Plus the head coach and general manager weighed in on Deshaun Watson and Laremy Tunsil's futures
O'Brien's commitment to familiarity could be defining moment of his power
What we learned from Bill O'Brien's first public discussion since he was officially named the coach and general manager.
Tim Kelly is the new play caller for the Texans offense
Bill O'Brien on OC Tim Kelly: "We're excited for him to take the next step in his career here ... he's going to coach the quarterbacks and he'll call the plays. He'll do an excellent job." pic.twitter.com/Eg9mwkCgyK— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) February 25, 2020
Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly has been with Bill O'Brien since he took over as the head coach at Penn State. Kelly followed to the NFL when O'Brien took over the Texans and before last season Kelly was named the team's offensive coordinator.
Now, for just the second time as head coach, O'Brien is handing over the play calling duties. The last time O'Brien did this was when George Godsey was promoted to offensive coordinator and the offense regressed with Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett. Godsey would lose those duties and ultimately his job after the 2016 season.
This is one of the few changes to an offense that took a step back from 2018 last season. The defense was overhauled, as it should have been (more on them next), but little to no change occurred on the offense until Kelly took the headset. It would have been difficult to expect more from the offense in 2020 if nothing had changed but I believe this could be a significant change for the good.
Kelly has clearly been groomed for this position. He's stuck around as O'Brien hoarded the headset for himself when previous members of the offensive staff, like former Texans coach Sean Ryan, couldn't wait for the time O'Brien would relinquish duties. He's coached all over the offense. He's helped in implementing the offense. When he was, to me at least, clearly calling plays in the second preseason game of 2019 the Texans opened the game with a touchdown. Same in the fourth preseason game. The Texans didn't replicate that feat until week 17.
This also adds pressure to O'Brien's resume of clearly his decisions. If this backfires consider it one of the biggest failures in O'Brien's tenure. He heavily relies on people he knows and has worked with. He rarely goes outside with someone he hasn't coached with before. If Kelly isn't good, and O'Brien has to divide his attention again, consider that a strike against O'Brien.
Inside shot caller on defense too with Anthony Weaver
Bill O'Brien on new DC Anthony Weaver: "Very smart, the players have a lot of respect for Anthony. He's going to bring a lot of different ideas and creativity to our defense." pic.twitter.com/vRSuVbiGAd— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) February 25, 2020
With the extreme failure of the Texans defense last season, regardless of their level of talent, it was certainly time for Romeo Crennel to move on. The curious decision was, again, an internal promotion. This time defensive line coach Anthony Weaver was handed the keys to the defense.
O'Brien had high praise for Weaver and the various defensive coordinators he had worked under as a coach and player. He claimed Weaver would have his own style and he's been picking Weaver's brain about what he would do as the head man on defense for a while.
The last time O'Brien experimented with an in-house promotion for the defense was when Mike Vrabel took over in 2017 and the defense finished rated 32nd in points allowed. Despite the defensive failures, Vrabel was rewarded with a head coaching opportunity. Romeo Crennel took back over and the defense got back on track for a year before it went sideways again in 2019.
It would have made a lot of sense to go outside the organization here, but O'Brien again relied on someone he has been priming for this position it would seem. It also, like the offensive decision above, is a line on his resume. It would also be a strike on his resume if it doesn't work out.
Think of a scenario where the defense stays bad and the offense regresses again. That would be a horrible look for O'Brien the decision maker and bad for the results in 2020. But, I do like the youth movement from O'Brien. Weaver will turn 40 this year, and Kelly is in his mid-30's. The last time O'Brien tried both of these moves, it didn't work. If these two hit, O'Brien will look like a genius.
The new contract expert
Kevin Krajcovic will be the #Texans lead contract guy, Bill O’Brien said. He previously assisted Chris Olsen, who O’Brien claimed to have no role in firing.— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) February 25, 2020
“Not one thing to do with that,” O’Brien said. “I’m in charge of coaching and scouting staff.”
This is notable as Chris Olsen has rarely made a mistake as the contract and cap expert for the Texans in his time there. His assistant will have his job now, but I can't buy O'Brien not knowing why the change was made.
If indeed this is Jack Easterby's area, he is the team's Executive Vice President of Football Operations, O'Brien brought him into the organization and it wouldn't make sense he is on equal footing as O'Brien. Whatever the reason for Olsen leaving, Krajcovic will have a tough act to follow. Speaking of contract work...
Deshaun Watson and Laremy Tunsil could break the bank
Bill O'Brien was asked about long-term deals for Laremy Tunsil and Deshaun Watson: "We're working very hard to try to get that done ... with those two players, Deshaun Watson and Laremy Tunsil, we want those guys on our football team for a long time." pic.twitter.com/uWjuGrFJ7z— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) February 25, 2020
Dehsaun Watson has technically two years left on his deal, with the fourth year of the contract and the fifth-year rookie option. Laremy Tunsil is currently slated for a big raise as his fifth-year rookie option has kicked in.
For Tunsil, his price has to be extremely high. Taylor Lewan and Lane Johnson have two of the largest and best deals at the tackle position. Tunsil has significant advantages over both of those in the negotiation process. He is better than Lewan, younger, and plays left tackle unlike Johnson who plays right tackle. The Texans also moved a huge amount of draft assets to get the left tackle. Most elite player don't play on the fifth-year option. Tunsil shouldn't and likely won't.
Deshaun Watson's contract could be heavily contingent on what Patrick Mahomes gets in his new deal. The Eagles and the Rams really upset the way of doing business when they paid Carson Wentz and Jared Goff a year before first round quarterbacks traditionally get paid. Both Watson and Mahomes should be seeking new deals, and it could be a standoff between the two to see who signs first. They each have been far better than Goff and Wentz and should be paid better than both.
O'Brien thumbs up on XFL
O'Brien mentioned the kickoff rule as one he liked. The NFL has to adopt that rule. It is the best way to do kickoffs.