Gary Kubiak coached the winning team in the Pro Bowl Sunday evening, which doesnt say a lot about Sunday evening, but says at least a little about Kubiak and the state of professional football in Houston.
It says the Houston Texans coach had the third-most impressive coaching performance in the AFC this season, which means he had the fifth- or sixth-best coaching performance in the NFL this season, which puts him at about the 82nd percentile among NFL coaches.
Or something like that.
The Pro Bowl itself is, of course, without much meaning. The AFC won it 59-41 this year, in part because the NFC failed to register a single hit on an AFC quarterback. The biggest portion of credit belonged to Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall, who caught four touchdown passes, two of which were bona fide spectacles. The most outstanding Texans player was cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who intercepted a pass.
But the star, so far as the Texans were concerned, was Kubiak and his coaching staff. Kubiak was the head coach in the Pro Bowl for the first time, and thus became Pro Bowl Coach Gary Kubiak. That doesnt mean a lot, but it doesnt mean nothing.
Kubiaks being there was another first in a season of firsts for the Texans. Kubiak, like his team, is no longer a punch line, no longer a disappointment, no longer too soft. There is no more doom in Houston, no more grousing about the Oilers and no more wistful reminiscences about Luv Ya Blue and Bum Phillips cowboy hat.
Professional football in Houston returned in 2002, but it never was going to be back until it had a winner, until it had ignited the city and inspired just enough hope to that it hurt again when they lost. Loyalty in sports is a cocktail made with one part joy and two parts heartbreak.
Thats what it meant that Kubiak was standing there in a vacation shirt in Hawaii, winning that game Sunday night. It meant the Texans had been good, but not good enough to play next week. The 82nd percentile. Just enough to make you feel good but also leave you wanting more.
Such a heartbreaker, that Kubiak.