Houston is home for Gary Kubiak. Always has been, always will be.
He grew up five minutes away from the Texans' NRG Stadium and his southern drawl hasn't faded one bit.
But the last memory Kubiak has of his home is driving away from it.
So as Kubiak prepares to go back there for the first time since being fired as the Texans' longtime head coach one year and 15 days ago, he doesn't go in with blinders on.
"I'm sure it'll be somewhat emotional for me. Come Sunday, it'll be a little different," Kubiak said Thursday.
In many ways, Houston built Kubiak and Kubiak built Houston.
As an NFL player, he was a longtime backup to Hall of Famer John Elway in Denver. Then Kubiak coached in the shadow of Mike Shannahan as Denver's quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
It wasn't until his hometown team, the recently-formed Texans, tabbed Kubiak as their second head coach in franchise history on Jan. 26, 2006 that he was in the NFL spotlight.
Thus, Kubiak doesn't go back with any ill will for letting him go.
"I have great feelings towards them," Kubiak said. "[Owner] Bob [McNair] gave me a chance that nobody else had given me. So I'm very grateful for that."
Kubiak took over a program that had gone 18-46 in the four years before he arrived. Kubiak made them an AFC contender.
The Texans reached the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 2011, but lost to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in the divisional round. Houston was a Super Bowl contender the next year with a 12-4 regular-season record, but again fell in the divisional playoffs.
The Texans collapsed the following season. Injuries mounted amongst the team's Pro Bowl players: running back Arian Foster, linebacker Brian Cushing, safety Danieal Manning and tight end Owen Daniels. Quarterback Matt Schaub fell apart, throwing 14 interceptions during eight starts.
Perhaps it was something freakish, or perhaps it was the emotional toll of the season, but Kubiak collapsed while walking off the field during halftime of a loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 3. He was diagnosed with having a mini-stroke and missed two weeks.
He was fired just more than a month later on Dec. 6 after eight seasons. The Texans lost their final three games without Kubiak and finished the season with the league's worst record at 2-14.
"It's tough. I failed with that football team, so that's very difficult," Kubiak said. "I understand the business and how it works."
Kubiak took a lot of the blame for the painful season in Houston, and many felt it was undeserved.
"He did so much to turn that organization around from where it was, from where he walked in Day 1 to where it was when he left," said Daniels, who was with Kubiak for all eight years and rejoined him in Baltimore.
"We didn't leave there on a great note. Last season wasn't what we wanted when we were there, but he sure changed the culture around there in terms of everyone in that building being focused on winning. He deserves a lot of credit for that."
Daniels said Kubiak's final season tarnished his image in Houston.
"Anytime you have a season like that, it doesn't reflect well on anything that was going on," Daniels said. "That's the way the NFL is. It's, 'What have you done for me lately?' And it wasn't good last year. I could see how people can be a little bit blinded by that."
Kubiak thought about taking a year off from football, but when Head Coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens came knocking, the allure of offensive Xs and Os proved too strong.
And Kubiak has made the Ravens offense much better for it.
Baltimore is 10th in the league in average yards per game (372), and eighth in points per game (26.9). It's on pace to be the best offense in franchise history, according to the statistics.
Kubiak has helped quarterback Joe Flacco have his finest season yet. Flacco is on pace for career-highs in passing yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and quarterback rating.
Kubiak has turned a run game that ranked dead last in the NFL in average yards per carry last year into a top-5 attack. Flacco took the second-most sacks in the league last year. He's taken the second-fewest among full-time starters this season.
Baltimore has provided Kubiak with an outlet. Kubiak has provided them with a spark. Just like in Houston, both sides have benefitted from his presence.
"It's funny how things work out. For me to have an opportunity here with this organization, I'm appreciative of that," Kubiak said. "Getting back to work, that's the best medicine for a football coach."
Kubiak said hopping right back on the coaching horse has been "extremely important" for him.
"It's what I do," he said. "I've been doing it for a long, long time, and I plan on doing it for a long, long time. It was important to get right back consumed into football."
Now the question Ravens fans are asking is how long Kubiak will stay. There will be head coaching vacancies around the league once the season is over – as always – and Kubiak's name would seem to be on the list of candidates.
On Thursday, Kubiak eschewed a question about whether he would like to be a head coach again, saying he's too consumed with the task at hand to give that any thought.
"I think if you worry about those things, you don't enjoy what you're doing at the time," he said. "And boy am I enjoying what I'm doing right now. I'm very proud to be a part of the Ravens and we have some big games here to look forward to."
Despite knowing that he'll have some emotions bubbling up inside come Sunday, Kubiak is trying to keep his focus entirely on the game at hand. He'll see one of his sons for the first time in about six months. He'll visit his mom.
Come Sunday, he said he has no idea what emotions to expect when he strolls back into Reliant Stadium.
"I don't know. I've never been through this before. That's a good thing," Kubiak cracked. "That's a big chunk of my football life – eight years and a lot of football games. You don't ever leave that."
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak has been in the league for more than 30 years as a player and coach.