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