The Z Report

Lance Zierlein: Did the Texans really need to reward Bill O'Brien?

Bill O'Brien had some success with Deshaun Watson, but was that O'Brien or Watson? Getty Images

Sometimes life just isn’t fair. We learn that at an early age. Well, that’s not always true. Sometimes life is fair, but it certainly isn’t consistent - unless you work off of Kirby and Murworth.

The Texans consistently keep the roof closed even on the most beautiful days. Brian Cushing has been consistently collecting inflated paychecks for average play for quite some time now. There has been a consistent vagueness surrounding the responsibility of personnel decisions since the departure of Charlie Casserly.

The Texans consistently rewarded Rick Smith for fairly mediocre work and now the Texans are maintaining their own “consistent” modus operandi by offering Bill O’Brien a winner-sized contract extension despite coming off of a 4-12 season and having a year to go on his original deal.

Would you get a raise if you were a mail carrier who lost someone’s mail? Would you get a bonus if you were an accountant who came off of a year where several clients were audited? If your restaurant served four months of substandard meals, would Eric Sandler be spotlighting you as one of Houston’s best chefs on Culture Map?

A change was needed, but was this really a change?

In 2017, Bill O’Brien’s Texans lost your IRS check during mail delivery, got you audited and gave you food poisoning. Despite that, O’Brien was victorious in his power struggle over Rick Smith and was granted even greater control and a substantially longer leash. Rick had to go, but why extend Bill O’Brien?

Look, I think O’Brien has talent as an offensive coach. I recognize that he absolutely played a role in the early success of Deshaun Watson. O’Brien would text Watson during the summer with impromptu quizzes about the offense and his pre and post snap reads against particular defenses. Watson passed with flying colors.

One Texans player confided during camp that they were already installing elements of an offense that was designed specifically with Watson in mind. O’Brien wasn’t bending his rookie signal-caller to his will and to the will of his notoriously complicated passing scheme. Instead, he was fitting an offense around the strengths of his quarterback. That may sound elementary, but it’s not always common in league circles.

So while I acknowledge that I’m a fan of O'Brien's offensive mind and the work he did with his quarterback, has he done enough over his four year body of work to earn an extension rather than playing out the last year of the deal? In essence, the Texans have given him the keys to the organization based on a six week run with Deshaun Watson.

Keep in mind that Watson is the same guy who was three time State Player of the Year in Georgia, was a national championship winning quarterback who hung over 400 yards of total offense in back-to-back title games against an Alabama defense that was loaded with early round draft picks, and threw for 19 touchdowns in 7 games while leading the offense to 30-plus points per game in five of his six starts.

Maybe it was the player?

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney tried to tell everyone that Deshaun Watson was the next Michael Jordan. We laughed. Maybe those high school accomplishments and awards, the mind-blowing national championship games, and the spectacular seven game sample size with the Texans had more to do with Watson than any of his coaches.

If that’s the case, McNair didn’t need to be so worried about losing Bill O’Brien. Based on what I’ve seen, O’Brien needs Watson much more than Watson needs O’Brien…. or any one coach for that matter. Let’s hope the combination of Bill O’Brien and new general manager Brian Gaine can put together a more athletic and cohesive roster than the ones Rick Smith put together that “consistently” underwhelmed over the long haul.

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