There have been reports that a split between Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and management is imminent. By “split”, I mean that Bill O’Brien may quit or be fired by general manager Rick Smith. This is mainly because there has been friction between O’Brien and management for a very long time, O’Brien has received scrutiny for his in-game handling of quarterback Tom Savage’s concussion, and the Texans being 4-10 this season has only made the situation worse.
Despite these rumors I strongly believe that Bill O’Brien should not be fired by the Texans. The reason he should stick with the Texans is because he has mediocre talent to work with this season, he’s never done this bad before, and the success that O’Brien had with Deshaun Watson was extremely promising for the future.
When I mean that O’Brien has mediocre talent, I don’t mean everyone on the Texans is mediocre. DeAndre Hopkins, Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing, and many other productive players are still healthy. But the two best players on the team, J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson, both had season ending injuries. In addition, elite Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus had a season ending pectoral injury.
Other injuries to offensive lineman such as tackle Chris Clark, center Nick Martin, and guard Jeff Allen have also had some major effects on the Texans season. This is mostly because the Texans offensive line has been among the worst in the league this season, mainly because of injuries, the departure of Duane Brown, and an overall inefficiency of the lineman that are healthy.
For instance, tackle Julie’n Davenport has a Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of 44.9, center Greg Mancz has a 38.7 grade, guard Chad Slade has a 57.5 grade, tackle Breno Giacomini has a 33.2 grade, and guard Xavier Su’a-Filo has a 34.0 grade. For reference, an average offensive lineman would get a grade of about 70. All of this means that not one single offensive lineman on the Texans is top 20 in their position.
On top of this horrible offensive line, Jonathan Joseph is the only cornerback on the Texans who is inside the top 100 of the position. This inefficiency at corner has been such an Achilles heal for the Texans, that even Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens torched the Texans for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns. Who are Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens? Exactly.
So you can imagine the difficulty of running a team that has one of the worst offensive lines and cornerbacks in football, an injured star quarterback, and major injuries to defensive players such as J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
Another reason for why I don’t think Bill O’Brien should be fired is that his track record prior to this season is remarkable.
As offensive coordinator, O’Brien helped the Patriots make the Super Bowl in 2011 and make playoffs multiple time during his five-year tenure (2007-2011). After two successful seasons with Penn State, O’Brien led the Texans to three straight 9-7 seasons. Two of these seasons (2015-2016), the Texans were first in the division and made playoffs.
So despite having one rough season, I think it is fair to cut O’Brien some slack after almost a decade of success.
Lastly, the success that O’Brien had with Deshaun Watson showcases an extremely bright future. A future that could be tainted by firing O’Brien, who has been known to work well with quarterbacks in the past.
With O’Brien and Watson teamed up together, the rookie out of Clemson had 1,658 total yards and 19 touchdowns. All of this during a five-week span that had Watson in the discussion for MVP. But sadly this campaign was ended abruptly by a torn ACL during practice.
In future seasons, Watson and O’Brien could continue to light up the scoreboard together. But if O’Brien is fired, a new head coach may stunt the growth and development of the promising Watson. With Deshaun Watson being the cornerstone of the Texans franchise, it would be wise for the Texans do anything it takes to ensure his growth as a star quarterback.
O’Brien has not only shown success in creating a powerhouse offense, but has also been able to construct a formidable defense led by a pass rush that is highlighted by players like J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Brian Cushing, and others.
While some may argue that the season he is currently having warrants him leaving the team, I believe his previous success with the Texans and ability to ensure future playoff contention override the season he is currently having. A season that we must realize isn’t all O’Brien’s fault, but also has blame that can be placed on injuries and mediocre talent.
Stay strong Houston, and trust the process that Bill O’Brien has had success with for so many years.