Gary Kubiak pulled the Texans out of the NFL basement and remains the only coach to take them to the playoffs.
That wasn’t enough to save his job, not with the Texans mired in an 11-game skid that has dropped them back to the bottom of the league.
Houston fired Kubiak on Friday, one day after the Texans lost, 27-20, at Jacksonville and continued their stunning fall for a team that expected to make a Super Bowl run. Houston (2-11) was flagged 14 times for a franchise-record 177 yards.
The 52-year-old Kubiak was hired in 2006 and led the team to AFC South titles in 2011 and 2012, the highlights of his eight-year tenure as coach of his hometown NFL team.
The Texans said they couldn’t wait any longer to start turning things around, not with the losses and undisciplined play piling up.
‘‘What’s taken place with this organization is unacceptable,’’ general manager Rick Smith said. ‘‘We’ve got three weeks of an evaluation process left and we’ve got to right the ship.’’
Kubiak thanked the team for giving him his first head coaching job in the NFL.
‘‘Though we came up short this season, the work, effort, and sacrifice they gave me and this organization over the last eight seasons is not to be taken for granted,’’ he said in a statement provided by the Texans. ‘‘We had a great run here and we will never forget our back-to-back AFC South championships.’’
Kubiak’s overall record is 61-64, with a 2-2 mark in the playoffs. Owner Bob McNair said the decision to let him go was a hard one.
‘‘It was difficult for me because I think so much of Gary,’’ McNair said. ‘‘We’ve been evaluating it every game and asking the question, ‘What’s in the best interest of the organization?’ We’re at the point now where we need to go ahead and make some changes because losing like this is unacceptable.’’
He added: ‘‘We’re here to have a winning culture and this year has not contributed to that.’’
The Texans said defensive coordinator Wade Phillips would serve as interim coach for the rest of what has been a miserable season. McNair said NFL and head coaching experience were important factors in filling the job, and that the 66-year-old Phillips will be considered.
Kubiak suffered a mini-stroke Nov. 3 in a frightening scene, collapsing at halftime during a game against the Colts and being rushed to a Houston hospital. He suffered a transient ischemic attack, which occurs when blood flow to the brain is briefly interrupted, typically by a blood clot or narrowed blood vessels. Experts say they are often a warning sign for a future stroke, particularly within three months of a TIA.
Kubiak returned to coach, but the Texans have been unable to rebound from injuries to top players including quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster, and linebacker Brian Cushing, who was lost for the second straight season.
The Texans also fired special teams coordinator Joe Marciano and replaced him with assistant Bob Ligashesky, who is in his 10th NFL season and first full year with Houston. Other recent departures from the Texans include assistant head coach Alex Gibbs (for Seattle) and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who went to join his father in Washington.
John Fox on sideline
John Fox will coach the Denver Broncos from the sideline and not the booth upon his return Sunday five weeks after heart surgery.
Fox said he wrestled with the pros and cons of both scenarios.
The booth allows a better view of the game and he would have had direct communication with all his coordinators. Being down on the field allows him to get a better feel for the mood of his team and he can look his players in the eye.
Withstanding two days of practice in temperatures around zero degrees this week helped convince Fox and his doctors that he'd be able to handle Sunday’s forecast of snow and temperatures in the teens when the Broncos (10-2) host the Tennessee Titans (5-7).
Meanwhile, the Broncos are steamed over suggestions by Peyton Manning’s critics that the four-time MVP crumbles in the cold. Manning, who spent his first 14 seasons playing his home games inside a dome in Indianapolis, has a 3-7 career record, including playoffs, in games in which the temperature at kickoff was 32 degrees or below.
In all other games, he’s 170-76. With the Broncos, Manning has lost two notable cold-weather games, at home in double-overtime against Baltimore in the playoffs and in overtime at Foxborough two weeks ago.
Aaron Rodgers won’t play
The Green Bay Packers ruled out star quarterback Aaron Rodgers for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. ‘‘Aaron Rodgers is not ready to go,’’ coach Mike McCarthy said. Rodgers hasn’t played since breaking his left collarbone early in Green Bay’s 27-20 loss to Chicago on Nov. 4.
That was the start of a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) for the Packers, whose playoff hopes are fading with a 5-6-1 record with four games to play.
The Packers instead spent the week preparing Matt Flynn to make a second straight start at quarterback.
Percy Harvin, Brandon Browner out
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin and cornerback Brandon Browner will both be out for Sunday’s game at San Francisco. Seattle coach Pete Carroll said neither player was ready to go against the 49ers, where the Seahawks can clinch the NFC West with a victory . . . The Lions listed cornerback Darius Slay as doubtful against the Philadelphia Eagles because of a knee injury. Christian Houston (knee) and Reggie Bush (calf) were limited in practice and are questionable. Bush had 117 yards rushing, a touchdown and five receptions for 65 yards receiving against the Packers . . . The Minnesota Vikings ruled Christian Ponder out for Sunday’s game at Baltimore because the quarterback has not yet passed all of his post-concussion tests. Coach Leslie Frazier said Ponder will not suit up against the Ravens, with Matt Cassel starting and Josh Freeman backing him up per the plan set at the beginning of the week . . . LaMarr Woodley is ready to get back to work. The Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker will play Sunday against Miami after missing three weeks with a left calf strain.