The bachelors on the 49ers beat were groggy this morning at 7 when it was time to dial in and talk to Texans coach Gary Kubiak. Thankfully, my alarm clock is set every morning for 6:30.
Yep, my alarm is a soon-to-be-7-year-old who will be heading off to her first-grade class in about 45 minutes. We just can’t get the darn girl to sleep in. Oh, well.
Kubiak is in his fourth year as coach of the Texans. His NFL coaching resume begins with his role as quarterbacks coach in 1994 with the Super Bowl-winning 49ers. He followed Mike Shanahan to the Broncos for 11 seasons before landing the Texans job.
The Texans play host to the 49ers on Sunday.
When you look at 49ers on film, what are characteristics that jump out at you?
Kubiak: “It’s a very physical football team, No. 1. They’re physical in all three phases: offense, defense, special tams. And play extremely hard. It’s a true reflection of Mike and the job he’s done there – wonderful job. It’s a talented young team.”
Does your team have the physicality to match up in those areas?
Kubiak: “We’re going to find out, but we know what we face. We know what kind of game it’s going to be. It’s going to be a very physical game. We’re going to have to stop the run, which they’re excellent at doing. They present problems for you defensively with protection problems and edge problems. On special teams they’ve been as solid as anyone in football. It’s the NFL. Every week is a tremendous challenge, and this looks no different to us.”
This game Frank Gore is going to return and Michael Crabtree is going to be playing in his first NFL game. Any thought on those two elements being added to the
Kubiak: “I think Frank has averaged over 6 yards a carry, if I’m right. That’s unbelievable in this league. He’s done exceptional. Obviously he gets a chance with bye week to get heathy. Unfortunately for us we get him fresh and back healthy. It’s great for their team because he’s such a big part of it. As far as Michael, I just know what everybody else knows. We studied in draft and thought he was one of the premier players coming out in the draft — reminds me a lot of our guy. Reminds me a lot of Andre (Johnson) with his size, power and run after the catch. They are two great young players, but their team is solid across the board.”
Where did you have Crabtree rated?
Kubiak: “We had him rated very highly.”
How do you prepare for a guy when you haven’t seen him in an NFL game film?
Kubiak: “First off, you have to prepare for their offense. You have to stop their offense and their and their schemes and what they do. As far as the type of player he is and what he brings to the table, we all know. We had many draft meetings and watched him in endless hours of tape on him as we prepared to get ready for the draft ourselves. There’s not anybody on our staff or our organization that doesn’t know what he’s capable of doing. But at the same time we have to prepare for the 49ers and what they do offensively and defensively.”
With your corners, do you stay on one side or do you have Dunta Robinson shadow the top guy?
Kubiak: “It all depends what we’re doing game-plan wise. We have the ability to do both.”
You mentioned the 49ers run the ball well, but they’ve had their problems with consistency. You’ve had some issues, too. Is there a trend in the NFL where it’s more difficult to run?
Kubiak: “It’s always been difficult to run the ball. It’s a tough league. You go a few weeks getting stuffed in one phase or another like we have and struggled to run for a couple weeks now. We’ve had a few changes up front in offensive line. Obviously, those things get exposed and get bigger. But the key you have to stay committed to it. I know we, as a team, are committed to the run. wE think it’s a key to being successful in this league in and week out. And it sure looks, in looking at Mike’s team, that he feels the same way. They’re going to line up and pound you and run the ball. And you better find a way to stop it.”
People around the league are aware of Andre Johnson but recognition-wise he comes up a little short. Why do you think that is?
Kubiak: “I think that goes with the organization’s success. This organization going on its eighth year of existence and you look at all organizations around the league and the history and the things that went on. (The 49ers) are a great example. This one is trying to build something here. It’s never had a winner. It’s never been to the playoffs. One thing about Andre, he’s been a mainstay. He’s been fighting the good fight ever since he walked through the door. He’s been excellent for me in my three years here, going into my fourth. He’s a tremendous player and an even better person. He has work habits like Jerry Rice, and I was fortunate to be there with you guys with Jerry a few years back.”
Speaking of the year you were here, what do you take from that experience in 1994?
Kubiak: “It was a tremendous experience. First off, getting to work for George (Seifert) and watching him do his job — how he handles his team. We had a team that started slowly and struggling and went on to win a championship. Just being a part of the day-to-day operation of successful operation like the
Did you have designs on being a head coach at that time?
Kubiak: “That was my first year in NFL coaching. I’d coached college football for two years. I came there with Mike (Shanahan) to coach quarterbacks, and I was just more worried about doing a good job for George and the 49ers. I didn’t have my sights set in that direction at that time. As you get going and put in time and effort and the commitment it takes to coach in this league, the goals started to change. I was very lucky to be around some very good football coaches and some great tutelage.”
Kubiak: “They’re all special to me. That was No. 5 for the Niners, am I right? It is a beautiful ring. It always means the world to you. The thing that comes back are the people that were involved. It’s hard to win a championship. If you go back and look at that team picture, you see what it takes to win championships. It’s lined up with tremendous players. And I had such a great time there. The coaching staff was absolutely tremendous. Mr. DeBartolo was great to me and my family. Nothing but great times. It was a wonderful year. I really enjoyed getting to know John McVay. He’s a wonderful person. Of course, Carmen was there at the time. I could go down the list.”
Back to your team, the way it’s set up with the wideout (Johnson), tight end (Owen Daniels) and running back (Steve Slaton) all catching a lot of passes, is that way you create balance with your offense?
Kubiak: “We’ve been real fortunate. First off, I’d like our football team to be physical and run the football. We’ve struggled in that area, so obviously you have to find some ways to move the ball, so there’s been a little of a change, but it doesn’t change your commitment to run the ball. As far as these guys, we’ve been fortunate. We drafted Owen in the fourth round and he’s started since Day 1. We got Kevin Walker out of
On other side of the ball, does Mario Williams line up in the same spot or do you move him around?
Kubiak: “We can move him around, it just depends on what we’re doing. But he’s been playing really well. He got his shoulder a little banged up a couple weeks ago. He hasn’t played the same number of snaps the last two weeks that he normally plays. He got out of those two games fine, so I expect those snaps to pick up. We started slowly defensively and really struggled, had some players out in training camp with Robinson and (Brian) Cushing, and settled down and played better the last few weeks. Cushing has been a big, big leader of that situation. He’s playing very well as a rookie.”
* * *
* * *