Bill O’Brien held a 24-point lead over the Chiefs in the playoffs in February and discovered himself unemployed earlier than Halloween of the identical yr. No one wanted extra proof about how bizarre 2020 has been, however throw it in the file anyway. The information of O’Brien being fired by the Texans was so stunning it occurred earlier than I may end writing my Week Four recap about Bill O’Brien trending closely towards the sizzling seat in Houston. Cal McNair acted shortly on this occasion: the Texans began the yr 0-4 and there was nobody in the constructing to truly fire Bill O’Brien, who had collected a lot energy for the Texans he was holding the title of head coach and basic supervisor. 

O’Brien’s tenure in Houston is totally wild if you begin to dig into the transactional choices and inner energy struggles the Texans confronted over the final half decade or so. Everything paints the image of a wildly dysfunctional group 

The Last Straw

In the finish, O’Brien most likely fired himself — in spite of everything, it was the roster development that created the points for Houston in 2020, with the Texans rating in the backside half of the league in each main offensive and defensive class. 

Things obtained so dangerous that, following an 0-Three begin — one fueled by an admittedly inconceivable schedule in opposition to Kansas City, Baltimore and Pittsburgh — in a matchup in opposition to the Vikings, a shell of Mike Zimmer’s usually stout protection, O’Brien stated he was taking extra possession on playcalling. 

The consequence was by far the most disappointing lack of the season, a 31-21 wilting in Minnesota that featured an embarrassingly gradual begin, highlighted by 16 internet yards on 12 complete performs throughout the group’s first three drives. Houston finally clawed again into the sport with an opportunity to tie issues late, nevertheless it was extra of a by-product of how the Vikings performed the sport (an entire lot of Dalvin Cook, making an attempt to ice the sport) than some concerted effort on Houston’s half to storm again. 

On the very first play of the sport, David Johnson had an opportunity to bounce the ball exterior with a gaping gap and room to run. Instead, he tried to burst via a tiny, shortly evaporating gap between the tackles. 

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If he ran the play that was referred to as, high quality. But one may definitely surprise why O’Brien retains feeding Johnson with runs up the center when his specialty over the course of his profession has been getting in house. Another play in the third quarter, with the Texans trailing 17-6, was equally perplexing. 

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Bounce this run exterior and DJ is choosing up at worst like 5 yards. Instead, he type of runs right into a clot of his personal offensive linemen. 

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Something is failing right here in the utility. O’Brien could have realized Johnson is not the identical participant — after getting greater than 80 p.c of the offensive snaps in Week 1, he was down to 55 percent against the Vikings. This notable, in fact, because Johnson was acquired in a shocking trade that despatched DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona this offseason (extra on that in a second).

The passing sport does not look any extra cohesive. Instead of catering to Watson’s strengths (get him on the transfer by design!), O’Brien appeared content material to run performs with minimal pass-catching choices. When the Vikings dropped their linebackers again into zone Watson was extraordinarily hesitant to pull the set off and as a substitute ended up operating for his life. 

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This is not on the safety. Watson had loads of time. It’s on the play-caller, the quarterback … or each? Watson was terrible early on this sport. He held the ball too lengthy (a foul trait of his) and his ball placement was abysmal, costing the Texans at the very least two first-down conversions. 

Credit Zimmer for the gameplan. Dropping his linebackers into zones brought about Watson to hesitate each to take off operating and to strive and power something into tight home windows early on. The Texans have been abysmal on third down all season, falling below 35 p.c for the yr (fourth-worst in the NFL) after changing simply 3-of-12 in opposition to the Vikings. 

This offense was torpid via 4 video games. Undoubtedly it contributed to O’Brien being fired this early into the season. Expect a reasonably extreme Dead Cat Bounce from the Texans in Week 5 in opposition to Jacksonville. When a coach is fired midseason, you oftentimes see the group play rather well the following week. 

Personnel Issues

But it wasn’t O’Brien’s teaching that obtained him fired. He gained a bunch of video games in Houston. If you probably did a Mt. Rushmore of the Texans, you would possibly even title O’Brien the Texans coach upon the fictional mountain. 

What obtained O’Brien fired was some unbelievably dangerous personnel choices. O’Brien has been managing personnel issues for the Texans over the final two years, give or take. He’s made some extraordinarily aggressive choices in the commerce market, giving up a number of first-round picks for Laremy Tunsil, buying and selling away Jadeveon Clowney whereas paying his wage and this offseason swapping out DeAndre Hopkins for David Johnson and then snagging Brandin Cooks from the Rams

O’Brien has allowed his frustration as a coach to bleed into decision-making as a basic supervisor. He lower Aaron Colvin after a single week in 2019, just one year removed from giving him a $34 million extension. The Clowney and Hopkins offers each felt private to a level; they needed more cash and O’Brien wasn’t in a position to separate the relationships. Tunsil — with out an agent — negotiated a contract with O’Brien that paid him greater than $5 million above the market worth for left tackles. 

The result’s a gaggle of skill-position guys that do not appear to mesh and an offensive method that is left Watson trying extra like a mean quarterback than one among the really elite guys of the NFL. O’Brien appears hell-bent on force-feeding Johnson, a once-dynamic participant for the Cardinals who seem to have misplaced his burst and is not see the area the approach he did throughout his prime in Arizona. 

Power Struggles

All of those choices since proper earlier than the 2019 NFL season change into extra fascinating when you think about the approach issues shook out in the entrance workplace in Houston. O’Brien was employed on New Year’s Eve of 2013. At the time, Rick Smith was the Texans GM — Smith had been in the position for a very long time already. The two co-existed for a number of years however there have been rumblings about battles occurring in the constructing. Following the 2017 season, Smith left to deal with his wife’s battle with cancer amid reviews O’Brien was prepared to make late owner Bob McNair choose between the coach and the GM shifting ahead.  

