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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. 


 

Plus the head coach and general manager weighed in on Deshaun Watson and Laremy Tunsil's futures

O'Brien's commitment to familiarity could be defining moment of his power

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

What we learned from Bill O'Brien's first public discussion since he was officially named the coach and general manager.

Tim Kelly is the new play caller for the Texans offense

Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly has been with Bill O'Brien since he took over as the head coach at Penn State. Kelly followed to the NFL when O'Brien took over the Texans and before last season Kelly was named the team's offensive coordinator.

Now, for just the second time as head coach, O'Brien is handing over the play calling duties. The last time O'Brien did this was when George Godsey was promoted to offensive coordinator and the offense regressed with Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett. Godsey would lose those duties and ultimately his job after the 2016 season.

This is one of the few changes to an offense that took a step back from 2018 last season. The defense was overhauled, as it should have been (more on them next), but little to no change occurred on the offense until Kelly took the headset. It would have been difficult to expect more from the offense in 2020 if nothing had changed but I believe this could be a significant change for the good.

Kelly has clearly been groomed for this position. He's stuck around as O'Brien hoarded the headset for himself when previous members of the offensive staff, like former Texans coach Sean Ryan, couldn't wait for the time O'Brien would relinquish duties. He's coached all over the offense. He's helped in implementing the offense. When he was, to me at least, clearly calling plays in the second preseason game of 2019 the Texans opened the game with a touchdown. Same in the fourth preseason game. The Texans didn't replicate that feat until week 17.

This also adds pressure to O'Brien's resume of clearly his decisions. If this backfires consider it one of the biggest failures in O'Brien's tenure. He heavily relies on people he knows and has worked with. He rarely goes outside with someone he hasn't coached with before. If Kelly isn't good, and O'Brien has to divide his attention again, consider that a strike against O'Brien.

Inside shot caller on defense too with Anthony Weaver 

With the extreme failure of the Texans defense last season, regardless of their level of talent, it was certainly time for Romeo Crennel to move on. The curious decision was, again, an internal promotion. This time defensive line coach Anthony Weaver was handed the keys to the defense.

O'Brien had high praise for Weaver and the various defensive coordinators he had worked under as a coach and player. He claimed Weaver would have his own style and he's been picking Weaver's brain about what he would do as the head man on defense for a while.

The last time O'Brien experimented with an in-house promotion for the defense was when Mike Vrabel took over in 2017 and the defense finished rated 32nd in points allowed. Despite the defensive failures, Vrabel was rewarded with a head coaching opportunity. Romeo Crennel took back over and the defense got back on track for a year before it went sideways again in 2019.

It would have made a lot of sense to go outside the organization here, but O'Brien again relied on someone he has been priming for this position it would seem. It also, like the offensive decision above, is a line on his resume. It would also be a strike on his resume if it doesn't work out.

Think of a scenario where the defense stays bad and the offense regresses again. That would be a horrible look for O'Brien the decision maker and bad for the results in 2020. But, I do like the youth movement from O'Brien. Weaver will turn 40 this year, and Kelly is in his mid-30's. The last time O'Brien tried both of these moves, it didn't work. If these two hit, O'Brien will look like a genius.

The new contract expert

This is notable as Chris Olsen has rarely made a mistake as the contract and cap expert for the Texans in his time there. His assistant will have his job now, but I can't buy O'Brien not knowing why the change was made.

If indeed this is Jack Easterby's area, he is the team's Executive Vice President of Football Operations, O'Brien brought him into the organization and it wouldn't make sense he is on equal footing as O'Brien. Whatever the reason for Olsen leaving, Krajcovic will have a tough act to follow. Speaking of contract work...

Deshaun Watson and Laremy Tunsil could break the bank

Dehsaun Watson has technically two years left on his deal, with the fourth year of the contract and the fifth-year rookie option. Laremy Tunsil is currently slated for a big raise as his fifth-year rookie option has kicked in.

For Tunsil, his price has to be extremely high. Taylor Lewan and Lane Johnson have two of the largest and best deals at the tackle position. Tunsil has significant advantages over both of those in the negotiation process. He is better than Lewan, younger, and plays left tackle unlike Johnson who plays right tackle. The Texans also moved a huge amount of draft assets to get the left tackle. Most elite player don't play on the fifth-year option. Tunsil shouldn't and likely won't.

Deshaun Watson's contract could be heavily contingent on what Patrick Mahomes gets in his new deal. The Eagles and the Rams really upset the way of doing business when they paid Carson Wentz and Jared Goff a year before first round quarterbacks traditionally get paid. Both Watson and Mahomes should be seeking new deals, and it could be a standoff between the two to see who signs first. They each have been far better than Goff and Wentz and should be paid better than both.

O'Brien thumbs up on XFL

O'Brien mentioned the kickoff rule as one he liked. The NFL has to adopt that rule. It is the best way to do kickoffs.

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