TEXANS IN TURMOIL

John Granato: With Gaine hire, Bill O'Brien has won the battle on Kirby, but can he win the war?

Bill O'Brien got his man in Brian Gaine. Will it pay off? Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Make no mistake about it, Bill O’Brien won the battle. But has he won the war? It needs to be a long drawn out war. If it’s a quick one he’s a goner.

BOB got his guy in Brian Gaine. When Gaine left the organization a year ago the whispers were that BOB was none too happy about it. That was his guy. Well now he’s got his guy but Rick is still lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce should things not go well on Kirby next season.

The problem with that is that it’s a game that Rick has weighted toward his side. The roster is Swiss cheese. Look at all the holes on the offensive line and defensive backfield, a lack of talent at wide receiver and tight end and no depth for special teams.

My worry is that BOB is only going to get one year to fix all that with no first or second rounder. Does he deserve more? That’s arguable. He has his detractors and rightfully so.

What has he proven as a head coach? He won two division titles in a weak division and while his offense turned into the scariest in the league with Deshaun at the helm they still only managed a 3-3 record thanks to BOB’s questionable play calling in crunch time.

Can he fix all these problems in one offseason and prove that he was the right choice over Rick? That’s your task, Mr. O’Brien and it looks like Mission Impossible with all there is to do and no picks to do it with. It’s not hopeless though. There is plenty of money to spend on free agents although it’s dearth of tackle talent. All dressed up and nowhere to go.

But there is an ace in the hole for BOB. Rick left one thing  behind that could be his undoing: No. 4. No. 4 can cure all evils. No. 4 made the most mundane offense in the league over the last three years into the most dynamic. No. 4 made the worst offensive line in the league serviceable. Kendall Lamm was actually OK when No. 4 was on the field!!!! That alone should have garnered MVP consideration for Deshaun.

I, for one, am rooting for BOB. I want to see the team win. I want the playoffs to actually mean something as opposed to the playoffs we’ve had here in the past where we knew that they could only go so far with the talent they had. I want to see Deshaun vault to the top of the NFL quarterback hierarchy. I want to see JJ great again.

One thing I don’t want is Rick back in the GM seat. That’s something I’m just not interested in. I’ve seen that movie for 11 years and I know the ending. It ends badly every time. The good guys never win. The evil empire always breaks through its defenses and kills the good guys’ season. With Rick standing on the deck of the starship overlooking the fight there’s nothing but battle red blood all over the field.

I don’t know if BOB’s the answer. I loved the hire at the time. Since then, meh. I loved the offensive adjustments he made with Deshaun at qb but there really isn’t much more to hang your hat on. He knows more football than we ever will but we can see deficiencies in time management and replays. Those are things he can get better at but four years is a big enough sample size to know that it’s a problem.

There is a lot to fix but I’m betting on Bill O’Brien to win the war. Ironically Rick could lose it because of his greatest move; drafting Deshaun Watson. His greatest achievement could be his undoing. That and all the crappy draft picks he’s made.

But the clock is ticking, Bill O’Brien. You’ve won the battle but the war isn’t over.  




 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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