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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome