O’Brien, colleagues and ownership will asses these years as a golden chance squandered but much of the downfall was self created.
As the Texans announced Bill O’Brien’s departure, his team losing their four opening games of 2020, there was a tangible sense of relief. As what seemed an inevitable decision, arrived earlier than most had expected. Rumours of player disconnect swirled, after much of the regime had been littered with a patented resiliency but this season seemed different. No longer could the myriad of off-field decisions continue to be masked.
A popular hire, when appointed in 2014, O’Brien credibly steered his litany of quarterbacks to respectable outcomes. Although by his own admission didn’t care for the talents of Brock Osweiler, he managed to reach an admirable play-off defeat to the Patriots. Though his team was lead by a staunch defensive unit, they were “just a quarterback away”.
Entering 2017, for a second consecutive year, O’Brien benched his Quarterback amidst the season opener. Cue the emergence of the missing piece, as Deshaun Watson’s electrifying run shattered records, to only to tear his ACL and miss the remainder of the season. That promise was enough to earn O’Brien an extension which coincided with the hiring of Brian Gaine as his chosen GM pairing, after Brian Ghutenkunst, turned them down returning to Green Bay.
Unbeknown at the time, the conclusion of the 2018 season formed the outset of the Texans unravel, from a potential contender to their current state. The primary failing being their inability to take advantage of Watson’s rookie contract. This combined with O’Brien ridged approach to play calling which lead to much inconsistency and Watson not realising his full potential.
The later years will be remember for Bill shouldering additional responsibility and his team’s talent eroding as result. Personified by heavy handed trades, the team continued to buy high, sell low as the defensive talent was drained at the expense of investing in an offensive scheme that underwhelmed.
Now lies the pivotal task of cleaning house, namely the removal of Jack Easterby being equally essential as nailing the next General Manger hire. If Houston are to realise there current chance of re-defining their franchise, it essential that it’s achieved independently of their past. This team requires a GM of pedigree, qualified to evaluate personnel whilst and building a winning culture. And will ultimately have to be resourceful in order to maintain competitiveness, considering cap and draft picks expended.
The biggest organisational mistake of the the O’Brien hire was not aligning it with a new GM, which generated continual rift that distractions. Similarly, the ownership should question whether an intervention should have occurred last season, post the Chiefs play offs defeat, not allowing the trade of DeAndre Hopkins. Equally, allowing the unsuccessful acquisition of Nick Caserio to deter their search from and filling that position, was also a turning point that could have altered much that transpired.
Ownership, O’Brien and the many who have fallen foul of the decisions, that were made with the best interest of the team, should all take their share of blame. The attention will turn to the potential candidates and the plethora of young offensive minds and personnel executives who will be vying for these coveted role with a franchise passer already in house.
The team owe it to Watson to get these hires right, positioning this team to be successful and allowing him to realise his potential, that’s continually been hemmed in. This franchise has spurned the respective primes of both Deandre Johnson and JJ Watt, adding Deshaun to that list would be the gravest error of them all.