When it comes to Gary Kubiak, I'm like the Texans Blogosphere's General George Custer. Or, at least I was.
I defended Kubiak for the longest time, and if I wasn't the last one to be on his side, I was one of the last two or three. After last season's loss on Monday Night Football to the Colts, though, I was done. Never again would I take to the Internet to defend Gary... or so I thought.
Jason Lisk of The Big Lead wrote a piece late last week wherein he ranked all 32 current NFL coaches, and our fearless (unless there's a game-winning field goal being kicked) leader was ranked dead last.
I'm not here to violently defend Gary and chew out the throats of those who would say he is the worst in the NFL. But to even begin this discussion, you first have to throw out all the names that have yet to coach a game in the NFL. From there we can narrow down the list and see where Kubiak may rank among coaches who, you know, have actually coached in the NFL.
Yet to coach in the NFL (rankings on Lisk's list in parenthesis):
Jim Harbaugh (9 - NINE!?!!?!?)
Ron Rivera (25)
Pat Shurmur (26)
Hue Jackson (27)
Mike Munchak (28)
[MOMENT OF BLOGGER HONESTY] The ranking of Jim Harbaugh at number nine makes me wonder why I am even bothering with this entry. NINTH!?
I'm not saying that these coaches aren't or will not be better than Kubiak, but this is the real world. Let's not forget that Kubiak took a terrible team and made them average. That doesn't count for much - but it certainly gets you ahead of guys who have never coached a game in the NFL before.
So throwing those five names out (and I'm leaving Jason Garrett and Leslie Frazier in the mix because they at least coached some actual NFL games last season) puts Kubiak at #27.
With 26 remaining coaches ahead of Kubiak, here are the ones who clearly rank above him without debate, in my view (this is going to be a long list):
Then there's the second tier. Coaches who I'm not sure are "better" coaches than Kubiak, but who have accomplishments that speak for themselves, one way or another:
Ken Whisenhunt - A Super Bowl appearance, regardless of how average that team was - is obviously good enough to put Whisenhunt ahead of Kubiak.
Jim Caldwell - Inherited a perennial Super Bowl contender. I can't say I know he's a better coach than Kubiak, but he was able to get a typical playoff collapse out of the Colts, just like Tony Dungy before him.
Jack Del Rio - Del Rio is basically Gary Kubiak, but with two playoff appearances. So, I guess that makes him better than Gary at this point?
Tony Sparano - I'm a big Sparano fan. His quick turnaround in Miami, and of course his playoff appearance, puts him ahead.
Then there's tier three. I cannot put these guys ahead of Kubiak at this point. Keeping in mind once again, I'm thinking of Gary as the guy who turned around a horrible franchise, as well as considering that he only got this team to 6-10 last year:
Jason Garrett - Inherited one of the most talented teams in the NFL last year, and got a "culture change" spike in performance from them. Hasn't proven anything beyond that.
Todd Haley - I know, he made the playoffs. Does that in and of itself make him a better coach than Kubiak? No, I don't think it does. I won't say the Chiefs were a fraud last year, but let's say they had fraudulent elements.
Leslie Frazier - Similar situation to Garrett, and I do think he will end up being a really good NFL coach. But for now, he stays below Kubiak as he hasn't proven anything beyond getting guys to play harder for him than they did for a coach they all hated before, in Brad Childress.
Steve Spagnuolo - Spags is certainly doing good things in St. Louis. He's turned around a horrible franchise, but hasn't done much else. Sound familiar?
Pete Carroll - RAH! RAH! I'm Pete Carrol! Whatever. He's not a good NFL coach, playoff appearances be damned. His teams backslide quickly once they get sick of his act. I certainly wouldn't fight hard to keep him below Kubiak in this list, but if anything I think they're on the same level - while being completely different coaches.
Chan Gailey - Gailey is just a bad coach. You might think he's better than Kubiak, but if Gailey came to Houston, you'd pine for the days of consecutive 8-8 seasons.
My final ranking for Gary Kubiak comes out to 21. Before you say that seems too high, recall that there are five guys who have yet to coach a game in the NFL. In reality, I only have a field of 27 to choose from, and I rank 20 ahead of him. I don't think that's out of line... then again, I don't count playoff appearances as an automatic indicator of a superior head coach. That said, I do think Kubiak should have been fired after 2010, though I knew he wasn't going to be.
If Kubiak can't get this team where it needs to go in his sixth year, Chan Gailey may, in fact, start looking like an attractive candidate.