When it comes to firing a head coach and replacing him with an interim head coach, the move comes with one major risk.
If the interim coach does well, it’s hard not to make the interim coach the permanent coach.
In recent years, interim head coaches typically do well, because the players obtain a sufficient kick in the butt to play well enough in order to keep the interim head coach around. That’s not a favor to the interim coach; it’s a favor to themselves. Coaches hired from the outside tend to want their own players, which means that guys who have contracts that ostensibly carry into future seasons may not.
And so the increase in performance is artificial and temporary, enough to get the interim coach the job but ultimately not enough to effect the change that the organization craves.
Consider some of the recent interim hires who have gotten the permanent job. Romeo Crennel in Kansas City replaced Todd Haley during the 2011 season. The Chiefs went 2-14 in 2012. Leslie Frazier replaced Brad Childress in 2010. The Vikings were 3-13 in 2011.
And to bring it all full circle, Jason Garrett replaced Wade Phillips in Dallas three years ago. The Cowboy have been a .500 team with no playoff berths since then.
A thrice-fired NFL head coach, Wade Phillips has a strong connection to Houston, especially in light of his father’s time as coach of the Oilers. If the Texans go 3-0 or 2-1 in the final three weeks of the season, owner Bob McNair may have no choice but to keep Phillips for 2014 and beyond.