What is next for the Texans: O'Brien looks likely to return, GM Smith to take leave of absence

Bill O'Brien will likely return for the Texans.

The Houston Texans are bringing back head coach Bill O’Brien per reports that began surfacing yesterday. He and team owner Bob McNair are scheduled to meet soon and discuss his future. This is an interesting development considering his relationship with general manager Rick Smith was considered toxic. Oh, we’re not done yet! Now, Rick Smith has released a statement saying he’s taking an extended leave of absence effective immediately to care for his wife, who has been battling breast cancer.

This story sounds like a Lifetime movie set around football. All that’s missing is a love interest. Stories of disharmony between O’Brien and Smith have existed for quite some time now, so that’s not new. Stories were also out about which teams would be interested in O’Brien’s services should he not return, as well as lists showing the Texans’ coaching job as one of the most desirable if available.

While compiling three 9-7 seasons, followed by this year’s 4-12 disaster may make some owners hit the reset button, McNair is known to be extremely patient. McNair’s patience aside, the fact that O’Brien will be back next year is a wise move. O’Brien had a groove going with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. It seemed as if he couldn’t call a bad play. And if he did, Watson could salvage it. He even admitted that he and his offensive coaches learned from Watson some of the plays he ran at Clemson, and then incorporated them in the gameplan.

His ability to adapt to Watson’s skill set alone should be enough to bring him back, not to mention he has a year left on his deal. But who do you bring in if you get rid of him? Who’s going to come in and take this team to the next level that’s available? A recycled coach is a failure from another team. There’s only been a small handful that have made the transition from college to the NFL work successfully. Guys from the broadcast side have more than likely seen their best coaching days pass them by and enjoy making good money on a favorable schedule.

Giving O’Brien an extension could be a gamble McNair is willing to take, but doesn’t have to. A simple meeting and understanding, along with a handshake deal, that an extension will be based upon the team’s performance in first part of the season should suffice. A three to five year extension with a bump in salary and stating he has more input over player personnel would most likely get the job done.

All this sounds great, but the curveball of the Rick Smith news adds to the drama. By no means would a decent human being wish cancer upon another. But this has to be one of those situations in which a terrible thing could pave the way for something beautiful. As Smith takes his leave of absence heading into a challenging offseason for the team, someone needs to be brought in to help steer the ship from a general manager’s point of view. Let’s say this person was an O’Brien recommendation. If said person were to make chicken salad out of chicken spit in improving this roster, that would go a long way into easing Rick Smith out of the general manager position. This would also grease the skids for an O’Brien extension. Smith could return to the team in a different capacity, or decide that his family is more important and step aside completely.

This potential move is something McNair would most likely have never done on his own. He seems to be very non-confrontational, and tends to wait until the water is in the house to acknowledge the flood. Taking advantage of Smith’s leave gives him the cover he needs to make a move he may not have had the stomach to do, and that’s choosing O’Brien over Smith.

Let’s be honest. Smith hasn’t set the world on fire with draft picks, particularly in middle rounds. O’Brien has alluded to not being able to have control over personnel. It’s like he’s been on the coaching version of Chopped the past four seasons. But great chefs know how to make a great meal out of anything they’re given. For the sake of Texans fans, I hope McNair finds a way to navigate this tricky situation and improve his team for the better. If not, he runs the risk of wasting more talent and chances at winning for the long run.

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Houston now trails in the fall classic

Astros fall in World Series Game 1 as Braves come out swinging

Framber Valdez had a forgettable start in World Series Game 1 as the Braves tagged him with five runs. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a dominant end to win the ALCS and American League pennant, the Houston Astros welcomed in the National League champion Atlanta Braves for World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. With Houston favored to win not just this game but the entire series, the Braves shook up those expectations by finding early success at the plate to build a lead they would hold to take a 1-0 series lead.

Final Score: Braves 6, Astros 2

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Valdez unable to replicate ALCS Game 5 success as Braves mount early lead

For the optimist, not having home-field advantage in an MLB postseason series affords you a benefit: you can score first and take captive momentum first in the series. The Braves did that against Framber Valdez, as Jorge Soler became the first player in league history to hit a homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series, putting Atlanta out to an immediate 1-0 lead. They would get another in the first frame, getting a one-out infield single by Ozzie Albies, who would steal second to get in position for an RBI double by Austin Riley.

Houston had the chance to respond in their first inning against former teammate Charlie Morton, getting a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. They'd strand all three runners, though, as Morton made it through unscathed but having used 26 pitches. Atlanta kept putting stress on Valdez, extending their lead to three runs with back-to-back singles to start the second before later getting an RBI groundout.

Valdez gave up two more in the top of the third, once again allowing a leadoff single, this one setting up a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 Braves lead and forcing Houston's starter out of the game early. Yimi Garcia entered and was able to retire the three batters he faced to end the frame.

Braves lose Morton to injury as both bullpens begin long night

After stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the first to keep the Astros off the board, Morton followed it up with a 1-2-3 second. He started the bottom of the third by retiring his fifth batter in a row, getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve. He would immediately call trainers to get him out of the game, though, as he would later be diagnosed with a fractured fibula, presumably from a ball that ricocheted off his leg in the prior inning, ending his season in a disappointing turn of events for the Braves.

That set up a long night for both bullpens, and next up for Houston was Jake Odorizzi. He started with a scoreless fourth, working around a two-out error to keep it a five-run game. The Astros began a rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with one out on a Kyle Tucker double and Yuli Gurriel single. Chas McCormick brought in the first run of the board for Houston, but that's all they would get as Atlanta's lead remained four runs.

Astros drop Game 1

Odorizzi kept going on the mound, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth, then getting one out before a one-out single in the top of the sixth would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Phil Maton, who finished the inning. Maton returned in the top of the seventh, getting a strikeout before a double and a walk would result in the call to bring in Ryne Stanek.

A double play against his first batter allowed Stanek to finish the seventh, and then he returned in the eighth. He faced three batters that frame, getting one out before a walk and a single would put runners on the corners as Houston moved on to Brooks Raley. A sac fly by Freddie Freeman off of Raley made it a five-run lead again, but a leadoff triple by Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the inning would set up Carlos Correa for an RBI, a groundout to make it 6-2.

Atlanta's bullpen continued to do well, though, limiting the damage to that one run in the eighth, then returning to hold on to the four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves the upset win to start the series. The loss extends their home losing streak in the World Series to five games (having lost all four at home in the 2019 World Series against the Nationals) and puts them down 0-1 and in need of a win in Game 2 to try and reset the series into a best-of-five.

Up Next: World Series Game 2 will be another 7:09 PM Central scheduled start time on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park. The expected pitching matchup is Max Fried, who is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three postseason starts, for the Braves, and Jose Urquidy, who went just 1.2 innings while allowing six runs (five earned) in his start in the ALCS.

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