The only alignment needed is with O'Brien's demands, and ego

Brian Gaine isn't the only person Bill O'Brien is running out of town

It was a usual, uneventful early June Friday when the news broke about 4:15pm that the Texans had fired General Manager Brian Gaine just a year and a half into a 5 year deal that the team told us at the time would usher in an era of alignment between coach and GM.

In fact, these were the very words of the late Bob McNair, "Our committee was unanimous in praise for Brian Gaine and we are all aligned in our philosophy on how to continue to build our roster and win a championship. Brian is an incredibly smart, hardworking individual that understands the importance of good communication. We couldn't be more excited about naming him our new general manager."

Gaine and O'Brien had a history of working well together when Gaine was running player personnel for the Texans from 2014-16, and O'Brien stumped for his friend to get the job. Gaine was O'Brien's guy, and together they would build the Texans into the log desired Super Bowl Champion the team and city wants.

That was January 2018.

Fast forward 18 months and D. Cal McNair, now Chairman & CEO of the team, has a different story to tell. While the statement reads of saying nice things about Brian Gaine ("man of high character") there is no denying the obvious in this situation.

Bill O'Brien fired Brian Gaine.

Cal can release the statement and take the hits for what is, as he admitted, highly unusual timing, but the bottom line is Bill O'Brien is the straw that stirs the drink with the Texans, and he and his buddy Gaine were no longer buddies.

There have been reports of "erosion" in the relationship between O'Brien and Gaine, how they weren't seeing eye-to-eye, and how this was the manifestation of many events over a period of time and not one particular flashpoint that happened just Friday.

The relationship between the former friends had definitely soured, and the team was willing to eat 3.5 years of contract to appease O'Brien's ego in the matter.

One of the points of contention, according to sources, is the team's inability to land a significant free agent on the offensive line. O'Brien is said to have really liked former Patriots OT Trent Brown, but the team failed to acquire his services. It comes a year after the team failed to sign another former Patriots OT, Nate Solder, who decided he did not want to reunite with O'Brien despite far lower taxes in Texas than in NYC/North Jersey and world class cancer hospitals for his son right down the road from NRG Stadium.

While one move alone wouldn't damn a team to being a raging dumpster fire of an organization, some still look at the Texans odd firing of Gaine and compare it to the New York Jets firing their GM. The Jets have long been a franchise run like a rudderless ship, and the comparisons to the Jets came in fast and furious. It's not fair to call the Texans the same as the Jets based on one move.

However, if we peel the onion back a bit, we may see things are closer to the jets than you may have thought.

Start with the purging of all their top scouts.

You remember, right after the draft last year, the Texans fired assistant GM Jimmy Raye III (the man hired to replace Gaine when he was fired by Rick Smith). They also fired their director of college scouting Jon Carr, assistant director of college scouting Mike Martin (the man credited with finding Arian Foster & AJ Bouye), college scouting director Matt Jansen, and college scout Seth Turner. Carr and Martin had been with the team over a decade. The Texans trusted them to run the draft and then fired them.

After the draft this year, they fired Frantzy Jourdain, who had been a national scout for the team after serving as a Southeast area scout.

So the team fired a bunch of top scouts, and then fired the GM. That doesn't sound like a recipe for success, does it? Maybe the comparisons to the Jets have merit after all.

Let's make matters worse, shall we?

There have been several sources that have indicated to me that many players on the team do not like Bill O'Brien. Two sources even used the term "hate."

That's when this little nugget got dropped on me:

"Bill O'Brien is running Clowney out of town."

At the end of March, O'Brien said "I really have a great fondness for Jadeveon Clowney," at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix. However, that may not be the real case.

According to several sources, O'Brien is not a fan of Clowney's approach to the game, and feels that Clowney didn't work hard enough last season in returning from surgery. I guess we know for sure where the comments about Clowney not being "the worker bee" some of his defensive teammates (JJ Watt) are came from.

You may also recall the comments from O'Brien in Clowney's rookie season on how JD needed to learn to play with pain, and the team questioned his desire to play in regards to a knee injury he suffered Week 1. He then returned to the team only to make the knee injury significantly worse, and need microfracture surgery. Clowney then returned to the field the following year from microfracture surgery faster than any player in the history of the league. Maybe the accounting of his lack of work ethic is overstated?

The disdain that O'Brien has for Clowney has apparently been simmering for years, and Clowney is wise to it. As a result, Clowney will not give the Texans the contractual discount they are asking of him. He wants to get paid full market rate, and O'Brien isn't happy about it.

It's also why the Texans shopped Clowney this offseason. Sources said if the Texans could have gotten a "Khalil Mack type of deal" for Clowney, they would have pulled the trigger in a heartbeat.

Instead, Clowney waits on the franchise tag without real negotiations going on (the intended point of the franchise tag was to foster ongoing negotiations, not be a tool that forces one year deals) and is holding out as a result.

All of that leaves Houston with a team without a true General Manager, a Head Coach in charge who allegedly isn't liked by many players, a void in scouting, a top player being left to twist in the wind contractually, and an offensive line that is in flux, at best.

One of the biggest failures of O'Brien's tenure is that he hasn't developed any young offensive linemen. The team is now trusting him to develop a bunch of young offensive linemen, they don't have a highly productive veteran on the line, and they don't have a real GM anymore to handle potentially trading for one (Trent Williams).

JJ Watt's Hall of Fame career is about to enter his ninth season at age 30, with two major injuries in his recent past, DeAndre Hopkins is entering his seventh season firmly established as one of the elite WRs in the game, and we are looking at a team that could be wasting both of their careers.

