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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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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