Brian Gaine had a decent draft. Houstontexans.com
The Houston Texans announced Friday they have fired the team's general manager Brian Gaine after just one and half years as the team's general manager.
The Texans statement
With the comment in the release about Gaine's high character it seems unlikely a scandal is on the horizon. Chris Olsen is a well-respected cap expert around the NFL and he, along with I assume Bill O'Brien's influence, will run the team with Gaine gone.
On the #Texans GM firing: My understanding is there was no one incident that created the opening. Houston did an evaluation of its football operations and believes — right or wrong — GM Brian Gaine was not good enough. Good, but not good enough. Stunning.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 7, 2019
Bill O'Brien and Brian Gaine often talked about the alignment of the organization, something that seemingly wasn't the case with the team's previous general manager Rick Smith. Unless there is a scandal, as we mentioned above is unlikely, it seems something went south between O'Brien and what was viewed as his hand-picked front office guy in Gaine.
O'Brien hasn't had a poor relationship with any of the players Gaine has brought it, in fact, plenty of the players Gaine drafted played early and avoided the dog house rookies often find themselves in with O'Brien.
Cal McNair is not his father
The new man at the top is Cal McNair after his father passed away. Bob McNair would have never done this. He was one of the most patient owners in the NFL. It was often said O'Brien and former GM Rick Smith would come to a disagreement Bob McNair would make them work together and fix it. Ultimately the situation between those two became so toxic O'Brien was entertaining a return to college and Smith stepped down when his wife became sick leading to Brian Gaine to take over.
What does this mean for Bill O'Brien?
I believe this only further consolidates Bill O'Brien's power within the organization. Gaine was seen as an O'Brien guy so with the timing of him leaving, June has most of the roster building completed, O'Brien is the man in the building who knows the team best. Even if the Texans add a new general manager quickly O'Brien should maintain near full power until he becomes intimately familiar with the team and their process.
With the added power, the pressure is on for O'Brien. If the new ownership will fire an important piece of the front office with over three years left on his contract there is no reason to think O'Brien can't be a victim if he fails in 2019. It wouldn't be shocking to learn there is a level he needs to achieve to maintain his job.
Who is the next Texans GM?
Bill O'Brien could use some fresh voices. He has leaned towards people he has previously worked with in the past but something new wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
Nick Caserio is the New England Patriots Director of Player Personnel. He was pursued by the Texans before Gaine was hired and declined an attempt interview. I don't imagine he would be leaving his spot in New England.UPDATE: The Texans announced they will no longer pursue Caserio.
Dallas Cowboys Vice President of Player Personnel Will McClay is one of the best in the business but he is with a pseudo-rival and the Jones family loves him. I don't see how he gets away.
Eagles Vice President of Player Personnel Joe Douglas has been in contact with the New York Jets about their vacant GM job. It is unclear the status of their pursuit of Douglas. If he is still available he should get an interview.UPDATE: Douglas has been hired by the Jets.
Browns assistant general manager Eliot Wolf just got to Cleveland but is blocked by John Dorsey. He was well respected in the Packers organization before leaving for Cleveland when he didn't get the Packers general manager job.
Scott Pioli was with the Atlanta Falcons as recently as last month before he resigned his post of the assistant general manager. He was the general manager in Kansas City when Romeo Crennel was the head coach and was with the Patriots going as high as the vice president of player personnel.
I'll guesstimate about 90% of you reading this have driven a vehicle before. Most of you have probably experienced a vehicle that isn't properly aligned. You're driving down the road, let go of the wheel, and it pulls to the right or left a bit. Or, you have to hold the wheel a little tilted one way or the other in order for the car to drive straight. Definite signs you need an alignment. Driving a vehicle that way will wear your tires faster and start to cause other issues.
In baseball terms, the vehicle has four wheels: owner, general manager, manager, scouting/front office. While some may say the GM and scouting/front office are technically one wheel, I'd argue that by pointing out the many times a scouting department and GM have differed on players. It happens in every sport. In order for an organization to truly move in lockstep, they must all be on the same page as far as a common goal and how to get there.
I've often felt the Astros have not always been fully aligned. Going all the way back to the Drayton McClane era, I'm trying to remember when all four tires of the Astros vehicle were perfectly aligned. Gerry Hunsicker was there for about 10 years before growing tired of Uncle Drayton's crap. McClane went through nine different managers and three GMs in his tenure as the owner from 1993-2011.
When Jim Crane bought the team after the 2011 season, he himself has already gone through six managers and three GMs so far. Now he's on the verge of hiring a seventh manager. Crane's original dream team of Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch would still be the GM and manager, respectively, had the sign stealing scandal not been blown out of proportion. He hired Luhnow to come in and reshape the franchise and they burned through a few managers while the team struggled. Hinch was brought in to finish the job. He and Luhnow did that by winning the 2017 World Series and starting a dynasty.
When Crane decided to fire them both after the scandal, it left a void. Crane wasn't always pleased with the way things were run, but he was happy with the results. Enter James Click and Dusty Baker. Why Crane thought an analytics guy like Click and an old school baseball guy like Dusty would work, I'm not sure. But it did. They brought Crane the 2022 World Series title. Click was not brought back because of his philosophical differences with Crane. Dusty came back for this past season and retired. Dana Brown was brought in to replace Click. Now he and Crane are looking for another manager.
Joe Espada seems to be the simplest choice. He was Dusty's right-hand man all these years and the players seem to love him. Brad Ausmus is another candidate, but he doesn't have the qualifications, as he hasn't won or done anything significant outside being a former Astro. Craig Counsel has been mentioned as well. His .531 winning percentage in Milwaukee doesn't strike me as someone who'll get the fans excited. Others mentioned have been Buck Showalter, Rodney Linares, Mark Kotsay, and Ron Washington.
No matter who they hire, he needs to be fully aligned with the other three wheels. Every one of the wheels needs to know their lanes and operate within them. Crane needs to be the one who ensures these guys are all on the same page. He also needs to be the one to allow them to do their jobs without his interference. Personally, I'd like to see Ron Washington hired. “Uncle Ron” may be 71 years old, a few years younger than Dusty, but he's a guy players love. If not him, Espada is the clear choice, according to Ken Hoffman.
Whenever you get a new tire, you need an alignment and to balance them. This helps ensure a smooth ride. The Astros have a window that'll remain open the next couple of years at least. I'd hate for them to spend those years veering one way or the other and unnecessarily wearing out the tires. I wonder if Crane will opt for the road hazard protection warranty when he buys the new tire? Hopefully, he has run-flats, just in case.