The Houston Texans have endured more than their share of injuries this season, but they've persevered to win their first AFC South title and stand as a high playoff seed. But on Tuesday, the one staff absence that really could upend the team was announced.
Per the Texans' official website, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will leave the team for an undisclosed scheduled surgical procedure, and he is expected to return to the team later this season. No more specific timeline has been given, and the nature of the surgery is not known, though Phillips is expected to address the media after Wednesday practice.
Phillips was one of the aspects — perhaps the primary aspect — that kept the team competitive despite losing quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster, receiver Andre Johnson and defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams for various parts and remainders of the season.
Hired before the 2011 season after he was fired as the Dallas Cowboys' head coach, Phillips' unique and highly effective approach to hybrid defense vaulted the team's overall defensive standing to previously unseen heights. In addition, Phillips' schemes made stars of relatively unheralded players like Connor Barwin and Shaun Cody.
As the team's site points out, Houston's defense is allowing 274.9 yards per game this season as compared to 376.9 in 2010. Its 102.0-yard-average improvement is the best since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Houston ranks fourth in rush defense and third in pass defense this season.
Linebackers coach Reggie Herring, who coached Phillips' linebackers in Dallas from 2008 through 2010, will coach the defense in Phillips' absence. The Texans face the Carolina Panthers this upcoming Sunday. They then travel to face the winless Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, Dec. 22, before finishing the regular season with a home game against the Tennessee Titans.