Texans owner Bob McNair thinks Gary Kubiak will learn from the many low points of this season and be a better coach because of them.
Kubiak will return for a sixth season in Houston, but the team fired four defensive assistants on Monday, including coordinator Frank Bush. The Texans (6-10) lost eight of their last 10 games and had the league's 30th-ranked defense.
McNair said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that he kept Kubiak mainly because he felt like the players continued to work hard and stay united as the season unraveled.
"One of Gary's strengths, and one of the things that influenced me is that, in spite of the tough period we went through, Gary was able to hold the team together," McNair said. "That's the sign of a good coach, because it's very difficult to do that.
"I was in the locker room, I was on the practice field, I saw how we played," McNair said. "He had everything under control the whole time."
Fans for weeks had urged McNair to fire Kubiak, whose contract runs through the 2012 season. McNair said fans "are no more frustrated than me," but also pointed to the job Kubiak did last season when Houston finished 9-7 for its first winning record.
"I don't think anybody was calling for his head after that season," McNair said. "This year, he has gone through some very difficult times and I think he's a better coach now than he was then because of those experiences. I don't think he went from being a good coach in one year to being a bad coach."
McNair said a major overhaul of the staff would've been too risky, especially with the possibility of a lockout looming in the spring. McNair wanted to preserve some stability, in case preparations for next season are delayed by labor negotiations.
"Continuity makes it easier to be ready, as opposed to if you completely changed your systems, and the players weren't around to be taught the new system," McNair said. "And then you come back to play and you're trying to start out with a new system, and the players aren't properly prepared. That could be a very difficult situation, and we certainly don't want to find ourselves in that boat."
McNair also acknowledged that fired Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips is a top candidate to become Houston's next defensive coordinator, but added that he's "one of several." McNair wants a new coordinator in place within two weeks.
Phillips is interviewing with the Texans on Wednesday, his mother, Debbie, told the AP on Tuesday night. The team would not confirm that Phillips had an interview scheduled.
Phillips did not immediately return a phone message.
Bush and his predecessor, Richard Smith, were first-time defensive coordinators, and McNair and Kubiak both said they want someone with more experience.
McNair said he's happy with the progress of the offense under Kubiak, who was Denver's offensive coordinator from 1995-2005. This year, the Texans finished third in total yards (386.6 per game) and produced the NFL's leading rusher in Arian Foster.
"It's clear that our offense is one of the top offenses," McNair said. "Clearly, our problem was with our defense and we had to ask ourselves what it would take to improve that."
The Texans are 37-43 under Kubiak, and the franchise has yet to make the playoffs in nine seasons. McNair vowed to make radical changes if the team falls short again in 2011.
"The team's got to go out and show that we made the right decision," he said. "We won't know whether I've made the right decisions until we go out and play this next year and see how we do. Hopefully, it'll be the right decision. If it isn't, well, we'll have to go from there.
"I've got more on the line with this team than anyone," he said. "I'm committed to bringing a champion to Houston. I didn't make the commitment to just have a winning team. We want a team that plays at a championship level, and we haven't gotten there."