Deshaun Watson was sacked a league high 62 times last season (that's the fifth highest total ALL TIME) and we have no idea if the line will be any better this season.

There are a ton of things we don't know about the Texans heading into this year, but one huge thing we do know:

Bill O'Brien, who is four games over .500 in his five years in Houston and has one playoff win (against a team that was forced to start its third string rookie QB due to injuries), the same man who threatened to leave the team seemingly every year to try to win a power struggle with former GM Rick Smith, is going to hire another GM because Cal McNair has deemed Bill O'Brien the man in charge, for better or for worse.

Forgive me if all the indicators seem to say worse.

Patrick Creighton is the host of "Late Hits" weeknights 7-9p on ESPN 97.5 Houston. Follow him on Twitter: @PCreighton1

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

A curious thing might be happening with the Texans. This year's third round pick, Kahale Warring, has barely played in camp due to injuries and is in danger of being stashed on IR for the season. One of last year's third round picks, Martinas Rankin, may be in danger of not making the roster. The 2017 third rounder D'Onta Foreman was cut earlier in camp. While historically the Texans have been terrible picking in the third round, just taking a look at the Bill O'Brien years makes for some surprising results.

Keep in mind that these numbers are very fluid. Everyone has different criteria for what makes a hit or a miss. But let's dive in and see how the Texans have done.

By the numbers

First, let's take a look at the historical success rate by position of third round picks in the NFL. "Success rate" means the player became a functional NFL starter, which you would expect from most players selected in the third round.

The numbers:

3rd Round - OL (40%) TE (39%) LB (34%) DL (27%) WR (25%) DB (24%) QB (17%) RB (16%)

(Source: Arrowheadsports.com)

Now the Texans

Bill O'Brien has been around since the 2014 draft, so that is where we will focus. Let's look at the third round picks:

2014: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Louis Nix DT. Nix was a complete bust; C.J. developed into a decent tight end before concussions prematurely ended his career. Still, you could reluctantly call him a hit. Nix is a clear miss.

2015: Jalen Strong, WR. Complete miss.

2016: Braxton Miller, WR. He at least saw some action on the field before being cut but another big miss.

2017: D'Onta Foreman, RB. Cut in camp this year, so another complete whiff.

2018: Justin Reid, S, Martinas Rankin, OL, Jordan Akins, TE.

Reid has all the ear markings of a perennial Pro Bowler. Akins has emerged as a decent threat in a crowded tight end room. Rankin, as mentioned earlier, might not make the team. So two hits and for now Rankin is a miss. We won't look at 2019 yet, but the Warring pick - questionable at the time - could easily be another clunker, but we may not know until next year. What happens to those two over the next few years will help add clarity to these numbers.

Is it as bad as it looks?

So overall, with nine third-round picks in the O'Brien era, the Texans have three hits, five misses (if you count Rankin) and an incomplete.

The positives? They are batting 1.000 on tight ends (pending Warring) and safety. They are zero percent on OL, RB and WR.

The overall hit rate is .375. In a given year, NFL starters from the second and third round combined make up roughly 30 percent of the league. Even if you count Fiedorowicz as a bust, they are still at almost 29 percent out of the third round, which would be above the league average, according to a Forbes study from the 2014 season. While that number varies year to year, it is likely no more than a few percentage points. So about average.

Throw in the second round picks, where Bernardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham and Nick Martin have all become starters with one glaring bust - Xavier Sua'Filo - and they are hitting at 75 percent in the second round, 66 percent overall in rounds 2-3. Now you could argue Martin is not a good player, but he has been a starter pretty much since Day 1. Even taking him out, that is still 55 percent. Again, the bust is glaring in Sua'Filo, which makes it look a lot worse.

The good news

The narrative is the Texans tend to nail their first round picks. According to the Riot Report, first rounders only hit at a 53 percent rate for a player to become a consistent starter over five years.

Again, looking at the O'Brien era only, the top picks have been Jadeveon Clowney, Will Fuller, Kevin Johnson, Deshaun Watson and Titus Howard. Eliminating Howard since it is too early, Clowney and Watson are clear hits; Fuller is a good player who can never stay healthy. If he does, he could be a key contributor but that remains to be seen. Still, he is an NFL starter so give him a hit, even if it is incomplete. Johnson was a disaster and is gone. If you give them Fuller, that is still 75 percent, well above the league average. If you don't count Fuller, they are right at the league average, slightly below. Again, all of this is specific to the O'Brien era.

What does it all mean?

The third round misses have been high profile, colossal mistakes, which makes it look worse. Foreman was supposed to develop into a home run threat on offense. Miller was a high profile project. The team traded up to get Strong. Nix never made it to the field. But overall, the results are about on par with the rest of the league, even above average. Those were not the results I expected when I started this article. But there is also no way to quantify players who hung around and contributed but were never really "hits" or "misses." The Texans misses were clear, as they are no longer on the roster.

Which brings us to Duke Johnson

While many have been critical of the Texans for giving up a third to get Duke Johnson, it makes a lot of sense. You are getting a proven NFL player with starting capabilities for a pick that hits less than 30 percent of the time. While building through the draft is important, it also goes to show that most teams and fans greatly overvalue draft picks. And most picks are like buying new cars - the value goes down as soon as you get them off the lot. Johnson should provide a much surer thing than a third-rounder.

The bottom line

As with most things, when it comes to drafting, the Texans are about average. The third round busts look bad relative to expectations, but overall the number of hits is about where the league is. They probably aren't as good in the first round as the perception. Obviously good teams do better than than average, bad ones do much worse, but as with most things, the Texans aren't bad at drafting high-round picks.

They are just mediocre, a staple of the organization since its inception.

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