JOEL BLANK

Is it time to start changing your opinion of Bill O'Brien?

Bill O'Brien deserves some credit for the win streak. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Look, I have been as critical as just about anyone in this market about the short comings of Bill O' Brien and let's face it, he has been an easy target. From clock management, to timeout usage, play calling and challenge flag issues, he has offered up more than enough ammunition for media types and fans to tee off on.

Then there was the contract extension that no one felt was timely or necessary, as well as the highly publicized internal strife between Rick Smith and his head coach for all those mediocre seasons, bad drafts and disappointing playoff defeats. All of that and more led to fans outraged and calling for O'Brien's ouster at the end of this season and the fire was fueled to towering inferno levels when the team started 0-3 and were written off for dead by everyone in the football world.

Lo and behold, after nine straight wins that absolutely no one saw coming and a firm grasp on the AFC South that comes with a guaranteed spot in the playoffs, I ask you,  is it time to start to reconsider our evaluation and opinion of B.O.B.?

I realize that as this streak started and as it progressed on a game by game basis, there were plenty of flaws, calls and mishaps that led to people questioning how good this team really was and if luck was the biggest factor in the team racking up some consecutive wins.

But with each win and every passing week, there was no denying that this team was improving and making progress as they learned from their mistakes and close calls and didn't get too drunk on their own Kool Aid to let over confidence outduel the momentum that success creates.

Everyone knows and understands that it is the players who deserve a majority of the credit, but the coaches' scheme and game plan and in some cases motivate less than exceptional position groups to overachieve and reach new levels of success.

The Texans' offensive line comes to mind in that regard. The man that oversees all of those groups while calling the plays and making crucial in-game decisions is Billy O. As quick as we all were to point fingers and place the blame on the guy in charge of football operations when it looked like they had hit rock bottom, we all need to start to reconsider our critiques and give credit where credit is due for the incredible, season saving turnaround and nine straight wins.

After all, this is the NFL and wins don't come easy. In the case of the Cleveland Browns, some seasons they may not come at all. A team can only control what they have in front of them; they play the games on the schedule and take care of everything on their sidelines, locker room and front office. Everything else is out of their control and can't be included in the grading game. Coaches decisions on fourth down, missed field goals and less than stellar performances by backup quarterbacks are not your problem or concern; wins and losses are.

The reality of it all is Bill O'Brien is a leading candidate for NFL Coach of the Year and we all need to take a step back and recognize, he may be growing up and maturing as a head coach in this league right before our eyes and right after snatching a division title right out of the jaws of an absolute disaster of a start. Never has being wrong felt so right for Texan fans everywhere. 


 

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5 questions on the John Wall trade

The Rockets made a big move. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets point guard carousel continued to spin Wednesday night, as the Woj bomb-iest of Houston-related Woj bombs erupted in the Space City:

For the third year in a row, the Rockets will begin the season with a new point guard, in an attempt to finally find someone that can play alongside James Harden. Let's take a look at how the Rockets got to this point, and what it means moving forward.

What led to the trade?

Russell Westbrook simply wanted out. Westbrook is the type of player that needs to be the number one ball handler and that simply wasn't ever going to happen on a James Harden led team. Other reports cited Westbrook's frustration with the lack of accountability and casual atmosphere within the locker room. Ultimately if anyone was going to be moved between Harden and Westbrook, it was always going to be Westbrook.

Why John Wall?

This one is another fairly straightforward answer: they both have relatively similar contracts. Each is making an absurdly overpriced $40 million this season, and both were disgruntled with their current team. Rockets General Manager Rafael Stone and Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard tossed the idea around a few weeks ago, but couldn't find a deal they liked. It was reported that discussions resumed Wednesday afternoon and within a few hours the deal was done in an almost one-for-one swap.

How does Wall fit?

This is a little more complicated because it's not exactly known what head coach Stephen Silas' game plan is. It's also difficult to predict whether or not Harden will still be on the roster when the season starts. But let's assume that Harden takes the court for the Rockets and that Silas' system resembles something similar to what we've seen in Houston for the past few years. In that case, Wall would be a slight upgrade to Westbrook. Westbrook is more athletic than Wall, but when healthy Wall was no slouch. In addition he's a much better defensive player and has much better court vision than Westbrook. Westbrook's assists were usually a bailout after attacking the lane with his head down, while Wall is more likely to set up a teammate.

This isn't to say that Wall doesn't need the ball though. He's fairly ball dominant, but not nearly as much as Westbrook. Harden proved last season that he's capable of effectively playing off the ball if necessary, so it seems like a better fit from a distribution rate alone. If they can find that sweet spot like they did with Chris Paul and stagger the lineups so that each star gets their own time to create, there's potential for an improved Rockets team more reminiscent of their 2018 run than the past two years.

What are the best and worst case scenarios?

The worst case is that the Rockets were sold a lemon. Wall has potential to be an upgrade, but comes with huge risk. He last took the court in 2018, where he was sidelined with a knee injury. He subsequently ruptured his Achilles in an accident at his home while recovering from the knee injury, forcing Wall off the court for almost two years. It's possible an extremely unfortunate Wall reinjures something and completely derails the machinations of the trade. Even if he's recovered fully, it will take time to get him up to game speed which could frustrate Harden on a team that can't afford a slow start in their stacked conference. Harden has managed to cultivate drama with just about every co-star he's played with, so there's no reason to assume this attempt would go any better.

The best case scenario is that Wall arrives ready to play team basketball and resembles the better part of his pre-injury form. Wall and Harden buy into Silas' new system, space the floor, and take turns carving up the lane with dribble drives and kick outs to players who can actually hit from distance. This version of the Rockets could potentially be a 3-seed in this year's Western Conference.

Who won the trade?

At the moment the Rockets. Not only did they remove at least one of their locker room distractions, but they also gain a first round pick. If Wall can stay healthy and Silas can keep both stars happy, this team should be a lot more fun to watch than last season's clunker.

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