The Clowney saga continues to take twists and turns
The Jadeveon Clowney contract saga with the Texans took a sharp turn today. Rumors persisted that the Texans had a deal on the table to send Clowney to the Miami Dolphins, but Clowney refused to sign long term with them (h/t to John Granato for the tweet and my guy Daniel B for alerting me to it). There was also another tweet by @ThePatrickStorm that alluded to the same thing that Daniel alerted me to as well. While it has been speculated for some time now, the tea leaves are finally giving us a read on how this situation will end for Clowney and the Texans. How did it come to this? What is Bill O'Brien's role in all of this? What's the endgame here? Let's take a look at some of the factors from my point of view:
Clowney drafted in O'Brien's first season
Clowney was drafted number one overall a few months after O'Brien was hired as the Texans head coach in 2014. There was speculation that he wasn't the hardest worker due to some off-hand comments by his college coach Steve Spurrier. Clowney was (and still is) a physical freak. His infamous hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith in the bowl game of his sophomore year made his legend grow even more. However, was he truly an O'Brien pick? Or was this a Rick Smith pick? This could be where the friction between the two started.
His rookie year was marred by injuries. A concussion, meniscus tear, and eventually microfracture surgery hampered his first year in the league. Despite reports to the contrary, he was able to put the injuries behind him and come back the following year making nine starts and playing in 13 games overall that year. Who comes back from microfracture surgery the following year and performs at a high level? Someone that works his ass off, that's who!
The breakout season and beyond
In 2016, Clowney earned his first All Pro and Pro Bowl selections, as well as being named to the NFL Network Top 100 players by his peers ( number 49). In 2017, he was named to another Pro Bowl and ranked #32 on the Top 100 list. In 2018, he had arguably his best season as a pro, earned another Pro Bowl nod, but was ranked #63 on the Top 100 list. He played 2018 under the fifth year option, which typically signifies a team's willingness to resign a promising young player if they prove themselves. However, it is my belief his fate was decided on January 1, 2018 when it ewas announced that the Texans would hire a new general manger to replace Rick Smith who was taking a "leave of absence" to tend to his sick wife. This was about eight months after Clowney's fifth year option was picked up.
The GM saga
After Rick Smith and the Texans "parted ways", Brian Gaine was brought in as the general manager. He wasn't their first choice, but he was someone who O'Brien was "in sync" with. It seemed as if O'Brien won his power struggle with Smith and got a guy in whom he could control. That lasted all of 18 months as Gaine was fired earlier this year. The organization's infactuation with the New England Patriots continued as they hired Jack Easterby away from the Pats as their new Executive Vice President of Team Development and tried to get him to lure Nick Caserio away at the Pats' ring ceremony. This went down in Hindenburg fashion as the Pats leveled tampering charges, despite Caserio having an illegal clause in his contract. It led to the Texans now having a GM by committee for the upcoming season. Gaine was rumored to be pro-Clowney, while O'Brien was rumored to be anti-Clowney. I assmue Easterby said what he had to say to get the job, and/or cashed the bigger check the Texans wrote him. Again, O'Brien holds all the cards here as his death grip on this franchise grows.
As stated earlier, the rumors are hot and heavy as to what will happen with Clowney and where he will play in the future. I have long held the position that if a team doesn't want to resign a player to a long-term deal, they should deal said player to get something in return. Clowney and the Texans are no different. While I believe he should retire a Texan because of his otherworldly ability, they appear as if they don't want to committ to him long term. Therefore, I think they need to trade him to get more than a compensatory pick as compensation for losing a generational talent. This should've happened a long time ago, but O'Brien has dragged this organization further into mediocrity as the years go by. I wrote about a month ago that I believe his ego could be the death of this organization. It seems as if he holds the Texans organization by the balls and will use it to get what he wants until his grip is no more. Ultimately, I think Clowney will get dealt and the Texans will get back more than a compensatory third round pick, but much less than what they could've gotten had they dealt him much sooner. If he doesn't get dealt this season, he will report at some point. He stands to make about $1million/week if he signs the franchise tag and reports every week of the regular season. He can continue to holdout seeking a hardline stance and go the LeVeon Bell route of holding out the entire season, or reporting in week 10 to get that year of service and risk getting tagged again the following year for 120% of the previous year's salary. This situation will be interesting to watch play out. O'Brien seems as if he will get his way by evidenced of him consistently getting his way since he's been hired. Clowney will get moved and it will be another feather in the cap of O'Brien, or the final straw that broke the camel's back. I lean towards the latter since O'Brien has proven to be nothing more than a Bill Belichek wannabe who is more style than substance. Here's to hoping this situation can end happily for Texans' fans. They have become the team who's thisclosetobeinggood, but can't get out of their own way. Here's to hoping they become more.