The connection to the Denver Broncos runs deep in the Houston Texans‘ coaching organizational chart. Head coach Gary Kubiak, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips have all coached for the Broncos in some capacity, while Kubiak doubled as coach and as a player.
Kubiak was a career backup quarterback to legendary John Elway. Even though he rarely saw playing time, his signature moment came in the 1991 AFC Championship game. With Elway reeling from a leg injury and the stifling Buffalo Bills defense having its way, Kubiak came on in relief and completed 11 of 12 passes for 136 yard in the fourth quarter. He nearly led the Broncos on the game-tying drive, only to be foiled by a Steve Sewell fumble.
Post-retirement, Kubiak spent a championship season in San Francisco as quarterbacks coach for the great Steve Young before being brought on as offensive coordinator under Mike Shanahan. The duo of Kubiak and Shanahan led the Broncos into a decade of elite offensive prowess, an absurdly good rushing attack, and two Super Bowl victories. Kubiak became the head coach of the embattled Houston Texans prior to the 2006 season, leading them to their first playoff victory in the relatively short history of the franchise last season.
Rick Dennison was a long-time Broncos coach, serving in numerous capacities from offensive assistant to offensive coordinator from 1995-2008 before getting the nod to become Kubaik’s offensive coordinator. Since that point, the Texans’ offense has consistently ranked in the top 10 in total offense (perhaps the lone exception being last year with their offense ravaged by injury – a year they still won their division).
Wade Phillips is a defensive mastermind who is known for his savvy in the defensive coordinator position and less for his head coaching. Denver was one of his three stops as a head coach serving as a stopgap after the Dan Reeves era. Like with his time coaching the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys, Phillips’ success could only take him as far as the playoffs. In parts of 11 seasons as a head coach, Phillips has a lone playoff victory to his credit to go along with five losses.
As a defensive coordinator though, his track record is a different story. Use the Houston Texans as a case study: Prior to Phillips being brought on, the Texans’ defense was 30th in the league. This is the same defense, mind you, that gave up 308 yards passing on 16 completions in 29 attempts to replacement quarterback Tim Tebow. The Broncos were absolutely at rock bottom after the firing of head coach/human hurricane Josh McDaniels. Tebow and his interim coach shredded Houston at-will throughout the second half. Fast forward a year and a Phillips hiring later, and the Texans had the number 2 defense in the league. They went from number 30 to number 2 after Phillips was brought on! This year seems to be a continuation as the Broncos will be challenged as they face the number 1 defense in the league on Sunday.
The Broncos will have a huge task in front of them as they take on the Texans, a result of coaches who have at deep roots to the tradition of the Denver Broncos.