An open apology (sort of) to Texans coach Bill O'Brien
Editor's note: This post contains something called "sarcasm." Some of you are not familiar with that term, so here is the definition. Technically, the editor is also the writer, so maybe this is really a writer's note. Or just a note. Regardless, you have been warned.
No one has been harder on Texans coach Bill O'Brien than me. After all, for six years, we have seen shaky play calling, poor game plans, mediocre coaching, bad challenges and terrible clock management. It never changes.
Let's not even get started on his say nothing press conferences. Yes, we get it, you have to "coach better, play better."
His surly, arrogant, bully attitude. His power mad climb to the top of the organization. His stubborn refusal to add coaches from outside his sphere of influence to try new ideas. His inability to learn from his mistakes. His apparent wasting of Deshaun Watson.
Today, we apologize for bringing all these things up.
And yes, we apologize for saying O'Brien is Andy Reid's "sex robot." Because over the last two weeks, it has been hard to find fault with O'Brien. Maybe - finally - he is learning from his mistakes?
It's one thing to run up yards on a bad Falcons team. It's another to go into Kansas City and take down Reid and the Chiefs.
And make no mistake, O'Brien outcoached Reid on Sunday. His offense was lively and operated at a good pace. His team ran the ball effectively, keeping the Chiefs off the field. He did not panic when the Texans got down 17-3 and stuck with his game plan.
He even made a good challenge right off the bat on what was obvious offensive pass interference. No, it was not overturned, but he quickly got a makeup call out of it. Apparently, no pass interference call is ever going to be overturned, because this one was obvious.
The Texans have so many likable players, but they are hard to root for because of O'Brien's many failings.
But now The Texans are 4-2, with good road wins over San Diego and Kansas City, a close loss in New Orleans against perhaps the best team in the NFC when Drew Brees is healthy, and a rough loss to a Carolina team that has turned out to be pretty good.
There is still much to prove. A trip to Indy looms, and the Colts had the Texans number last season. But there are reasons for optimism.
The offense has gone to quicker passes, misdirection and has utilized Watson much better over the past two weeks. The result has been a 50-plus point output (six from the defense) and a 31-point effort. The Texans also left points on the field against the Chiefs, throwing an ill advised pick in the end zone and getting yet another missed field goal from the suddenly shaky Ka'imi Fairbairn.
They kept KC off the field with long drives and an effective running game, putting pressure on Patrick Mahomes to be flawless. He wasn't.
The defense, well rested, came up with two big turnovers, pressured Mahomes and did its job. O'Brien and Romeo Crennel tweaked the secondary, and the result was Mahomes having his lowest passing output of the season, even when top CB Bradley Roby went out with an injury.
O'Brien even showed guts going for it up 31-24 on fourth and three instead of letting his struggling kicker try to put the game out of reach. It worked and game over. Whether it had worked or not, it was the right call.
In short, O'Brien has made changes. And they are working. The new offense has gone two games without allowing a sack. Watson is performing at a high level. Coaching is a simple thing - put your players in the best positions to succeed. O'Brien is suddenly doing that.
Of course, things can always revert. The Texans followed up a good win in LA with a brutal performance against the Panthers. But since then, they have looked like a different team.
And O'Brien has looked like a different coach. After six years, has he finally learned to be a coach that can take the Texans to the next level? Realistically, probably not. A six-year sample size doesn't change in two weeks. Then again, maybe he has suddenly transformed into the coach he has emulated for so long - Bill Belichick.*
Still, if you are going to be critical, you should be fair and give credit where it is due. So here it is.
Now, about how Frank Reich and the Colts made you look last season in two of the three meetings...