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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Jae'Sean Tate had himself a night. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

No Christian Wood. No Kevin Porter Jr. No Jalen Green. No problem. Jae’ Sean Tate became a complete superhero for the Houston Rockets versus the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

He recorded 32 points, 10 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 5.0 blocks, and 2.0 steals and shot 73 percent from the field. With that stat line, he joined former Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon and other historic big men from the past, which Tim MacMahon reported.

Tate is known for his leadership and the ability to be humble. When a reporter asked Tate about the stat line, he said, “How many turnovers? Nah, 25 assists, that’s what sup! Can’t be mad at that.” An expression like that shows the importance of putting his teammates first before taking all the shine. Tate is providing more passion with communication and being the rock that the "Baby Rockets" can lean on.

Coach Silas' confidence in Tate is something built from last year and it shows. Those two have constant dialogue throughout the game, and it’s seen before the huddle or when Silas is standing on the sideline before he calls a play. Silas has run consistent sets for Tate, as he did that within the 15-game losing streak. He dialed up an out of bounds action with 33.4 seconds left, so Tate could make a clutch layup towards the rim.

“Long, long, long ago in his rookie year…we definitely have a bond and with those two guys out, we needed some scoring,” Silas said. “He was the guy who was playing the hardest from start to finish and down the stretch we ran that elbow iso for him. And he just went through his defender and finished. And he made some huge plays in the 4th quarter, which is what you need. Yeah, I trust him as much as anybody else, and he has earned that, and he deserves it.”

“That just shows the confidence Coach Silas, and my teammates have in me,” said Tate. “We lost some of our primary guys tonight. And not only me, but everybody also stepped up.”

His usage rating is slowly going up, which is posted at 18.9 percent per NBA stats. In isolation, Tate is averaging 1.00 points per possession, which puts him in the 75th percentile(!) per NBA stats. Tate is seeing more action out of the corner, so it can allow him to get to his left hand on offense. The elbow iso action is a play that Tate has run since high school, college, overseas, and in the NBA now. He mentioned that the set allows him to get comfortable when his number is called.

“That’s not my primary role and I think everyone knows that,” Tate said. “I am very confident [in] what I bring to the table offensively. Not only scoring wise but seeing the floor and being able to make [a] decision in space. And that kind of helps me when they overlook the scouting report.”

“[I've] been running that play since I was [in] high school. At Ohio St. I ran that. Even when I was overseas, Will Weaver, that was a play he put in. To have that called tonight, it felt familiar and it’s one of my strengths. And playing in the mid-post area and getting to my left hand.”

Tate was excellent for the Rockets on both sides of the ball, as he had a 116.9 offensive and 108.5 defensive rating with an 82.5 percent in true shooting versus the Thunder. Hopefully, Tate can be the leading catalyst again, as the Rockets face the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans, which are winnable games. It should become a six-game winning streak, as John Wall might play if his condition is right.

Up next: The Rockets face the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

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