Bill O'Brien got his wish. And the Texans are married to him for the next five years.
The Texans coach was given a contract extension on Saturday, and will be paid through 2022. At the same time, the team officially announced Brian Gaine as the new general manager. His deal also goes through 2022.
O'Brien had one year left on his original deal. Due to one of the NFL's "unwritten rules," apparently coaches are unable to coach on one-year deals. The narrative is they can't hire good assistant coaches. Considering O'Brien's hiring practices so far, maybe the guys he considers "good" are not what the Texans need.
Regardless, the Texans are sending a clear message that O'Brien is their man, and his handpicked GM confirms that. It is not that O'Brien has been a bad coach. He has been a mediocre coach. He is 31-33 in four years with the Texans. The 2017 season was his worst at 4-12 after three straight 9-7 seasons. Of course, the Texans were plagued with injuries to their best players, including quarterback Deshaun Watson. So O'Brien probably gets a pass for that.
He has managed to win a playoff game despite the fact that he did not have a quality quarterback at the time. Of course, he was also the one who insisted Tom Savage, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, et al could play. That aside, he will have his franchise quarterback for the first time, and with Watson he had one of the best offenses in football for six games. So assuming Watson is healthy, that side of the ball should be OK. They need serious re-tooling on the offensive line, but Watson's mobility mitigates that somewhat.
Where O'Brien has fallen short is in hiring of assistants, game management and late-half and late-game clock management. Those are things that can be improved, but four years in, the issues remain.
He had to take over play calling duties after hiring a bad OC. He promoted Mike Vrabel to defensive coordinator, and Year 1 did not go well. Yes, there were injuries, but the scheme was questionable and very few adjustments were made throughout the season. He is once again looking for a special teams coach.
But all those questions aside, O'Brien was given what he wants. A GM he can work with. Presumably more power. A longterm deal.
“Bill O’Brien has been a tremendous leader for us these last four years and we believe in his vision for the team moving forward,” said owner Bob McNair in a press release. “Bill is a terrific teacher that the players respect. We have a lot of trust in him to build a unified, championship culture and we’re thrilled to have him as our head coach into the future.”
There should be no more excuses. O'Brien, like his team, has to take the next step. He needs to go from mediocre coach to good coach. Maybe having more power -- and Watson -- gets him there. Maybe that is the key to O'Brien's success. At least that is what Texans fans have to hope.
O'Brien is their man. For better or worse.