Washington Redskins and Houston Texans are intimately familiar with each other in advance of Sunday's matchup

The Washington Post's Eric Prisbell and Barry Svrluga talk about the first game between the Redskins and Houston Texans since 2006.
By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 15, 2010; 7:40 PM

In his year away from football, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan didn't really stay away from football. In fact, there was one team he made sure to watch on television every Sunday. On two occasions, he even went to watch the Houston Texans, where his son, Kyle, was offensive coordinator, in person last year.

The roots of the Redskins' and Texans' organizations are tightly entangled. A meticulous planner, Shanahan and his staff know the Texans' scheme and personnel as well as they do any team in the league, and they'll try to take advantage of that knowledge Sunday when the two teams meet at FedEx Field.

"Does it make it tougher? Yeah, it makes it tougher," said Texans Coach Gary Kubiak, a former student of Shanahan's. "But you just got to try to get your guys in the best position to be successful and play solid football. That's what we have to concentrate on."

Shanahan didn't have to twist any arms when he hired his son away from the Texans in January. Then he hired Richard Hightower, who was with Houston from 2006 to '08, to assist with the Redskins' special teams; Matt LaFleur, a Texans' offensive assistant the past two seasons, to coach Washington's quarterbacks; and Ray Wright, who was on Houston's strength and conditioning staff since 2002, to head the Redskins' department.

While each brought his own skills to Washington, they also brought a wealth of knowledge about Texans' players, playbook and tendencies. Publicly, Redskins' coaches downplayed any advantage that might give them, but they acknowledged that Kyle Shanahan could lend a hand to defensive coaches.

"A little," Kyle Shanahan conceded. "They pretty much know what they're doing though."

Kubiak played under Shanahan in Denver as John Elway's backup. When Kubiak's playing career ended, Shanahan hired him in San Francisco as a quarterbacks coach and then made him offensive coordinator in Denver - "when I had no business being one at a very young age," Kubiak said.

When Kubiak became head coach in Houston in 2006, he hired Kyle Shanahan as his receivers coach. Kyle Shanahan then served as the team's offensive coordinator the past two seasons, calling plays in 2009 for a unit that was ranked No. 4 in the league.

"We got inside knowledge of their scheme and their personnel," linebacker London Fletcher said. "So we'll definitely ask Kyle some questions."

Kubiak points out that Kyle Shanahan is well-versed in the Texans' defense as well. After all, that's the group he worked against every day in practice.

"He's going to have a good idea of what works against that defense," said quarterback Rex Grossman, who played for Houston last year. "It's kind of a mind game between [Kyle and] their defensive coordinator because they know each other so well. Bottom line is, it boils down to execution."

When the Redskins have the ball Sunday, the game very well could resemble a Texans 11-on-11 drill from last season. Kyle Shanahan has brought over the same basic offense, and Houston defensive coordinator Frank Bush is essentially relying on the same defensive packages.

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