Texans Fire Bill O'Brien

Now?

Jim Rome
October 06, 2020 - 9:23 am
Bill O'Brien

USA Today

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Because New England’s game in Kansas City had been postponed a day, last night was going to have double the NFL action. New England at Kansas City followed by Atlanta at Green Bay. And then Houston decided to get in on the action.

The team announced a massive clear out of the coaching staff and front office by firing the general manager, head coach, and playcaller yesterday. Of course, the general manager, head coach, and playcaller were the same guy, Bill O’Brien, who got broken off after an 0-4 start to the season.

Team chairman Cal McNair released a statement that read in part: "Bill’s leadership moved our organization forward as he guided us to four AFC South division championships, 52 wins and multiple playoff appearances during his tenure. Bill proved himself as a coach and leader in this league. I spoke with him earlier today and told him we are moving in a different direction."

And the biggest question was – firing him after just four games? Why so soon? Don’t get it twisted. We all know this was coming. I’m just not so sure anyone knew it would happen this quickly. Hell, in a way, given how badly O’Brien jacked up everything there; I was started to think this might be the one guy in that league who was actually unfirable.  Hell, fire him? I thought McNair was going to chip him off a fat piece of ownership after that 0-4 start! 

I’m not saying he didn’t get what was coming to him; and I’m not saying that McNair got it wrong. And I really am not here to defend O’Brien. And I knew he’d get fired. And he should have been. But….but.  I didn’t expect it to be four games in, given how tight he and the owner. And given who they played the first three weeks, did he deserve a little more rope?

Opening the season at Kansas City, followed by Baltimore at home, and then at Pittsburgh is a pretty rough way to start the year coming off a pandemic-riddled offseason. Then again, he wasn’t just losing games; it was how he was losing them. And not just how he was losing them, but that he may have already lost the entire locker room.  Just as we know he lost every trade he executed as GM: especially the one where he sent Deshaun Watson’s top weapon Deandre Hopkins to Arizona for David Johnson and a football or two. 

And by the way, if you’d like an update on that trade, Hopkins currently leads the league in receptions and David Johnson is 36th in the league in rushing average.

Of course, that wasn’t BOB’s only terrible trade. There was the time he sent Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle. Or when he traded two firsts and a second to Miami for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, without negotiating an extension with Tunsil in advance.

It really is an amazing accomplishment to trade Hopkins, Clowney, and Duane Brown, and not get a single first round pick in return. And not have first or second round picks in 2018, 2020, or 2021.

And if you did want to fire him from being a general manager, you could’ve done that. There’s no surprise in the timing in that; hell, that could have and should have happened even sooner. But the Texans didn’t stop there. They fired him as head coach as well.

Back to what about the schedule? Given who they started with, didn’t he deserve a little more time? Let’s get into that. It’s not just that they are 0-4, it’s that they are getting worked. They are 30th in the league in point differential. They’re only three points better than the Giants in that category…and the Giants haven’t scored a touchdown since Week 2.

And if you’re still looking for why he was fired now… here are a couple of hints in the form of tweets. The first one is from Aaron Wilson, who covers the Texans for the Houston Chronicle: When former Texans coach-GM Bill O'Brien fired people over the years, he did so with a lot of F bombs and orders to get the F out of the building immediately, per sources. That wasn't how he was dismissed today by Cal McNair, though. If that’s how that went, that’s bad. You’re dealing with professionals; you’re the decision maker, the leader, the head coach, the exec, so act like a professional. If you have to fire someone, look in the eye, tell them what’s happening, why it’s happening and thank them for their efforts; don’t f bomb them on the way out the door, and tell them to hit the f’ing bricks: if that report is true. 

Well, that’s something. Then there’s this from Jason La Canfora: Also, as reported on Sunday, O'Brien push to bring in Earl Thomas was met with strong pushback by the Texans locker room. His relationships with players were long suffering and Hopkins trade only intensified the tense atmosphere…so now dude, has no read at all on his locker room. And did he really need his own guys to tell him Earl Thomas wasn’t going fit in?!  In the end, the guy couldn’t make it work in Seattle, a place where dudes like that get great leeway from Pete Carroll: and I’d say the same thing about Baltimore and those guys hated him. Hell, the Dallas Cowboys, absolutely desperate for help in their secondary, and there’s seemingly no one they won’t take a chance on, and they wanted nothing to do with Thomas: yet Bill O’Brien was that oblivious and was just going to bring him in anyway: how out of touch is guy: just something else for his players to resent about him; so not only did he not get the players, but he lost even more of the ones he already had in the way of respect. 

Hmm, that’s something as well.

And then there’s this from Diana Russini of ESPN: I spoke with sources in Houston and they tell me two weeks ago is when it really started to fall apart. One source said “that’s when OB lost the team” The offense was beyond frustrated and it even turned into a verbal blowup at practice.

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get the sense that the guys didn’t really like Bill O’Brien. At all.

And if I haven’t made my point abundantly clear, here are a few words from J.J. Watt after Sunday’s loss. He called the start to the season “terrible,” depressing,” and “brutal.” "We obviously have to do something different. We are 0-4. Whatever we're doing is not working. Something needs to change. Something needs to be different."  Why dance around it.  J.J. Watt should have just thumbed, breaking, I have fired bill O’Brien as gm and coach: because that’s essentially what he was calling for in that tweet: and I have no problem with it all. 

I want to go back to something we’ve talked about on this show before as it relates to Bob: this dude does not have the clout or the cred or the resume to let things get personal with his star players the way he reportedly did. Personal with guys like Hopkins and Clowney. That might work if you’re BOB’s mentor, Bill Belichick. You can let things get personal or you can trade away big-time talent if you’re Bill, but not if you’re BOB.

If you’re going to be an a-hole, you better win a lot. And if you’re not going to win a lot, you better not be an a-hole. And you better not have blowups in practice that make things worse.

I want to be very clear about something here – I don’t know Bill O’Brien. He’s come on my shows a number of times and I’ve always enjoyed the conversations. I have genuinely enjoyed talking to him, particularly about fatherhood and his son, Jack.

I’m not saying he’s a bad guy or a bad person. I will say he’s a bad gm. And also say everything was going in a really bad direction. The question isn’t why was BOB fired, it’s how much of his firing was about him as a GM, how much was about him as a head coach, and how much was him about as a leader. 

So now the Texans will have Romeo Crennel as their interim head coach and the former Patriots team chaplain as their GM. I’ll be honest, but that does not sound like a winning combination. That does not sound like the formula for turning a season around.

Not that you asked for it, but here’s some advice. Houston, if you’re smart, and I’m not sure that you are, but if you’re smart, your next head coach was on the sideline in KC last night. His name is Eric Bieniemy and you should hire him as quickly as you are legally allowed to.