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“I think the last straw was losing,” McNair said. “We’ve got a lot better talent than Jacksonville and to lose to them twice, to their credit they played harder, played smarter and to have them beat us on that is not acceptable. If a team’s going to beat us because they’re better than we are, or have better ability that’s fine, but we expect to go out and play hard and play smart, and we didn’t play smart.”

Kubiak, a former NFL quarterback who calls the team’s plays, has long been known as a top offensive coach, mentoring quarterbacks in Denver under Mike Shanahan and then Schaub and Keenum in Houston.

He was hired in 2006, along with Smith, after the Texans finished a franchise-worst 2-14. Smith spent 10 years with Kubiak while the coach was offensive coordinator of the Broncos. Smith was Denver’s defensive assistant for four seasons before moving into the front office for his last six years with the Broncos.

The pair helped transform the Texans, which began play in 2002, from league laughingstock to contender. The team went 6-10 in their first year and 8-8 in each of the next two seasons. Expectations were high in 2010 after Houston finished at 9-7 for its first winning record in 2009. The Texans instead fell to 6-10, which led to many fans calling for Kubiak’s firing.

His original contract was due to expire after the 2010 season, but McNair defended him several times amid the bumps.

Last year, the Texans announced contract extensions for both Smith and Kubiak, rewarding them for taking the team to the playoffs last year for the first time. Kubiak’s three-year agreement has him under contract through 2014.

McNair said at the time he offered Kubiak a four-year deal, but the coach preferred to make it for three.

Kubiak made his mark as Denver’s offensive coordinator under Shanahan, winning two Super Bowls. An eighth-round pick out of Texas A&M, he spent nine years as John Elway’s backup. He finished his career 4-1 as a starter, all in emergency relief of Elway.

“You always hate to see guys fired,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “It happens, it’s tough. But you never like to see that. He’s a good friend and a heck of a coach, a guy I have a lot of respect for and it’s unfortunate.”

The Texans also fired special teams coordinator Joe Marciano and replaced him with assistant Bob Ligashesky, who is in his 10th NFL season and first full year with Houston. Other recent departures from the Texans include assistant head coach Alex Gibbs (for Seattle) and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan went to join his father in Washington.

Keenum, Phillips and the rest of the Texans will get three weeks to show what they have to McNair and company. With Kubiak out, it is clear that the evaluation process could have stiff consequences as the team tries to rebuild.

“We have a young quarterback in Case Keenum and we need to find out if he’s capable of being a starter or capable of being the backup,” McNair said. “The way you find out about that is by playing him.”

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AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.

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