HOUSTON – The Houston Texans are sticking with coach Gary Kubiak.
The Texans said Monday that Kubiak will return next season, despite another lackluster year that ended without a playoff berth.
But the team made wholesale defensive staff changes, firing coordinator Frank Bush, secondary coach David Gibbs, linebackers coach Johnny Holland and assistant linebackers coach Robert Saleh. The Texans (6-10) lost eight of their last 10 games, mostly due to a defense that gave up a league-high 4,280 yards passing along with 33 touchdown passes, tied with Dallas for the most.
"We've got some serious problems that we've got to address," Kubiak said. "It definitely wasn't all coaching, in my opinion. We've got issues across the board. I had to make a decision on how we can get better, and so doing that, I made that decision to let those four guys go."
Pro Bowl middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who sat out the final 10 games with a ruptured Achilles tendon, was surprised to hear that the team had released Holland, an assistant in all five of Kubiak's seasons.
"It's tough to lose a guy who's been with me for my first five years in the league," Ryans said in a phone interview. "I learned a lot from him. That was definitely shocking, that he had to go."
The Texans are 37-43 in his five seasons, and the franchise is still seeking its first playoff appearance. The best Kubiak has done so far is guide the Texans to a 9-7 mark in 2009, the only winning record in the team's nine seasons of existence.
Kubiak, whose contract runs through the 2012 season, admitted that he felt fortunate that owner Bob McNair decided to retain him.
"We visited and decided on a new direction," Kubiak said. "Obviously, him giving me a chance to move us in that direction, I'm very thankful for that. But I know I've got a lot of work to do and a lot of problems to fix."
Speculation has swirled for a week that McNair is interested in meeting with fired Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, who's been a defensive coordinator most of his career. Bum Phillips, Wade's father and the former Houston Oilers coach, showed up at Texans practice last week and chatted with McNair.
Kubiak said he's "talked to nobody" about filling the vacancy. Phillips has been out of work since the Cowboys started 1-7, their lone victory a 27-13 win over the Texans in Houston in Week 3.
Phillips was the defensive coordinator in Denver from 1986-92, overlapping Kubiak's playing career as John Elway's backup for the Broncos.
"I know Wade, I've competed against him many times," Kubiak said. "I have a lot of respect for him as a coach, but we'll talk to a number of people. It's pretty safe to say that Wade will be one of the people we'll talk to, and it'll probably be very quickly."
Bush seemed resigned to his fate after the final practice of the season on Friday.
"I've got to go out and try to find a way to sell myself to another organization," Bush said. "I'll stay positive, I'll stay upbeat, I'll keep believing in the things I do. Quite frankly, I felt like we had the right approach. Things didn't work out, but I'll stay positive about the whole situation and keep moving forward."
Bush was promoted to defensive coordinator after the Texans finished 8-8 in 2008. The Texans' defense played well over the final 13 games of 2009, giving up 19 points and 84 yards rushing in that span.
But the unit was bad from the start this season, yielding 410.5 yards through the first six games. The Texans only started 4-2 because the offense topped 30 points in each of the victories.
After Ryans was injured, the defense never got better.
Kubiak was also hurt by his preseason decision to start rookie Kareem Jackson and second-year pro Glover Quin at cornerback. Houston's secondary was beaten repeatedly on long pass plays, most critically in the fourth quarter.
Defensive line coach Bill Kollar is keeping his job, even though the pass rush was also an issue.
Defensive end Mario Williams had 8 1/2 sacks through the first 13 games, but then went on injured reserve with a sports hernia. Houston had 30 sacks to rank 23rd in the league.
"I like the way he does his job," Kubiak said. "It has a lot to do with where I see us going forward."
A few players wandered through Reliant Stadium on Monday to meet with Kubiak and clean out their lockers. They offered differing opinions on why the season unraveled, and expected defensive coaches to lose their jobs.
"We're at a point that a lot of people didn't think we would get to," said safety Bernard Pollard, who is a free agent. "Now, they're questioning, 'OK, can this coaching staff get it done? Can this coordinator get it done? Can this head coach be the man?' We're at that point."
Bush was a first-time coordinator, and Kubiak said he's looking for a replacement with more experience.