Every-Thing Sports

It's time to give Bill O'Brien some credit

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The Texans are now 6-3 after beating the Jags 26-3 in one of the London games this past Sunday morning. They're also in first place in the AFC South since the Colts laid an egg against the Broncos. Despite injuries on both sides of the ball, this team appears to be hitting their stride, and it's coming at the most critical juncture of the season. They're off this coming week, but get the Ravens in Baltimore, then the Colts come to town for a Thursday Night Football showdown, followed by the Patriots coming to NRG for a Sunday Night Football game. This is like facing the heart of a baseball lineup with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Some may feel that this team is in real trouble, and they wouldn't be wrong to feel that way given this team's history and penchant for folding in crunch time. There are also many, including myself, that feel as if this team has a shot to win two of these three games or bare minimum perform well enough to be considered a tough out in the AFC playoff picture. As strange as it may sound coming from someone who's bashed Bill O'Brien in the past, I believe he's a big reason why I feel they have a shot and here's why:

Play calling

Over the last five games, the Texans are averaging 32 points per game. They are 4-1 in that stretch with the lone loss coming to the Colts in Indy by a touchdown. The offensive line and wide receiving corps have both had injuries derail the depth. Next man up mentality has seemed to work since other guys have stepped up and played well enough. I'm assuming O'Brien is still calling all or most of the plays because he's too much of a control freak to allow anyone else to do so. The plays being called are accentuating the players talents. Most notably...

Deshaun Watson has benefitted from the play calling

Watson is an amazing talent. He does something every game it seems that makes you wonder "how the hell did he do that?!?" Since O'Brien has opened things up, Watson has looked more and more like an MVP candidate. The guys calling the London game for NFL Network pointed out that all the plays were looking the same. Not that they were running the same plays, but if the defense sees the same type of play but get a different one, how can they possibly defend it? Watson runs the RPO (run pass option) stuff masterfully. He's also a wizard when it comes to escaping pressure and making something out of nothing. Things look promising if this keeps up.

GM O'Brien may have found some diamonds in the rough

I know this is a sore subject for some, but hear me out. Carlos Hyde, Kenny Stills, Duke Johnson, and Garreon Conley have all played well. Granted, sometimes some of these guys have made fans want to pull their hair out. Good thing I don't have on my head because I would've done so a few times. Losing Lamar Miller was thought to be a death warrant for the run game considering he didn't have a backup. Hyde and Johnson have filled in admirably. Stills was thought of as a throw in on the Laremy Tunsil trade. One could argue he's been the better player given Tunsil's affinity for penalties. Conley has had his ups and downs in his short time here, but should look a lot better once Bradley Roby and Tashuan Gipson are expected back soon. The jury is still out on GM O'Brien and is still leaning towards a guilty verdict. If these guys can continue to perform at a high level, GM O'Brien would be able to breathe a bit easier.

I'm not the kind of person to refuse admitting I'm wrong. In the sporting world, I actually don't mind and welcome being wrong. Especially when it comes to a local team I write about like the Texans. O'Brien has, and most likely will continue to, get heat from me. Right now, he's earned the right to be given credit for the streak of offensive ouput the team is on. Sure, he's got one of the best receivers and best young quarterbacks in the game, but the offensive line and the running backs were both thrown together last minute. The defense traded away one of the more dynamic players before the season started, lost JJ Watt last week for the season, and have continued to march out randoms in the defensive backfield. All that being said, they still have managed to stay more than competitive. I will hold off on crowning O'Brien until he wins more than a first round playoff game against a hapless Bengals team. Try beating the Patriots in the playoffs and/or making an AFC Championship game. If he brings a Super Bowl to Houston, he's going to have carte blanche forever. Let's not get ahead of ourselves though. He's got more work to do. But for now, let's give him credit where it's due.

History works against the Texans way of doing things

Should the Texans have pulled a Titans?

