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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Watson's accusers appeared on Real Sports on Tuesday night. Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images.

HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’s heavily promoted and much anticipated examination of Deshaun Watson’s legal mess involving alleged sexual misconduct shed little new light and merely presented a summary of well worn he said/she (x22) said accusations and denials.

The episode debuted Tuesday night on the premium cable service and will be repeated dozens of times throughout the week on HBO’s platforms. Check your local listings for times and channel.

The segment was hosted by Soledad O’Brien who presented compelling face-to-face interviews with two of the quarterback’s accusers: massage therapists Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes. Their stories were detailed and graphic. Both cried during the interviews.

Solis: “As I’m working, he deliberately grabs himself and put his penis on my hand. I pulled my hand away instantly and I started crying. I told that I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Solis said she felt threatened when Watson, before leaving the session, allegedly told her: “I know you have a career to protect, and I know that you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

Solis added, “That’s when I got really scared because that sounded like a threat to me.”

Hayes: “He wanted me to kind of make a V motion in his pelvic area. I just kept massaging and did what he asked, until his penis kept touching me repeatedly as I did it.”

Hayes said that Watson had an orgasm, which she said was “mortifying, embarrassing and disgusting.”

O’Brien asked Hayes why she continued to have contact via email with Watson after their encounter.

Hayes: "I wasn't sure what he was capable of. He could've physically assaulted me. He could've bashed my business, so I had to protect myself and my business the best way I saw fit. Did I ever see him again after that? No. Did I give him the runaround? Yes."

O’Brien pointed out that two separate grand juries in Texas heard criminal accusations against Watson and neither found enough evidence to indict him.

Solis and Hayes, and 20 other massage therapists have filed civil suits against Watson. The cases aren’t expected to reach a courtroom until next March. Both sides could reach a settlement before then which would effectively shut down any legal action against Watson. However, both sides say they aren’t interested in any pretrial settlements. That’s what they say now, anyway.

After being banished to the sidelines for the 2021 season by the Houston Texans, Watson signed a historic, 5-year fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hayes said she feels Watson “is being rewarded for bad behavior." Solis said, "It's just like a big screw you. That's what it feels like. That we (the Browns) don't care. He can run and throw, and that's what we care about.”

Watson currently is participating in preseason workouts with the Browns and, at the moment, is cleared to play the upcoming NFL season.

That is unless the NFL suspends Watson for some, most or all of the 2022 season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is nearing completion of its independent investigation into Watson’s case and will reach a decision “shortly,” probably this summer. The NFL and NFL Players Association mutually agreed to have former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson decide whether or not Watson violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and what discipline should be handed down if he did.

The Browns are scheduled to play the Texans on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

O’Brien said, while producing the Real Sports piece, she tried to interview Watson, his attorneys and the Cleveland Browns for their side of the story. All declined.

During a press conference in March to announce his joining the Browns, Watson denied any inappropriate behavior with the massage therapists.

Watson: “I never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone around me. I’ve never done the thing that these people are alleging. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way.”

Leah Graham, a member of Watson’s legal team, sat for an interview after O’Brien’s segment was complete.

Graham: "It's 22 women. It's one lawyer. There's only one lawyer who was willing to take these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’ deposition, Mr. (Houston attorney Tony) Buzbee was not the first, probably not the second or third lawyer she went to, but he was the only one to take her case. Why? Not because it had merit, but because he would use these cases to increase his social media following and quite frankly to get on shows like this one.”

My reaction after watching the Real Sports segment? We weren’t in the room when the massage therapists worked on Watson. We weren’t in the grand jury room when evidence against Watson was presented. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what will happen if these cases go to trial.

Until then all we have is one big, lurid, embarrassing mess. In American courtrooms, defendants are presumed innocent. That’s often the opposite in the court of public opinion. We’ll just have to wait while the wheels of justice grind painfully slow.

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