O’Brien ended up staying on, clearly, and in January of 2018, the Texans hired Brian Gaine to be the group’s next basic supervisor. That did not final what you’ll name lengthy — Gaine was fired in June of 2019 regardless of signing a contract that ran via 2022.  Worth noting: in between Gaine’s hiring and firing, Bob McNair handed away, leaving his son Cal McNair to fill the void as Chairman and CEO of the Texans

The youthful McNair issued the assertion firing Gaine and at the time buzz constructed that Patriots exec Nick Caserio may very well be a candidate to take the GM position. There was also mention about Jack Easterby, the former Patriots chaplain, having critical affect on who can be the next basic supervisor. After a very public and very ugly situation involving Caserio emerged — with the Pats threatening to file tampering charges in opposition to the Texans — the Texans finally determined to function in 2019 *with out a GM* operating the group. 

Eventually, Houston would announce this offseason the promotion of O’Brien to basic supervisor and the promotion of Easterby to VP of Football Operations. That is the duo, ostensibly, that engineered the commerce of Hopkins, the over-market Tunsil signing, the commerce for Brandin Cooks and every little thing else that led to the present Texans’ scenario. 

The relationship between Easterby and O’Brien over the previous few months can be fascinating to hear spill out. O’Brien is gone. Easterby has been charged with rebuilding the Texans group. 

What’s Next?

Romeo Crennel was named interim head coach by the Texans. He’s been on this place earlier than, having taken over for Todd Haley in Kansas City earlier than being given the head job for the 2012 season. Easterby, for what it is value, was with the Chiefs then as well

There’s no telling how the Texans deal with these pair of hires. There is a GM void and a head teaching void and most teaching candidates will not be obtainable for a number of months. Would the Texans be prepared to rent a GM in-season and then strive to shoehorn in a training candidate when issues shake out after the 2020 season? Is somebody going to go away their job to take the GM place in the center of a season in the center of a pandemic? 

It can be borderline inconceivable to rent a training candidate now. Crennel will virtually definitely get the full season to function interim coach and then a rent can be made in the offseason. Any teaching candidates at present unemployed can be eligible for interviews, however in any other case, the Texans are merely in wait-and-see mode till the common season — faculty or professional — is over. 

Is this a superb job to take?

Yes and no. It is a superb job as a result of there is a franchise quarterback in place, below contract for a very long time. Watson hasn’t performed nicely this season, however you deliver an offensive thoughts in right here to maximize Watson’s strengths, and the Texans may take off on that aspect of the ball. 

It would take rather a lot to nullify the presence of Watson, however O’Brien and Easterby managed to do exactly that! There is not a primary or second-round choose for next yr. If the Texans are horrible this season, that may very well be a top-five choose. Losing a top-five choose on Day 1 and 2 is not good. No one wants a soccer background or high-end analytics to determine that out. 

Currently, the Texans are spending over $250 million in money to trot this particular roster out on the area. Also not good! 

The roster is gifted, however it is usually made up of “stars and scrubs,” to borrow a time period from fantasy baseball. Some of the stars are even scrubs at this level. Watson, Tunsil, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks (perhaps), David Johnson (maaaaybe), J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Zach Cunningham and a number of different former high picks from different groups in the secondary. 

Watt is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and can nonetheless play at a excessive degree, however he isn’t in his prime anymore. Cooks is on his fourth group. Fuller is a particular expertise however he is harm inclined. You’re not including a blue-chip prospect to this roster in your first season. 

It’s a superb job with a doubtlessly nice quarterback, some questionable wage cap scenario,s and an, ahem, in-flux scenario in the entrance workplace. 

Possible Candidates

Josh McDaniels: The most blatant candidate given Easterby’s ties to New England. McDaniels bolted the Pats for the Colts gig two offseasons in the past however in the end balked and returned dwelling. There was a perception he’d deliver Easterby with him to Indy when he went. With Tom Brady gone and the future definitely up in the air in New England at the quarterback place, would McDaniels entertain a chance to make a leap to a brand new touchdown spot with a franchise QB in place? By all accounts, he’s an enormous fan of Watson. The Caserio scenario may very well be a little bit tough right here, nonetheless, given the earlier method of the Pats entrance workplace man. 

Eric Bieniemy: The Chiefs offensive coordinator ought to be on each single teaching record you see from now till the finish of the season. As Damien Williams informed us on the Fantasy Football Today Twitch stream on Sunday, he is an extremely sensible man with an ideal pedigree and he is coming from the Andy Reid teaching tree. The connection is not precisely robust with Easterby and the Texans, however perhaps that does not matter. He’s an impressive offensive thoughts. 

Dabo Swinney: HELLO. Swinney is seemingly additionally shut with Easterby — how the connection was established I’m undecided, however undoubtedly it was solely strengthened over the final two years with Easterby working carefully with Swinney’s previous quarterback Watson. Would the Clemson coach bounce for the NFL? He will doubtless lose Trevor Lawrence after this season and perhaps he desires to take a shot at the skilled degree (after doubtlessly strolling off with one other title). Swinney referred to as Deshaun a “Michael Jordan” sort and you do not get many probabilities to work with a former quarterback who gained you a nationwide title in his prime at the next degree. Plenty of individuals will query if Swinney may be an NFL coach given his energetic fashion however loads of folks questioned whether or not Swinney ought to be the next coach at Clemson. That did not work out nicely for the doubters. Worst case it finally ends up like Nick Saban in Miami and Swinney can go substitute Saban after he retires from Swinney’s alma mater! 

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