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

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The Astros are World Series champions again! Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

Finally, the Commissioner’s Trophy has come back to Houston.

It seems like eons ago since the ending of the 2017 season when Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager grounded a ball to right straight to Jose Altuve, who scooped it up and sent it to Yuli Gurriel for the final out and clinched the franchise’s first championship.

Inside a capacity crowd at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, the Houston Astros made history once again. This time it was a fly out to right field towards foul territory, and it was Kyle Tucker, who caught the ball that clinched the Commissioner’s Trophy for the 2022 Astros.

Houston defeated Philadelphia 4-1 in Game Six, and it won the series 4-2. The Astros are once again the undisputed best team in all of Major League Baseball. Dusty Baker finally got his first World Series trophy as a manager, and shortstop Jeremy Peña was named the World Series MVP to cap off his incredible rookie season.

Game Six did not come without some anxiety. Like it was throughout the entire postseason, the game took Houston supporters through a roller coaster of emotions. Both starting pitchers in Framber Valdez for the Astros and Zack Wheeler for the Phillies went into the sixth inning having pitched a shutout.

At the top of the sixth, it was Philadelphia left fielder Kyle Schwarber, who erased the goose egg on the board for the Phillies with a solo home run. The brief lead for the Phillies made the heart of Astros fans begin to pound a little faster with the memory of the 2019 World Series not too far behind, but that feeling of dread was erased almost instantly in the bottom of the sixth inning.

First it was catcher Martin Maldonado that got on base after he was hit by a pitch. Second baseman Jose Altuve forced the Phillies to get Maldonado out on a ground ball, but he managed to beat out the throw at first to avoid disaster.

Then the rookie sensation, Peña, delivered a single into the outfield that sent Altuve to third and set the stage for Yordan Alvarez.

On a 2-1 count with Phillies reliever Seranthony Domínguez seeking to keep the Astros at bay, Alvarez swung his bat and connected to launch the ball over center field. Just like that, the Astros led 3-1, and Minute Maid Park became a madhouse.

Alex Bregman followed by drawing a walk, and after Kyle Tucker struck out, it was Christian Vázquez that brought Bregman home with a sharp line drive. Bregman had advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch by Domínguez that J. T. Realmuto could not contain.

The celebration on Saturday night will forever hold a special feeling for Houston fans and the Astros alike. The 2017 trophy represented a light for the city that had just been ravaged by Hurricane Harvey months prior. The 2022 trophy represents justification that the Astros are just that good and have built a dynasty that keeps chugging along.

The 2018 Astros lost in the American League Championship Series. The 2019 Astros saw a championship slip through their fingers, and then the sign-stealing scandal broke headlines.

2020 saw turnover with the hiring of Dusty Baker and James Click, and the Astros once again fell short in the ALCS. The 2021 Astros said goodbye to George Springer, and then ran into a buzz saw in the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.

The 2022 Astros said goodbye to an old friend in Carlos Correa. And yet, were able to not skip a beat with the rise of Peña, who put together an incredible regular and postseason. But the 2022 Astros were much more than just one player.

There was Cristian Javier, who was thrust into a hostile Philadelphia crowd down 2-1 and the season on the line. The 25-year-old right-handed pitcher’s cool, calm and collected personality gave the Astros composure and shifted the series. Javier pitched six innings, striking out nine batters and giving up 0 hits.

Javier’s work was followed by Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly, who carried on the no-hitter and became just the second team in the history of the World Series to pitch a no-hitter.

In Game 5, Peña got Houston on the board first, and then became the first rookie to ever hit a home run in the Fall Classic. A stellar defensive play by Trey Mancini and the play of the series made by Chas McCormick, robbing Realmuto from guaranteed extra bases, helped put the Astros in position to close the game.

There was also Justin Verlander, who entering Game 5 was seeking his first ever World Series win. He not only got that, but pitched a heck of a game, allowing the high-powered Phillies offense to only score one run just days after they had put five on him at Minute Maid Park.

Everyone knows the story of Álvarez against the Seattle Mariners that helped launch Houston’s run. It was fitting that he sparked the rally in Game Six. Even though multiple players struggled at different times throughout much of the postseason, Houston just kept winning.

Now that it is all said and done. Nothing else matters. The 2022 Houston Astros have many new faces. For Altuve, Gurriel, Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr. and Bregman, the World Series victory can certainly be viewed as a redemption story, but this year’s team was so much more than that. They were a team in every sense of the word.

The 2022 Astros were resilient. The 2022 Astros were motivated. Fueled by past failures, new faces, and a will to make history, Houston did just that.

One more time. The 2022 World Series Champions—your Houston Astros

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