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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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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