The Houston Texans are officially out of the Super Bowl hunt following their latest playoff loss. After jumping out to a 24-0 first-quarter lead, Houston allowed 41 unanswered points and the Kansas City Chiefs ended up winning 51-31. While he wasn’t responsible for every part of the collapse, head coach Bill O’Brien had a terrible day calling the shots for Houston. Between bad play calls, questionable scheme decisions, and suboptimal in-game strategies, O’Brien didn’t give his team a chance to go blow-for-blow with the red-hot Kansas City offense.
With six years in the books, Houston Texans’ fans are starting to get tired of the same old thing with O’Brien. John McClain of The Houston Chronicle reported that O’Brien will not be fired following Sunday’s loss, but has he earned this job security? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of bringing back Bill O’Brien for another run.
Should the Houston Texans Move On From Bill O’Brien?
Why He Should Stay
Bill O’Brien may not be the best coach in the league, but he’s far from the worst. O’Brien has won at least nine games in five of his six seasons in Houston, which is no easy task for any coach. The lone season where he failed to reach that threshold came in 2017 when Deshaun Watson tore his ACL after seven games. Say what you will about O’Brien, but nobody in the league can consistently win games with Tom Savage and T.J. Yates under center.
Watson obviously covers up a lot of O’Brien’s flaws, but the former New England offensive coordinator has had success without Watson. Prior to 2017, O’Brien managed to go 28-21 with the likes of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Brock Osweiler under center. He made it to the playoffs twice in his first three seasons and even managed to win a playoff game with Brock Osweiler.
O’Brien isn’t perfect, but he’s able to keep the team competitive on an annual basis. However, sometimes that isn’t enough. The Dallas Cowboys talked themselves into a decade of Jason Garrett based on this pseudo-competitive nature. The question now becomes: is Bill O’Brien good enough to lead this team to a championship?
Why He Should Go
Deshaun Watson is one of the better young quarterbacks in the league and is capable of covering up some coaching issues. O’Brien isn’t great at scheming open throws, which forces Watson to essentially play hero ball for 60 minutes every game. This style of play forces Watson to operate at an extremely high level in order for the offense to function. When he has a bad game, the Texans stand no chance at victory.
Bill O’Brien isn’t solely responsible for Watson’s wild style of play or his tendency to hold onto the ball. However, O’Brien’s unfavorable play calls force Watson to try to do too much. In many ways, this is similar to what Andrew Luck went through with Chuck Pagano. Once Frank Reich and his quarterback-friendly system came to town, Luck had arguably the best season of his career in 2018. Theoretically, Watson could see a similar boost in production with a friendlier scheme.
As things currently stand, Bill O’Brien has full and complete control over the roster. Based on his one year of control, O’Brien does not deserve this power. In 2019 alone, O’Brien traded Jadeveon Clowney for pennies on the dollar, sent away a third-round pick for Duke Johnson, and traded just about everything for Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil made the team better in the short-term, but the long-term ramifications from this trade are going to cause more harm than good.
The Verdict on Bill O’Brien
Bill O’Brien is the Andy Dalton of NFL head coaches. He’s not good enough to elevate a bad team to a championship, but he’s good enough to get the job done if everything else is in place. You certainly hope for better than O’Brien, but you can do a whole lot worse.
The first order of business for Houston should be finding an actual general manager. O’Brien proved that he shouldn’t carry that responsibility into 2020, and someone like Nick Caserio could be a solid hire. It won’t be easy for Houston to build a team with so few draft picks, so they’ll need a legitimate talent evaluator to lead the way for the next few seasons.
Ultimately, Houston went too far in the playoffs to get a new coach for 2020. All of the head coaching vacancies are already filled, and the best candidates are officially off the market. The best head coaching candidate available is probably Josh McDaniels, and that feels like a lateral move.
The best course of action for the Texans is to enter 2020 with Bill O’Brien as the head coach. If the season goes off the rails, or if O’Brien shows no noticeable signs of growth, then it’s time to look for a replacement.
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