Houstontexans.com

The Texans are unlikely to fire Bill O'Brien. Any defense of O'Brien has included the fact the Texans made it to the divisional round of the playoffs. Something he had previously accomplished with Brock Osweiler and barely accomplished this season with Deshaun Watson.

It isn't unheard of for a coach to have been fired after making it to the playoffs though. Rare, but not unheard of in the NFL.

Here are the examples of teams moving on from coaches right after a playoff appearance or even a playoff win and how they fared with their new head coach.

2001 - Tampa Bay fires Tony Dungy for Jon Gruden

We all know how this one turned out!

Dungy had seen back-to-back wild card playoff appearances end just one game into the postseason. The Buccaneers got smoked in both those games scoring just 12 points in the two games. Each year they also had a team go further in the playoffs from their division.

Tampa Bay fired Tony Dungy and later traded for John Gruden. It was a hefty price to pay (2 first round picks, 2 second round picks, and $8 million) but they won the Super Bowl in Gruden's first year.

It worked out great for them. It worked out great for Tony Dungy too. He went to Indianapolis and won a Super Bowl a few years later with the Colts and Peyton Manning.

2006 - San Diego fires Marty Schottenheimer for Norv Turner

I loved Marty Schottenheimer. I, like most, knew his playoff disappointment was too much for the Chargers to stomach. It was only his second appearance in the playoffs for San Diego and the Chargers were the best team in the NFL. They promptly lost their first playoff game to a hot Patriots team.

Norv Turner would take over and though the offense wasn't as good, they went a round further and if Philip Rivers wasn't hurt they might have ousted the Patriots and won the Super Bowl. Turner would never reach the conference championship again losing in the divisional round the following year and the wild card round the year after that. Turner would coach three more seasons where he wouldn't make a playoff apperance before being fired. Marty Schottenheimer would never coach in the NFL again after San Diego fired him.

It almost worked out perfect in the very first year for the Chargers.

2017 - Tennessee fires Mike Mularkey for Mike Vrabel

This one has to sting the most for Texans fans.

It was a joke Mike Mularkey was hired after a 2-7 stint in 2015 as the interim head coach but he rattled off a 9-7 record the following year. The Titans lost three of their last four in 2017 but made the playoffs. Miraculously, they went to Kansas City and beat the Chiefs.

Mike Mularkey was going to save his job.

Then the Patriots smacked them down and Mularkey was fired a couple of days later.

"We've done a lot of good things here over the past two years. I just felt like we needed to go a different direction and maximize the skill sets of the players."

Those are the words of Titans general manager Jon Robinson.

Now, think about those words as Deshaun Watson had a worse statistical year in 2019 than the previous year. Same for DeAndre Hopkins. In fact, the whole offense was worse statistically finishing 14th in points a year after finishing 11th. The team was deeper on offense. The offensive line was better. Deshaun Watson had a healthy offseason.

And the Texans regressed.

The Titans, thanks to Mike Vrabel maximizing his players, are playing in the AFC Championship this weekend with a former Texans coach.

History is against O'Brien

Every Super Bowl winning coach since 2000 played in a conference championship game before their fourth year with their team with two exceptions. Tom Coughlin and Pete Carrol, the two exceptions, each won the Super Bowl in year four coaching their respective teams. Heck, even the Super Bowl losing head coaches in that same time frame had almost all played in a conference championship before year four.

O'Brien is entering year seven as the Texans head coach.

All three of these situations worked out nearly immediately for these teams. The Texans will not have that option. Will O'Brien even be in trouble for year eight if he replicates this past season? Would he even be in danger of losing any sort of power if he took a small step back.

Despite history working against him and evidence showing there can be big success after medium and small success, it might not be in the cards for the Texans. We could be in the decade of O'Brien unless he truly is special and unique or unless the Texans take a page out of their hated rivals' book.

What do you make of this? Should the Texans have pulled a Titans and moved on from O'Brien despite his 2019 campaign?

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