The right man?

Fred Faour: Texans have a lot of questions, but no one is talking about the biggest one

It's time for Bill O'Brien to prove himself. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

As the Texans navigate their way through the early stages of camp, the big stories and question marks are obvious.

Can the revamped offensive line perform at an even mediocre level?

Do they have enough a running back if D’Onta Foreman is not ready to start the season?

Can J.J. Watt return to any semblance of his former self?

Will the rebuilt secondary help the Texans improve on last season’s defensive disaster?

And, most importantly, can Deshaun Watson stay healthy and perform at a level close to what we saw in his brief but magical run last season?

Fair questions all, and each has been and will continue to be debated until the season begins and likely beyond.

But perhaps the biggest question -- and one that seems to be flying under the radar -- involves the head coach, Bill O’Brien. Actually, it’s more than one question. Is he even the right man for the job? Can he improve some obvious holes in his game? And perhaps most critical -- is he even a good coach?

O’Brien’s record in four years is 31-33. Last year’s 4-12 disaster skewered the results somewhat after three straight 9-7 marks, but a four-year sample size is fair enough. O’Brien defenders will point to the revolving door at quarterback, which is fair, but he hand picked all of those players.

He came to town with a reputation as an offensive guru, yet his offenses have ranked 17th, 19th, 29th and 20th in yards, respectively. While not an all-inclusive stat, it still matches up with the other relevant offensive stats. Essentially, under O’Brien, the Texans have not even had an average NFL season offensively, ranging from slightly below league average to downright awful.

In addition, his game management has often left a lot to be desired. Conservative playcalling late cost the Texans potential wins against New England and Seattle last season, and that has been a common theme throughout his career.

His hires -- a major part of being a head coach -- have been dicey as well. Romeo Crennel was a terrific pickup at defensive coordinator, but “promoting” him last season so that Mike Vrabel could become DC was an unmitigated disaster. The Texans were lucky the Titans hired Vrabel to be head coach, because they could erase their mistake by bringing back Crennel.

Special teams have been awful every year. And George Godsey had to be jettisoned as a sacrificial lamb as offensive coordinator since O’Brien could not fire himself.

And yes, injuries certainly have played a part, but his reputation as a guy who could develop quarterbacks has been pure fiction.

In public he comes off as an arrogant, stand-offish bully, and he hardly paints a picture of stability. Those close to O’Brien say he is not like that, but his public displays scream otherwise.

Throw in all the leaked stories from his camp about other teams being interested in him to instigate a power struggle with former GM Rick Smith, and there really isn’t much positive to say about the man in charge.

Yet his offense under Watson was amazing, and gave the impression of what could be this season, hence a contract extension. He also has a new general manager in place that he is presumably on the same page with. He won his power struggle, and now is out of excuses.

Coaches, like players, can grow and develop. So far, O’Brien has shown little of that. Giving the defense back to Crennel should help on that side of the ball. Hiring yet another special teams coach may or may not help. Improved playcalling and game management in critical situations by O'Brien himself is a must for the Texans to be successful. This season will be critical for O'Brien to prove he is more than just talk and fake reputation and can be the coach Texans fans hope he can become.

Having said all that, coaches and quarterbacks get too much blame for poor performances and too much credit for wins. If Watson is what he showed us, he can cover up a lot of O’Brien’s failings.

If not, can O’Brien cover up Watson’s?

That might be the biggest question facing these Texans in 2018, and one no one is talking about. 


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Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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