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Bill O’Brien Had All The Control And No More Excuses

Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien talks with quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Texans have fired head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien, one day after the team dropped to 0-4 and a few hours after he, the person in complete control of all aspects of the team, pretended like job security was out of his hands.

O’Brien is the first NFL coach to be fired this season, somehow beating out Adam Gase and Matt Patricia for the honor. Assistant head coach Romeo Crennel will take over in the interim.

The Texans had looked flat in Sunday’s 31-23 loss to the previously winless Minnesota Vikings. Via ESPN’s Sarah Barshop, at a call earlier today O’Brien was asked about his job status, given that he built the roster that he is also coaching. He said he tried not to think about it because he didn’t “have any control” over the decision. Well, now he really doesn’t.

Houston had a tough schedule full of AFC contenders to start the season, facing the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers. The strength of schedule might have given O’Brien a bit of a pass, but losing to all three before a defeat to the lowly Vikings erased any benefit of the doubt. Not only was he failing as a head coach, but as a GM, too.

O’Brien had functionally been general manager since Brian Gaine was fired in June 2019, but he was officially appointed his own boss in January of this year. In August 2019, he traded two first-round picks, a second-round pick, and two players to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, receiver Kenny Stills, and a couple of late-round picks. This past March, he traded star receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a second-rounder, and a 2021 fourth-rounder. To compensate for trading away one of the top WRs in the NFL—along with a fourth-round draft pick; that part still baffles me—O’Brien traded a second-rounder for Brandin Cooks, a receiver who is not nearly as good as Hopkins, and gave a three-year deal with $18 million guaranteed to Randall Cobb, yet another receiver who is nowhere near the talent of Hopkins. During his time in Houston, O’Brien simply loved to make trades that never benefited the team in any significant way.

The Texans still have talented players. Hell, they would’ve made it to the AFC title game last season had they not blown a 24-0 lead to the Chiefs and lost 51-31. (Yes, that does seem ridiculous when you type it out.) Still, they’re now ready to reorganize the front office and coaching staff.

O’Brien might be gone, but the effect of his decisions might last for a while. One of his biggest issues was a belief that he could get around paying Houston’s skilled players by getting rid of them and bringing in worse but somehow more expensive versions of them. The Texans currently have the highest payroll in the NFL at $248 million. Whether you think they can unfuck this mess depends on whether Jack Easterby, executive VP of football operations and the New England Patriots’ former “character coach,” is a person who can find a proper GM, pick a capable head coach, and delegate power effectively. Good luck, Deshaun Watson!