The Hypocrisy of Bill O'Brien

Team, in Houston is spelled B-I-L-L

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Due to the 93rd Scripps National Spelling Bee being suspended, Brown alum Bill O'Brien decided to do us all a favor and spell team for us last week. The hypocrisy in the Texans' general manager and head coach taking on this task is quite overbearing.

As O'Brien attempted to explain how his moves as the general manager were making the team better, I could only smirk, thinking back to the summer of "alignment." It wasn't that long ago that Bill O'Brien had to get Rick Smith out because Smith obviously didn't understand what it meant to be a part of O'Brien's T-E-A-M. When Brian Gaine was brought back to replace Smith, the duo spoke about "alignment" ad nauseam. They looked to build the team the same way, they looked for the same attributes in players...yada, yada, yada.

Fast foward only a year and a half later and somehow Gaine had already forgotten how to spell T-E-A-M. Now enter the man that must have an unmatched vocabulary as his rise to power in Houston is unlike any that I have ever seen in professional football. A former team chaplain and character coach, Jack Easterby, had taken a trip to New England. Alledgely, Easterby and O'Brien felt that Nick Caserio knew how to spell T-E-A-M better than Gaine. While O'Brien and Easterby could spell with the best of them, apparently reading wasn't a top priority for the trio. O'Brien and Easterby haphazardly met with the Texans' owner and convinced him to move on from Gaine and pursue Caserio. This didn't go as plan (or did it) as Caserio had a no-interview clause in his contract. New England threatened the Texans with tampering charges and Houston cowered to their big brothers, once again, embarassing the franchise as a second-tier organization among their piers.

No worries, they still had Gaine, right? Unforunately, the team had decided to fire Gaine the week prior, as they supposedly believed that Caserio was a homerun hire. Needless to say, that was the beginning of a reign that would lead to a new T-E-A-M model being one canvassed in battle red embarassment.

O'Brien and Easterby since the "mistake" went on to become the most powerful man in the organization and his right hand, yes man. Yes, the chaplain, the character coach, was now at the right hand of the czar. Was it a huge coincidence that O'Brien and Easterby's elaborate plan blew up in a way that would benefit the both of them? Or is it more likely that the Ivy league educated O'Brien had orchestrated a scheme that would finally put him in a position to have the power that he had always craved?

O'Brien's flub made him the only officially titled general manager and head coach in the NFL. How could a coach with a resume more similar to Marvin Lewis than Bill Belichick hold both titles at a time in which giving coaches all encompassing power had died off? Yes, O'Brien has won a lot of AFC South titles. Congrats are in order for winning one of eight divisions and being better than at least three teams each year, that happen to be geographically close to the city in which his club plays. Never mind the fact that since O'Brien took over as head coach of the Houston Texans, his team is the only AFC South squad that has fail to advance to an AFC Championship game. Never mind the fact that he holds a 2-4 playoff record with wins over quarterbacks Connor Cook and Josh Allen or the fact that he became the only coach to blow a 20+ point lead in the playoffs and lose that game by 20+.

O'Brien would like his season ticket holders to believe that he's building a true team. However, the blueprint that O'Brien has shown is one that looks more of a dictator. His plan is to seize all power and only surround himself with those who have undying loyalty to him as supreme leader, not the team. In Houston, you spell team, B-I-L-L, if you don't worship at the alter of O'Brien then you will quickly be banished, despite your talent, following, prestige, etc.

O'Brien's Reign:

  • Get Rick Smith out of the way
  • Get Brian Gaine out of the way
  • Become GM
  • Trade Clowney for small return
  • Trade Hopkins for small return
  • Trade for Tunsil without extension
  • Elevate yes men to all positions of authority
It's agree wholeheartedly with O'Brien or fall by the wayside. That's what a team is in O'Brien's eyes.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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