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Should Houston Texans’ slow start have Bill O’Brien on the hot seat?

Vincent Frank
Texans head coach Bill O'Brien during game against Chiefs
Jan 12, 2020; Kansas City, MO, USA; Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien during the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in a AFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

General manager Bill O’Brien meet head coach Bill O’Brien. That’s the situation this former star assistant with the New England Patriots finds himself in as his team lost a second consecutive game to open the 2020 NFL regular season.

Houston’s ugly 33-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday followed an equally poor showing in its season-opening 34-20 defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Handed the general manager title during the offseason, O’Brien’s first plan of action was to trade DeAndre Hopkins for pennies on the dollar. He then signed left tackle Laremy Tunsil to a record-breaking contract before rightfully extending Deshaun Watson.

The backdrop here is a Texans squad that faded in the AFC Playoffs against the Chiefs last season and has now taken a further step back. Should this mean that O’Brien is on the hot seat? I will answer that below.

Bill O’Brien’s contract

  • Houston did not extend O’Brien when the team named him general manager this past offseason. Though, his contract does take the former Penn State head coach through the 2022 season.
  • The Texans would have to pay O’Brien for the remainder of the 2020 campaign and all of the 2021 and 2022 seasons if they were to fire him. It’s not without precedent, but would take a major financial commitment from Houston’s new owner Janice McNair after her husband, Bob, passed away last November.

Bill O’Brien the general manager

  • Rightfully, BOB received a lot of flack for dealing away one of the best receivers in the NFL in that of DeAndre Hopkins this past spring. Apparently, there was a rift between the All-Pro and head coach.
  • The criticism was what Houston received in return for Hopkins. That included injury-plagued running back David Johnson, a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and a swap of mid rounders.
  • Houston then turned around and dealt its original second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to the Los Angeles Rams for Brandin Cooks. Acting as Hopkins’ “replacement,” Cooks has recorded seven catches in two games.
  • The other backdrop here was O’Brien’s decision to hand left tackle Laremy Tunsil a record-breaking contract that pays him a whopping $22 million annually. Since signing the deal, the Tunsil-led Texans offensive line has allowed 21 quarterback hits and eight sacks of recently-extended franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson in two games.

Bill O’Brien the head coach

  • Houston held a 24-0 lead over the Kansas City Chiefs early in the second quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoffs last season, only to fall by the score of 51-31. It was a downright atrocious performance from Bill O’Brien’s squad. It also had some calling for his head on a platter.
  • Since taking that three-score lead, the Texans have now yielded a whopping 118 points in 10 quarters of football. That’s with future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt leading their defense.
  • Now at 0-2 on the season, Houston is looking more like a last-place team than a top competitor with the Tennessee Titans in a vastly improved AFC South. That’s on O’Brien as much as anyone else.

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Bottom line: Bill O’Brien does not deserve the benefit of the doubt

It’s rather simple. O’Brien was a hot head-coaching commodity leading up to the 2014 season after some success with Penn State. He ultimately led Houston to a 9-7 record in each of his first three seasons before erratic performances as of late.

  • 2017: 4-12 record, third-place finish
  • 2018: 11-5 record, lost wild card to Indianapolis Colts
  • 2019: 10-6 record, lost divisional playoffs to Kansas City Chiefs

All said, O’Brien has posted a mediocre 52-46 record in six-plus seasons as Houston’s head coach. That includes a disastrous 2-4 mark in the playoffs.

Whether it was a rift with former general manager Brian Gaine or a power play from O’Brien, the decision to fire Gaine back in June of 2019 also caught a lot of people by surprise. In the time since, O’Brien has not proven himself to be qualified as a general manager.

From a coaching standpoint, he now seems to be in over his head. All of this leads me to believe the Texans should bite the bullet and move on from this experiment. If nothing else, to save Dashaun Watson from Bill O’Brien.