HOUSTON -- It's funny how things happen.
On Sunday night, Gary Kubiak did what he never could as the Houston Texans' head coach. He led his team to a win in the AFC Championship Game and a berth in the Super Bowl.
His victory with the Denver Broncos exposed an irony of being an NFL head coach. When Kubiak had the offense he needed and the time to build it, the circumstances just didn't work out. Now that he doesn't have the offense nor the time, they have worked out.
Kubiak spent his time in Houston building the type of roster he needed for his offensive system: linemen who fit the zone-blocking scheme, an enviable running game led by Arian Foster and a quarterback in Matt Schaub who could operate his offense soundly. Texans owner Bob McNair had the patience to let him do that during a tenure that lasted almost eight full seasons.
In 2011, the Texans had the pieces in place to make a run. They had a strong running game and an elite defense. They were set.
But injuries were costly. The Texans made the playoffs even though quarterback Matt Schaub suffered a Lisfranc injury in November. Their auspicious run ended in the divisional round with a 20-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Quarterback T.J. Yates, who had managed things quite well in Schaub's absence, threw three interceptions and no touchdowns in that game.
The 2012 season had a heady beginning. The Texans were 11-1 before showing real signs of weakness in December. The defense was missing an important piece in Brian Cushing, who suffered a torn ACL in Week 5. The secondary didn't quite fit what defensive coordinator Wade Phillips wanted to do.
It all fell apart in 2013. Schaub's arm strength was declining and a barrage of pick-sixes demoralized the team. The 2-14 season that ensued wasn't one that many coaches would've survived, and Kubiak didn't.
Firing Kubiak was the right move for the Texans. They needed that change after such a catastrophic season. It didn't mean Kubiak was a bad coach, and he has proved as much in his handling of the Broncos this season. Just two seasons removed from the disaster in Houston, Kubiak's team is headed to the Super Bowl.
It's not because Kubiak has Peyton Manning, a quarterback many in Houston have long coveted. With Manning nearing the end of his career, Denver's overall Total QBR ranked 25th in the NFL this season, six spots worse than the Texans, who played four quarterbacks. Furthermore, there have been questions since the start of Kubiak's tenure in Denver about whether Manning was a good fit for his offense.
The Broncos are in the Super Bowl because of their defense. Kubiak's offense, which fit great with the Texans, didn't produce a Super Bowl in Houston. Now, under less than ideal conditions in Denver, Kubiak's offense hasn't needed to do that.
These things don't always make sense.