It was bound to happen with the success Houston showed on defense this season. Not just success, mind you, but overwhelming, record-setting, blue-moon type turnarounds on defense that's thanks to new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
If you're the counting type, you could look at all the facts stacked up for teams who may be looking for a new coach:
- Wade turned one of the statistically worst secondaries in the NFL into one of the best.
- He also upgraded the Texans' pass rush, as Houston had 14 more sacks in 2011 than the previous season. That's despite missing Mario Williams for all but the first four games of the season.
- The Texans posted their first-ever defense that was in the top 5 for both yards allowed and points allowed.
- He did this with no offseason work, a shortened training camp and two new starters in the secondary. Oh, and switching the team from a 4-3 look to a 3-4, including moving other players to different positions.
- He turned J.J. Watt into a borderline All-Pro player who was one of the best 5-techniques in the league this season.
That's a pretty good resume even if he didn't have a proven track record in the rest of his career. Wade just knows defense and he knows how to do a good job no matter the circumstance.
Even though he's had some problems as a head coach, he brings a veteran presence and a desire to succeed again in the big job that would be very attractive to a team with some turmoil. Like, say, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have plenty of talent on defense but have not been able to tap into it as they went into a terrible tailspin.
So, there are plenty of reasons why Wade would make sense for a team. He's not a lock to go somewhere else, since he just went through a fairly serious medical problem, even if he won't admit how serious it was. We know the doctors had to remove his gall bladder and a "volleyball sized" tumor and maybe more. Yet, he was back at work after missing just a couple of weeks.
Plus, you know he likes being close to his home in Houston, near his family and friends. That won't stop him from taking this job, but it doesn't make him a lock, either. If he does decide to leave, though, the Texans need to have a plan in place for his replacement. Like, yesterday.
See, if there's one thing the end of the season proved, it's that the defensive scheme isn't interchangeable. Reggie Herring may be a great coach and help out his positional players quite a bit. But, he proved a tad inadequate at calling the plays when he was named interim coordinator.
Gary Kubiak may be a great offensive mind and he may be able to keep that side of the ball humming with different coordinators almost every season. His defensive hires? Not so much. In fact, Wade was the first real coup on the defensive side of the ball for Kubiak.
Whether Wade leaves or not, Kubes needs to have a list ready of people they can go after to run that side of the ball, preferably with a 3-4 scheme in mind. It won't be crucial because they can certainly change back as quickly as they changed over this time. The revelation that Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed can be impact outside linebackers may translate to a 4-3 scheme, but it's a gamble.
No, the safest thing would be finding a good 3-4 guy who can step in if Wade leaves, but they can always make an exception for someone like Steve Spagnuolo. They could also go for someone with no coordinator experience but great experience in a great scheme like Patriots defensive line coach Pepper Johnson. Or, they could hire someone with previous defensive coordinator experience in a good 3-4 scheme like Green Bay defensive line coach Mike Trgovac.
Or, they could go with someone else who fits the scheme better. Whatever they do, don't just promote Reggie Herring and hope he can recreate Wade's magic. That ship has sailed.