HOUSTON — Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will take over as Houston’s interim head coach and try to help the team end a six-game skid with Gary Kubiak out indefinitely after suffering a mini-stroke this weekend
”I’m just keeping the seat warm,” Phillips said.
It’s a familiar position for Phillips, a 30-plus-year NFL coaching veteran, who was last a head coach in Dallas and has twice served as an interim head coach in the league. The first time came in 1985 when his father Bum Phillips stepped down with the Saints, the second was in 2003 when Dan Reeves resigned as Atlanta’s coach with three games left.
”Thirty-three years I’ve been either a coordinator on one side of the ball or a head coach,” Phillips said. ”I think experience helps. I hope it does in this case. I’m pretty familiar with what (to do).”
Phillips has had a tough month with the recent death of his father and being thrust into this role with Kubiak ailing. He’s talked to the team about dealing with adversity and thinks the players will respond well Sunday.
”A lot’s been going on in my life and, I told the players, too, we’ve lost some games, but there are tougher things than losing some ballgames that people have overcome,” Phillips said. ”And so we can overcome losing ballgames if people can overcome some of the things that have happened.”
Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison will take over the play-calling duties, with input from Phillips, when the Texans travel to Arizona on Sunday. Dennison doesn’t believe much will change offensively with Kubiak out.
”I’ve been with him for a long time and we have the same philosophy on how to win football games,” Dennison said. ”I would say just being around him in this position for the last four years we would be very similar. I don’t know that we’re exact, but we’re very similar.”
The team said Monday the 52-year-old Kubiak suffered a transient ischemic attack at halftime of Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis. He was released from the hospital on Tuesday and is expected to make a full recovery, but there is no timetable for his return to the team.
Phillips said he has spoken to Kubiak, but they didn’t really talk football.
”He’s left it to me and he said: ‘Do what you think,”’ Phillips said.
Dennison said Kubiak told him he’d like to come by the stadium in the next few days, but he wasn’t sure if that would actually happen.
”I called him back and (Kubiak’s wife) Rhonda answered the phone and I was in a bit of trouble,” Dennison said. ”So I’m going to try to stay away.”
Phillips mixed up some things at practice Wednesday in an attempt to help the team get back on track. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph said Wednesday’s practice was ”energetic” and that it ran smoothly without Kubiak.
”We are changing a few things in practice that we think will help,” Phillips said. ”We feel like we need to change something. It’s not going the way we want it to go, so we have to change some things.”
Case Keenum will make his third start Sunday after solid performances in the first two. Phillips said Keenum has earned the right to start and has been impressed with his ability to make big plays. He’s completed 11 passes of 25 yards or more in his two starts combined as the Texans have dropped those games by four total points.