MESSAGE RECEIVED

How J.J. Watt's final message to Bill O'Brien was his most powerful

In J.J. we trust. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

It's apparent now that a recent "heated exchange" between Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien and star J.J. Watt led to O'Brien's firing earlier this week.

Should fans point to Watt and think, here's another big-money, super-ego, malcontent player who got his coach fired?

Or should fans just send Watt a thank you note?

I vote for the thank you note, something tasteful, from the Hallmark store, not aisle 6 at the supermarket. People can tell.

While the O'Brien-Watt blowup may have been the final straw, O'Brien leaves behind a haystack of bonehead trades, a sourpuss disposition, poor clock management, head-scratching play calling and, the unpardonable sin of an 0-4 train wreck drained of high draft picks next season. O'Brien ransomed the future for the now, and now doesn't have any wins.

The Texans had only five draft picks this year. Only one team had fewer, the Saints, but at least they had a first-round pick.

Now we hear stories that Texans management was aware of O'Brien's temper tantrums, but did nothing as long as the Texans were winning the AFC South.

O'Brien didn't just lose the locker room, he lost the whole city. It was like sports talk radio was playing a loop of "Fire Bill O'Brien" calls. Stations were wearing out their bleep button.

The day after O'Brien's firing, Watt posted a tweet that was as subtle as a ton of bricks landing on Wile E. Coyote's head. Beep beep.

The tweet was a simple image of the sun beaming into NRG Stadium with its roof open.

Oh, so that's what the stadium looks like with its roof open? It's been a long time.

If that tweet could talk, it would sing I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash, the reggae singer who was born and lived his whole life in Houston. Nash passed away this week, the same day that Watt posted his tweet.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,

I can see all obstacles in my way,

Gone are the dark clouds that had me down,

It's gonna be a bright sunny day.

Just to be sure, the dark clouds are O'Brien and the sunny day is interim coach Romeo Crennel.

It's difficult to find any mourning for O'Brien's coaching tenure with the Texans. The popular refrain in Houston and around the NFL was, "What took 'em so long?"

Fans piled on like ding dong the king is dead. To borrow from Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar (maybe my favorite Cliff's Notes), fans come to bury Bill O'Brien, not to praise him. That's what 0-4, a loss to the Vikings, and no first or second draft pick next year.

Watt made no attempt to hide his glee after O'Brien joined the ranks of the unemployed.

"We have a fresh start. We had a good practice today, and we're looking forward to Jacksonville," Watt said.

"RAC (Crennel) is a great man. He has rings. He has a positive air about him. He has a jolly nature to him. You can't help but smile being around RAC. It should be fun," Watt said.

Great man, positive air, jolly, smile, fun. Hmmm, as opposed to …?

The Jaguars, 1-3, are in town Sunday. As America's dad Clark Griswold once said (sort of), "The Texans are going to have so much fun, they'll need plastic surgery to remove their smiles." Kickoff is noon.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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