DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU

How this major blunder could finally get Bill O'Brien fired

0-4 should mean the end for O'Brien in Houston. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

If the 0-3 Houston Texans lose Sunday to the equally woeful and winless Minnesota Vikings, that should seal coach Bill O'Brien's fate. Finally. It's time, long overdue, for owner Cal McNair to tell O'Brien, "Bill, how about you drop by my office Monday morning and we have a little talk? I hope you don't mind that I've invited Glenda Morrison from HR to join us."

After three understandable, if not excusable, losses to the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, the Texans are 3.5 point favorites to topple the Vikings, who are the standard of awful in 2020.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins already has thrown six interceptions, matching his total from all of 2019. The Vikings defense is just as hapless, giving up 102 points in three games. On top of that, the Vikings missed a day of practice this week as a safety precaution related to COVID-19. The Vikings are sitting ducks for the Texans, who will be playing in front of 13,000 socially distanced, mask-wearing fans.

But even if the Texans beat the Vikes, it's time, make that past due, for Bill O'Brien to go. This pot has been simmering for years now. Sunday, things could boil over.

Texan fans have endured seven seasons of frustration with O'Brien's embarrassing one-sided trades, poor clock management, boggling play-calling, petty demeanor and, worst, humiliating defeats in post-season, including last year's ultimate disaster, losing 51-31 to the Kansas City Chiefs after leading 24-0 in the second quarter.

You know there's trouble when "Fire Bill O'Brien" has its own Facebook page. There have been 45 fan petitions to dismiss O'Brien. Over seven years, O'Brien has produced a 53-47 record and no conference titles. He's mediocre at being average.

He will be remembered for shouting F-bombs, and extending his vocabulary to MF-bombs at a heckler in the stands. It's a solid gold hit on YouTube. Ironically, O'Brien would have gone total Dice Clay on the fan, but he was escorted to time-out by DeAndre Hopkins, who eventually would be traded to Arizona in another lopsided move by O'Brien. I'll do you a favor, don't google "NFL Receiving Leaders 2020." No. 1 will only start another "Fire Bill O'Brien" petition.

Remember years ago, when O'Brien and Tom Brady went at it on the sidelines in New England? At least O'Brien targets future Hall of Famers for his meltdowns.

On talk radio, fans who've long had enough of O'Brien, moan that Texans owner Cal McNair doesn't care about winning the Super Bowl as long as the team makes money. It's true that the Texans petty cash drawer is more than the gross national product of many countries. Forbes has the Texans as the 20th most valuable sports franchise in the world, worth $3.1 billion. The Texans are tied with the Boston Celtics and San Francisco Giants in that rare air.

What's the big difference between the Celts, Giants and Texans? The Celtics and Giants' trophy cases are packed with championship trophies. The Texans, oh sure, they win the AFC South division before fizzling out in the playoffs.

Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City and Deshaun Watson are both 25 years old, exquisitely gifted, generational talents. Kansas City coach Andy Reid, as old school as they get, lets Mahomes soar with dizzingly creative, practically street ball play-calling. Meanwhile O'Brien clamps down on Watson, handing him a claustrophobic playbook with no surprise endings. No surprise beginnings, either. Let's start every drive with a run up the middle - second down and 10. If we know what's coming in our living rooms, don't you think the other team knows, too?

Giving Watson restraining orders is like spending $500,000 on a Ferrari and then entering it in a demolition derby. O'Brien's mopey personality ("that's on me, I've got to coach better") has worn out its welcome. Grumpy is tolerated with Bill Belichick. He has six Super Bowl wins. O'Brien once worked on Belichick's staff in New England.

Sometimes the acorn does fall far from the tree.

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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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