HOUSTON—Winning is a distant memory for the Houston Texans and it is up to Wade Phillips to solve the problem—even just once—before the season ends in a few weeks.
The two-time defending AFC South champions have lost 11 straight games. With Phillips taking over for fired coach Gary Kubiak on an interim basis, the first order of business is to rid the team of the losing culture that has grown stronger as the losses piled up.
“A win for this team would be big,” Phillips said Monday. “The team’s been uptight to me. All the pressure’s been on them, they’ve put it on themselves and rightly so. Now we just have to go play.”
Phillips’ players fell in line with their new boss, with many of them talking about the need to create a “winning culture.”
The season is lost, but salvaging some momentum the last three games would go a long way in restoring some pride and something positive to build on once the season ends. The Texans’ pride takes a hit every time someone suggests playing to gain the No. 1 pick in the draft next spring.
“It’s insulting,” said left tackle Duane Brown. “We’re not worried about what’s going to happen next year. We’re worried about what’s going to happen this week. Anybody out there that’s thinking of that is crazy.”
That line of questioning is the culture that Phillips, who takes the interim tag for the second time this season after filling in while Kubiak was recovering from a mini-stroke, is looking to change.
With just three weeks to go, Phillips was clear that making wholesale changes was not likely in the cards. He did, however, allude to some small changes that he will be looking for as the team looks to finish strong.
“It’s obviously a lot different than when Gary was sick,” Phillips said. “I just tried to keep things in order, keep the seat warm, until Gary got back. You’re trying to mold a team when you start out before the season.in a way you feel like you can help the team. When you’re thrown in with three games left it’s a lot harder mold.”
While he declined to go into specifics about changes or new roles for coaches, he confirmed that he will look to try and shake things up.
“I’m going to try and influence some things offensively that I feel can help us,” Phillips said. “I’m not going to take over the offense. I’m going to try and be a well-rounded coach. That’s what the head coach does as far try and be involved in all aspects of the game.”
Making those moves will not put Houston in the playoffs. The hope is that starting this week the team will play well against division leader Indianapolis.
“I don’t think we’ve had fun in a long time,” said defensive end Antonio Smith. “I think it started happening early on when the panic button got hit prematurely and everyone started worrying about the future. It might be bad to say, but all you’ve got now is fun.”