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.
Crabtree makes strides
SANTA CLARA, Calif. —- At last, Mario Manningham is back in game-week mode.
And that has a far better ring to it than rehab mode given the countless hours he has spent for much of the last year nursing himself back to health following major knee surgery.
Manningham walked through the locker room Wednesday, binder in hand and headed for meetings with the expectation that he will play for the San Francisco 49ers (6-2) in Sunday’s game against Carolina (5-3), even if coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to formally say so.
“Mario, he’s a receiver who’s easy to throw to, so it’s not going to take much time for him to get back up to speed,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said.
Manningham is on the active roster again nearly 11 months after a knee injury derailed his season and forced him to the sidelines long before the Super Bowl run. Michael Crabtree is back on the practice field six months after he suffered a torn right Achilles tendon that also sent him to surgery.
Kaepernick credits both of his star wideouts for returning to their former explosive selves so soon. Such compliments go a long way.
“It’s important when it comes from your teammates,” Manningham said. “I know I can get better, everybody can always get better. I’m trying to take it step by step and do what I can do to make my team look better. I’m practicing like I’m playing, just trying to make plays and come out with a ‘W.’”