Falcon Points

Bill O'Brien keeps adding to his power, and the Texans are not likely to be better for it

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

In the wake of the Texans ugly loss to Kansas City, changes needed to be made. Head coach/GM/offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien needed to add some new voices. But did anyone really expect that to happen?

Instead, O'Brien began making moves to consolidate his power and help prevent anyone from questioning him.

Will the moves make the Texans better? Maybe, but based on O'Brien's history, they probably won't.


The departed

Romeo Crennel: The veteran defensive coordinator's contract was not renewed, which was hardly a surprise. Crennel seemed lost at times. Whether or not that was a lack of talent or the game had passed him by, it was time for a new voice. A veteran DC with a track record of success would have been a good step. More on that in a minute.

Chris Olsen: A behind-the-scenes, longtime member of the front office, Olsen had been with the Texans for 13 years and was roundly praised for his work on contracts and the salary cap. He also apparently had the "interim" general manager tag. His firing basically gives O'Brien yet more control over the front office.

John Pagano: The linebackers coach had experience as a defensive coordinator in the past. The linebackers were not the problem with the defense. More likely it is yet another spot where O'Brien wants his guys.

Rest assured, more moves will be coming. If they are anything like these, it will be to get more O'Brien puppets in the dope show.

The new DC

Anthony Weaver has been the Texans defensive line coach. He is highly regarded and he might do a good job. But he has no experience. O'Brien's past coordinator hires - with the exception of Crennel - have been abject failures. Even Mike Vrabel was a poor DC who went on to be a quality head coach. At some point, you have to give young, talented coaches a chance, and there is nothing wrong with that. But a veteran with a track record of success would have been a smart move. It might work out, but does anyone believe it will?

Past performance

As bad as the defense was, the other side of the ball has not been good enough, either. And that has been O'Brien's baby.

In his six years as head coach, the Texans offense has never been in the top ten in points or yards. The closest he came was 11th in points in 2018. Even with Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, the offense has been slightly better than league average at best. Yet he refuses to add new blood with new ideas. Why not tap into the KC pipeline? Or the Saints? Or anyone with a track record of success?

That would be admitting he is not doing a good enough job. Yet despite his track record of mediocrity, O'Brien has added more power each year. And here he goes again.

O'Brien the GM

He has had mixed results in the role. He paid a lot for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, but they were good pickups. However, if he can't re-sign Tunsil, the trade will be an abject failure. He also added Duke Johnson and Gareon Conley for third-round picks. Both were solid additions, and with the way the Texans draft in the third round, you could call those wins. The Carlos Hyde for Martinas Rankin deal was a win, picking up a 1,000-yard back for another failed third rounder.

But he overpaid on contracts for Nick Martin and Whitney Mercilus, two more of "his guys" who did not perform to the contracts they were given. Now, with Tunsil's extension looming, plus Watson's, a need to pay D.J. Reader plus Hyde and Bradley Roby hitting free agency, he dismisses his best cap guy?

Face of the franchise

O'Brien has made himself the be-all and end-all. His need to control the entire organization has led to poor decisions on the field. He has been an average offensive coordinator, a slightly above average head coach, and the jury is still out as a GM. But he has done nothing to show he can manage all three jobs effectively. Like it or not, he is now in control of everything. From his perspective, it means no more excuses. And by now, you have to wonder why adding more on his plate is warranted.

Future looks...mediocre

It really is a shame that a team with so many likable, easy to root for guys has chosen to make O'Brien the centerpiece of everything. Watson, Hopkins and J.J. Watt should be the centerpieces. Instead it is O'Brien who is the main man.

After six years, we know what he is. The team has reached its high point under O'Brien, and there is no reason to think things will be different moving forward. All Texans fan can hope for is that giving him more power takes them to another level. That has not worked for six years, so that's a hard sell.

But it is all that is left. O'Brien and his band of yes men taking even more control. Maybe it will work.

It sure hasn't so far.

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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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