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Sometimes you wonder how much can a team take.
In the case of the Texans, that concern extends to coach Gary Kubiak. In what has shaped up to be the franchises best season ever it’s seemed like haymakers have been beating down on Kubiak relentlessly from every direction in the form of just inexplicable injuries.
It’s a wonder Kubiak and the Texans are still standing.
It started this summer with running back Arian Foster’s hamstring and inside linebacker DeMeco Ryan’s elbow. Who knew that was just the beginning?
We’ve seen outside linebacker Mario Williams gone for the season with torn pectoral muscle, Andre Johnson missed six games with a hamstring injury, safety Danieal Manning also sat out several games with a broken bone in his leg and then the Texans lost the player we thought they could least afford to lose when quarterback Matt Schaub went down for the season with a Lisfranc fracture to his foot.
Just to be clear, we are talking six All-Pro caliber players who have missed significant time or who’ve slowed by injury in one season. Most teams don’t have this type of bad luck in five seasons, let alone one season.
Miraculously the Texans have risen above it all to craft one of the most spectacular seasons ever so far, sitting at 8-3 and atop the entire AFC. Really.
However, this latest season-ending injury to backup quarterback Matt Leinart — the player the Texans really could least afford to lose – in his first game replacing Schaub on Sunday is the one that could break a team and it’s coach.
Let’s be honest, third string quarterbacks with no experience taking first-team reps in practice rarely thrive when so much is at stake like now.
But it was interesting to see Kubiak’s response during Monday’s press conference when someone asked if he was feeling down despite being 8-3 with the franchise’s first playoff berth just one or two wins away. Kubiak may not have realized it but his demeanor and tone were different from start to finish Monday and not in a good way, either.
“Well I’m not down,” Kubiak shot back. “I’ve got some issues on my hands, but I’m not down. This team is not down. I want everyone to know that. I want the city to know that. We’re excited about our opportunity.
“It has been very challenging, but hey, that’s part of life.”
Still, you have to wonder what part of life makes it right that you now the franchises playoff hopes rest with a rookie quarterback who before Sunday had not been active for an NFL game? What part of life says his backup is a guy who was otherwise unemployed a week ago?
And what part of life says that the eventual options to lead this franchise into the playoffs will be over the hill and way past their primes Jeff Garcia and Jake Delhomme, who are both working out for the team Tuesday?
The good thing about the Texans and Kubiak is they don’t have time to concern themselves with what’s fair and not. The NFL schedule and work week don’t allow for such self pity. They have to continue with this next man up mentality that has seen them overcome countless injuries even as they ride this current five-game winning streak into Sunday’s game against Atlanta.
You figure with the enormous talent and the amount of hungry players the Texans have on both sides of the football that if there is a team that can absorb the injury hits and keep on moving it’s them.
The next man up at quarterback is T.J. Yates, the fifth round pick out of North Carolina last spring. The next man after him we really don’t want to think about, but with the luck the Texans have had we should eventually expect to see someone who was watching the NFL on television in November quarterbacking the offense during the playoff stretch in December or even worse — tight end Owen Daniels.
But Kubiak knows he can’t afford to dwell on what has happened or what could go wrong. He has more than enough going on in the moment just getting Yates ready to play hopefully a complete football game.
“It’s ironic how it’s happened back-to-back, two weeks in a row, but we’ll keep our chin up,” Kubiak said. “I do think a lot of this young man, ya’ll know that. He’s worked very hard with this team. I think he has a lot of ability. It is a tall task, but this is a good football team and we’ll rally around him. We’ll work our tails off with him and I know he’ll do his job too and we’re going to give him the opportunity and I’m looking forward to see how he does.”
In the meantime, the rest of us will have one eye closed while bracing for what’s next for him.