw all of that out the window and just play the offense the way it's designed to be played. Defensively, you play your defense.

"There's nothing that we have on Rick Dennison other than a half of football."

While the Cardinals scrambled to adjust their game plan and rework their game film, the Texans are trying to focus on Sunday despite a few hectic days. Fortunately for them, Kubiak left the hospital Tuesday morning and returned home, putting their minds at ease for the time being.

But halftime Sunday was nothing short of chaotic.

Phillips, whose coaching resume now includes three stints as an interim coach to complement his three head coaching jobs, said immediately after the Texans' loss that he didn't think halftime had an impact on Houston's second half. But as he spent more time thinking about it, Phillips now believes it did.

"Even I, along with everybody else, was kind of at halftime [wondering] ‘What's going on? What happened? Where is he? Is he OK?'" Phillips said. "We didn't even know those things during the ball game in the second half. You always certainly have concerns for people that you care about and that's one that everybody cares about with our football team, our head coach.

"There were a lot of unknowns. You still have to play football and you have to do what you have to do, but there was certainly kind of a haze there as far as what was going on."

Phillips listed off the types of decisions a head coach has to make compared to a coordinator, and it could be overwhelming to someone who hasn't been in that position before. A lot of the decisions made by a head coach are based on situations, Phillips said, and most of those are based on offensive strategy. There's deciding whether to go for it or kick a field goal or punt, when to use time outs, or when to slow down or speed up.

But if there's one person to assume those responsibilities, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt feels comfortable with it being Phillips.

"You never want to be in a situation like this but when you are put in a situation like this, it's good to have a guy who has head coaching experience and a guy like Coach Phillips, who has been around the game for a long time and is knowledgeable and knows how to handle the situation," Watt said.

Watt has texted with Kubiak, who's stayed in touch with Phillips and Dennison.

Even without Kubiak, it's business as normal in Houston. The Texans are trying to snap a six-game losing streak, which means more practice, more film study, trying to find a way to "get the ball rolling," Watt said.

And while the Cardinals are spending their time figuring out a way to defend a Dennison-coached offense, the Texans are just as focused.

"Obviously, you think about your coach and it will always be on your mind but we're professionals," Watt said. "We come in here and we know we have a job to do."

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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